Forget CO2: Aerosols are the Global Warming Culprit

July 18, 2009

By Bob Difley

 

As if we didn’t have enough to be concerned about with CO2 emissions and global warming, climate scientist Drew Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies says we need to be concerned also about aerosols.

Though greenhouse gasses, notable CO2, are at the center of the political debate on what to do about control global warming, most climate scientists agree that since CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, what we do now, today, to control CO2 and the other greenhouse gasses, will have little effect for decades. And as the emerging global economies of China, India, and Brazil continue to pump greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, it is unlikely that the world’s total greenhouse gasses will decrease much in the near future.

What Shindell and other researchers are finding, is that much of the atmospheric warming observed in the Arctic since 1976 may be due to changes in tiny airborne particles called aerosols. Aerosols are emittted by natural sources, such as volcanoes, dust storms, sea spray, and vegetation emissions, as well as manmade sources like agricultural burning, industrial pollution, and fossil fuel conbustion. These aerosols can directly influence climate by reflecting or absorbing the sun’s radiation. The small particles also affect climate indirectly by seeding clouds and changing cloud properties, such as reflectivity.

Shindell’s model suggests that aerosols likely account for 45 percent or more of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last three decades. The fact that similar warming has not occurred in the Antarctic indicates  that manmade sources likely account for the cause since the Arctic is closer to dense human population centers than the Antarctic.

To complicate the problem, research shows that two types of aerosols, sulfates and black carbon–both products of human activity–play a critical role. Sulfates come from the burning of coal and oil and scatter incoming solar radiation and have a net cooling effect on the climate. And with the passing of a series of laws over the last three decades designed to improve air quality and public health, sulfate emissions have been cut by 50%, which in turn have reduced their cooling effect causing global temperatures to rise.At the same time, emissions mainly from Asia’s industrial processes and the burning of diesel and biofuels, have emitted black carbon aerosols that absorb incoming solar radiation and cause a strong warming effect.

The NASA researchers also compared the climatic impacts of the transportation sector to the power generation sector and found that the most efficient way to tackle climate change–from both CO2 and aerosols–is to regulate the transportation sector.

Though coal power plants produce lots of CO2, they also produce lots of sulfates that mask the warming effect of the CO2. However, motorized vehicles release both CO2 and black carbon (both warming agents), but no sulfates. As a result, transportation has a big warming impact on climate that’s more important than just tallying up its carbon emissions.

Maybe this new study suggests that in the current political environment regulators and politicians should focus on the transportation sector before the power generation sector. I suppose that’s good news, since there is something we RVers can do to cut down on vehicle emissions, like buying more fuel efficient vehicles, driving less, and continuing the transition toward electric and hybrid vehicles, but little we can do for now about the power generators. Or we could buy a Tesla for a toad, which is a pure-battery electric vehicle with a range of 240 miles per charge, a 130 mph top speed, and goes from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds. My idea of going green.

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13 comments

  1. Avatar

    Klem

    Aerosols are irrelevent. You can’t sell aerosols and make money, can only make money with C02 so forget aerosols.

  2. Avatar

    Joeseph

    How do you tow a Tesla?

    Seriously, are there any hybrids that can be towed 4-down. How about 2-down?

    I took a look about a year ago and didn’t find any options short of towing a flat-bed trailer.

    Now environmentalists should support coal plants because they might reduce global warming?

    This article doesn’t make it look like anyone has a good understanding of what’s going on (and hence…what should be done, if anything).

  3. Avatar

    Jeff

    Once again Bob and company bring up their religion… Global warming and the doom of man! For God sake, let it go…Most Scientists DO NOT agree.. Only the ones who have been given grants from this government… As for fuel efficient.. Show me a hybrid car or truck that can haul a 10 ton trailer and not be outrageously expensive.. Bob, I get the fact that you prey to the global warming gods, but not everyone agrees or cares! Please stop with the global warming propaganda.. It really does take away from the enjoyment and benefit of this site.. I plan on taking out my 2000 Dodge 10 cyl full size truck and getting 6.8 miles to the gallon… Just because I can… I’ll be thinking of you Bob as I motor down the road… No Global warming religion here…

  4. Avatar

    Robert L

    And to top it all off, the new ” envirnonmentally friendly” refrigerant that we are all going to be forced to endure in new upcoming vehicles, since the envirnonmentally friendly R134a has almost expired, is the new upcoming R744, which is , guess what…. Co2
    I give up.

  5. Avatar

    Catchesthewind

    I agree with Jeff. There are other blogs to hash out global warming. Let these pages be for the disemination of camping and rving topics.

  6. Avatar

    GMAs

    Once again Bob and company bring up their religion… Global warming and the doom of man! For God sake, let it go…Most Scientists DO NOT agree.. Only the ones who have been given grants from this government… As for fuel efficient.. Show me a hybrid car or truck that can haul a 10 ton trailer and not be outrageously expensive.. Bob, I get the fact that you prey to the global warming gods, but not everyone agrees or cares! Please stop with the global warming propaganda.. It really does take away from the enjoyment and benefit of this site.. I plan on taking out my 2000 Dodge 10 cyl full size truck and getting 6.8 miles to the gallon… Just because I can… I’ll be thinking of you Bob as I motor down the road… No Global warming religion here…

    —————————————————————————————————-

    I have to agree bob you really should get a life outside the magic kingdom… grin

    First off CO is not the propellent in a lot of spray cans.. nope.. nitrogen and/or propane now a days… sooo where did you get your facts from??? The total number of spay cans has deminished over the years also from stats. The freon /ozone scare that they put us through really is just so much BS … as the hole they based it on.. well its back… and freon 12/22 is not… sooo want to try again… even YOUR paid scientest have given up on that one… Oh but you know a friend of a friend who works at the earthsaver lab… and they say… ya right….

    If your so gun hoo on picking on something.. go after the elect power plants.. and the TONS AND TONNIES of co they generate ever 24 hours… its amazing that you will pick on a spray can that gets used maybe once in a month yet the power plants are 24/7 with all that mega tonns’ of CO… where is the outrage… hmmm…

    Want to help the earth… get over to nucular power like all the rest of the world is going to… IT DOESN’T BURN OXYGEN AND PRODUCE ANY CO… and think of all the hydrocarbon fuel you would be saving for RV’s… sooooo light up the horse and mount up… go after the real polluters of the world… the electric plants…

    Oh you say dumb idea because they will beat your little brain into submission .. ahhhh what then do you stand for… justice and environment … or submission to the big bux special interest groups… take the punches for us Bob… be a leader.. man among women… you can’t have it both ways their Bobby boy…

    either we laugh at you for your childish and windmill jousting behavior or they laugh at you for even trying to attack their MONEY MAKING POWER PLANT…

    So whats it going to be… best start taking a different rail road… than to beat this CO dead horse to get any mileage again…

    I am sure if you keep it up they will ban you from the blog Bob… as its just not funny anymore… and I know you can come up with better subjects than raising hell , hate and discontent… you used to work in the rv industry… stick with that…and go far…

    Just my two cents worth…

  7. Avatar

    GMAs

    Oh and as far as the NASA group… well gee now its really not that hard to see what the government is doing…

    Want to keep your job… then you write te report the way the leadership wants it to read… even if its not the truth.. after all if the govenment publishes it through one of their outstand agencies.. they would never be corrupt now would they… just to keep their jobs… oh my…. The government and their leaders never lie… do they????

    THEN ITS GOT TO BE TRUE…. GO FIGURE…

    yep we need to ban all valcanoes from ever blowing their tops again… I know lets cite mother nature if she does it again…. that will fix it… grin…

    But wait… doesn’t the historian scientest say that when the earth had all them nasty valcanoes popping off… shortly their after was the ICE AGE….??? SUPPOSE THEM PARTICALS BLOCKED THE SUN… and not heated the earth??? can all the ICE AGE DINO’S that froze to death BE WRONG..???

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  9. Avatar

    Fred

    My goodness, does anyone agree with science?

    I read an article the other day that revealed the general public is so uninformed and complacent that scientists are becoming more and more cloistered. The gap between the general public and scientists is growing at a noticable rate.

    I am a research scientist, but was not born that way. I developed a curiosity for how things worked when I was a child. With education and experience, I eventually earned my way to a much-loved position as researcher in a very well known major company. Some of the research eventually became the basis for many of the highest quality American products we all purchase today.

    Science, especially research science, is a dynamic endeavor. Give us guys some slack. We are a dedicated bunch striving constantly to find truths and solutions.

    Like I said earlier, I was not born a scientist. Just because I am now doesn’t mean I don’t fully enjoy a day at the beach or the ballpark.

  10. Avatar

    GMAs

    Bob…. you still didn’t answer the pressing question… when are you going to start taking up the cause to get rid of the tonnes of CO emissions from the now ever increasing gas fired power plants?

    come on Bob… take up the flag and lead the leaders into seeing the errors of their ways and promote less CO2 etc… by demanding that the power companies go GREEN with less CO emissions so we can have ours with the RV indust….

    You know how your promoting greener environments.. well… I don’t see you!!!…

    atomic power is the current stepping stone to a cleaner environment when it comes to CO emissions… particulitaes or not… the power plants that are running in this country (michigan power and SCE, etc) have shown for years that they are CO emission free… SOOOOO come on now.. kick that pig and get your writing going on how your going to promote less CO by demanding the power companies go green… with atomic power… thumbs up dude… LOL

  11. Avatar

    Joeseph

    Yeah…there should be a limit on the number of words in one post 🙂

  12. Avatar

    GMAs

    Actually Joeseph you need to referance your posting to the posting of which you refered to. It like all the rest of the GOOD scientific evidence was removed so as to view things the writers way I guess… happens all the time in the political media news… don’t like the truth… dont allow it to be air’ed… that way it keeps the minions in the dark and thinking the way that is politically correct… Our government doesn’t lie… it just only writes it one way… and of course you must believe ’em… just like in animal farm … or your a radical no nothing terrorist.. or something like that…I guess..

    Like in the movie…animal farm… if you don’t see things their way… you don’t have a job… golly gee ya think General motors..Obama… … naw… its not real.. or is it..???

    Most people are sleeping on it…hopeing its a bad dream… and when they wake up.. you can bet things are going to be different… less pay.. more expensive… (on fixed retirement income… well their goes the RV) after all how do you think they are going to get that 600 bux back… with interest? remember its a stemilus package… (package being the key word here) and CO is just one of the ways you can’t get around it… huh Bob…

  13. Avatar

    Joeseph

    The post I was referring too was removed. I don’t know by who or how, but removing posts and blocking specific emails from responding seems to be growing on this site. Maybe this post will stick around?

    For what it’s worth. I don’t even know what the too long and since removed posts said. With so many words, and no paragraph breaks, it bordered on unreadable. I didn’t read it.

    Bob – are posts being removed?, and are posters with specific emails being stopped from responding? If so, do you let people know that you’re doing this to them or just do it and hope they won’t notice? Still trying to figure out why comments with my own email address (Joe) don’t show up here anymore 🙂