Feeds

NASA: Clean-air regs, not CO2, are melting the ice cap

Acid-rain countermeasures could drown London

Business security measures using SSL

Dirty Chinese coal to save us all?

Other scientists have recently suggested that it's not just the Arctic which is subject to aerosol effects. Boffins from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have said that aerosol levels from dust storms and volcanoes alone would account for as much as 70 per cent of the temperature rise seen in the Atlantic ocean during the past 26 years, leaving carbon simply nowhere.

Shindell's new NASA study is particularly topical, as President Obama's new science advisor has just suggested that the subject of "geoengineering" - artificially modifying the climate - must be considered as a countermeasure to global warming. One measure put forward by geoengineering advocates is the deliberate injection of sulphur particulates into the atmosphere.

There might not even be any need for action on the part of the West, with China building sulphur-belching coal power stations and diesel vehicles at a furious rate in recent times. Dr Shindell doesn't say so, but it's at least possible that this has something to do with the fact that global temperatures have actually dipped slightly over the last couple of years.

Meanwhile Dr Shindell's position at NASA's Goddard Institute in New York must now be a potentially stressful one. His boss, Dr James Hansen, is more or less the father of the carbon-driven global warming menace. He won't be pleased at the suggestion that carbon emissions may not be such an overriding concern after all. Dr Hansen has even gone so far as to travel to the UK, to add his weight to protests against the Kingsnorth coal plant.

There are of course many arguments against a deliberate policy of sulphate emissions. They cause acid rain, for one thing: the original anti-sulphur regs weren't introduced just for fun. But the appearance of aerosols at the front of the climate-science stage does indicate that the issue isn't simple, and that environmental policies can have unforeseen and unexpected effects.

The goal of simply cutting CO2 emissions by any means possible might have to be reconsidered somewhat: Shindell's research, backed by other recent studies, suggests that it might be a lot more cost-effective to tackle emissions of black-carbon aerosols. Filtering soot from exhausts would be hugely easier than capturing and sequestering CO2, building a fully wind/electric Blighty or other ambitious eco-schemes.

"There's still a lot more that we need to sort out," says Shindell, in understated style.

There's more for laymen from NASA here, or subscribers to Nature Geoscience can read the relevant journal article here, and expert commentary here. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.