One year ago, I believed that man-made global warming was true, with temperatures rising dangerously due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. I also believed that a consensus of the international scientific community supported these conclusions. I based these beliefs on information from the popular press, television and political leaders.
Then I began some real research on the topic. I quickly discovered three critical things:
First, the Earth has experienced significant warming over the past 18,000 years that has nothing to do with human activity.
Second, more recent temperature variations demonstrate that there is little or no correlation between levels of atmospheric CO2 and temperature.
And third, there is no "consensus" among scientists on climate change.
To understand the science of climate change, you must first know that very accurate historic temperature data going back thousands of years are available through analysis of dead corals in ocean sediments as well as ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica.
You must also understand what the Earth was like 18,000 years ago. Back then, our planet was at the peak of its most recent major ice age. At 18 degrees Celsius, average ocean surface temperatures were 5 degrees lower than they are today. Half of North America and Eurasia were covered by massive ice sheets thousands of feet thick and sea level was more than 400 feet lower than today. Then, the Earth began a dramatic warming and the ice age ended.
The increase in the Earth's temperatures over 18,000 years has not been steady. In just the past 1,000 years, average ocean surface temperatures have fluctuated between 22 degrees C and 25 degrees C. Today the average temperature is 23.
Nine-hundred years ago, when CO2 levels were lower than today, global temperatures reached what is called the "medieval temperature maximum." The world was warmer than today. Sea surface temperatures were 24 degrees C and the southern tip of Greenland, which had been settled by Vikings, was actually green and habitable with a European agricultural lifestyle. Unfortunately for the residents of Greenland, temperatures soon began to fall.
The Earth reached the depth of what historians call the "Little Ice Age" in about 1600 with an average ocean surface water temperature of 22 degrees C. With no help from humans, global temperatures rose significantly from 1600 to 1900.
It is true that the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere have been rising over the past hundred years as global society has industrialized. But increased CO2 stimulates increased plant and tree growth. And there are many natural ways CO2 is created, including by the breathing of humans and animals.
CO2 is essential to life and feedback loops are complex. Further, temperatures have not risen in correlation with the increase in CO2. Global temperatures actually decreased between 1940 and 1975, increased from 1976 through 1998 and remained relatively unchanged between 1998 and 2006.
Since 2006, temperatures have declined. This year record snowfall and low temperatures are being reported all over the world, from the Americas through Asia to Europe. In just a few examples, this winter the European nation of Slovenia set a record low temperature of minus 49 degrees C and travel in Madrid was hindered by the deepest snowfall in years. Record snowfall and winter storms have forced Minnesota officials to cancel an annual dog-sled race and closed schools and roads in Las Vegas. Even Malibu, Calif., and Houston, Texas, have experienced rare snowfall this winter. Lower temperatures have also led to an expansion in Alaska's glaciers.
Once you look beyond the political beliefs of the man-made global warming or climate change movement, the scientific truth is that there is no evidence of a correlation between atmospheric temperatures and CO2 levels.
The idea that there is a "consensus" among scientists supporting man-made global warming also is plainly untrue. According to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Minority Staff Report released this winter, "more than 650 international scientists" who are considered experts in the atmosphere disagree with the global warming theory. This is 12 times the number of scientists who authored the pro-global warming "United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Summary for Policymakers."
While no correlation has been demonstrated between CO2 levels and temperature, early data do suggest a strong correlation between changes in surface activity on the sun (sunspots) and temperatures on Earth. So, it might be that the same forces that have guided the changes in Earth's atmosphere for eternity are still at work and still beyond human control.
Despite the science, many who advocate dramatic, state-dictated changes in our economy to reduce carbon levels view man-made global warming as "sacrosanct" -- an indisputable, dogmatic fact. As we debate climate change legislation -- which would have negative economic effects on all of us -- it is time to move beyond belief to scientific understanding.
Hansen concedes 'trying to influence the nature of the measurements obtained'
Who is GISS anyway? GISS is a part of NASA and stands for Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It makes sense that this is a part of NASA. What DOESN'T make sense is why a space agency is using surface mounted weather stations for evidence of climate change.
Another thing of interest about GISS is who the CEO is - Dr James Hansen, author and speaker with an alarmist approach to the climate change/ global warming argument. It is usual for people who are government employees to keep their political opinions to themselves, or at least to comment anonymously so that it cannot be attributed to the government agency they work for. Dr Hansen is a very vocal exception to this rule.
Government employees are meant to be apolitical. They are supposed to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and give impartial advice regardless of who is in Government. This is his background copied from the official NASA GISS web page:
As a college student in Iowa, I was attracted to science and research by James Van Allen's space science program in the physics and astronomy department. Since then, it only took me a decade or so to realize that the most exciting planetary research involves trying to understand the climate change on earth that will result from anthropogenic changes of the atmospheric composition.
One of my research interests is radiative transfer in planetary atmospheres, especially interpreting remote sounding of the earth's atmosphere and surface from satellites. Such data, appropriately analyzed, may provide one of our most effective ways to monitor and study global change on the earth. The hardest part is trying to influence the nature of the measurements obtained, so that the key information can be obtained.
I am also interested in the development and application of global numerical models for the purpose of understanding current climate trends and projecting humans' potential impacts on climate. The scientific excitement in comparing theory with data, and developing some understanding of global changes that are occurring, is what makes all the other stuff worth it.
He actually says, in the second paragraph, "The hardest part is trying to influence the nature of the measurements obtained, so that the key information can be obtained." To me this sounds like spin for "The hardest part is making the numbers show what I want them to". Let's see how long it takes for that sentence in the NASA GISS website to get changed
Climate: Change You Can't Believe In
Barack Obama campaigned for the White House on a promise he'd deliver "change you can believe in." And the popular totals suggest that 52% of voters believed indeed. But according to a recent Rasmussen Poll, there's one change that only 41% of Americans can believe in - manmade climate change. That's down from 47% just nine months ago, and before moving the country down an unpopular green-paved road to disaster, the "unity" promising freshman president would be well advised to understand why.
For starters, the rapidly expanding number of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) dissenting international scientists, many rising from within the alarmists' own ranks, has thoroughly shredded the misleading fallacy of "consensus." And a full decade sans warming and concluding with pronounced cooling despite ever-rising atmospheric CO2 levels has left Green House Gas (GHG) force-feeders with frosty egg on their faces. Remember the sea ice that doomsters warned would soon be gone? It's now at the very same level it was in 1979. And the sea level rise of 3.1 mm/year the IPCC declared took place between 1993 and 2003 -- purportedly as sea ice melted -- decreased by 20% to 2.5 mm/year in the five years that followed. That historically natural, centuries-long gradual creep falls a tad short of portending Al Gore's 20 foot tall civilization changing soaker.
We can't even believe in "official" measurements, as data sets relied upon to track global temperatures have again been shown to be contaminated and otherwise compromised in an effort to heighten public hysteria. Ironically, to a populace once confused by the mass media's heat hyping, clarity came not from scientific debate, nor CO2 concentration, nor bad data nor even ice and sea levels -- but rather from cold reality.
Record low temperatures and snowfall have caused misery everywhere from Slovenia (-49øC) to Sioux City (-20øF), and that's real change real people can believe in. Is it any wonder then that warnings of a coming ice age and forecasts of immediate sustained climatic cooling suddenly ring more plausible than those of a scorched and marginally inhabitable Roger Cormanesque planet laughably besieged by giant man-eating snakes, bubonic plague and even ravenous cannibals? Or that Thursday's Pew Research Center poll ranked global warming dead last in a list of 20 issues Americans want the new administration to focus on? Dead last!
Tough break for Liberal policy makers -- what with recent elections and political appointments breathing new hope into their lifelong dreams of commerce and lifestyle-dictating legislation and regulation, only to be dashed by the unpredictability of the very force they averred to predict.
So we're seeing the offense from the now defense-playing alarmists accelerate and intensify, for fear that as current cooling trends continue, the percentage of those blindly believing will plunge precipitously. Their bluff called, they are, in effect, "all-in" and must now play the hand they have dealt themselves -- and the world -- or admit to their chicanery. That's why newly installed House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) didn't even wait for Inauguration Day to announce that "Comprehensive global warming legislation will be sent to the House floor by Memorial Day." With the clock running down, it's all hysterical hands on deck.
Embattled Warmists Circle Their Wagons
While Democrats in both Houses race to get their previously tabled stealth Carbon taxation plan onto President Obama's desk, fellow Big Green Scare Machine cogs strive to restore popular "belief." On a very cold January 15th, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)'s Gavin Schmidt calmly explained to ABC News that:
"It's always a little bit difficult to talk about global warming when you're gonna have the coldest day of the year. But you have to realize that weather isn't abolished just because there's a long-term trend in the climate."
Sounds almost reasonable -- particularly given the source. But marvel not, for around that same time last week, his colleague (and our antihero) James Hansen made the hysterical declaration that "President Obama's administration is the last chance to avoid flooded cities, species extinction and climate catastrophe."
Now that's the GISS we've come to know and instinctively distrust. Sure, a prolonged record global freeze is by no means evidence of cooling -- but every rainfall, hurricane, drought, tsunami and heat-wave are irrefutable proof of manmade warming. This comes from the same agency that, in 2007, predicted "a record global temperature" to be expected "within the next 2-3 years." Nice call -- the following year turned out to be the coldest in a decade. But Hansen's boys are nothing if not belligerent. Despite last year's freeze, they are sticking to their overheated guns and are now predicting that "a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years." That sure satisfies any concerns whether the 400 million dollars plus the House Democrats' economic stimulus plan would pump into NASA climate change research programs will be money well spent.
Simultaneously -- the liberal blogosphere flew into panicked overdrive to restoke their retreating inferno.
On the same day Schmidt was dispatched as damage control, a Huffpo piece complained that a Google blog search for 2008 items using the terms "global warming" + lie, "global warming" + hoax, "global warming" + alarmists and "global warming" + skeptic returns twice the results as those for 2007. The author faulted the results of the Rasmussen Poll on this: "the internet is now a larger source of news for people than newspapers." So who was this criticizing the availability of uncensored on-line information? Why, none other than Kevin Grandia, Managing Editor of alarmist propaganda site DeSmogBlog. Grandia claims that "the internet is exploding" with information that "the majority of the mainstream media is unwilling to cover." And truer words he's seldom spoken.
But then he describes that thankfully obtainable insight as "the nonsensical junk science of the right-wing think tanks and their cadre of scientists for hire." And as do all cooling deniers, he cites as skeptic-damning authority the debunked agenda-driven reports from the "top climate scientists from around the world " of the 2007 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that "global warming is `very likely' -- or 90 per cent certain--caused by humans burning fossil fuels."
This is the same U.N. globaloney espoused by Media Matters for America in its recent attacks on Lou Dobbs, beginning on December 18th when Heartland Institute senior fellow and science director Jay Lehr told the CNN anchor that "'[t]he last 10 years have been quite cool' and that `the sun' -- rather than humans -- is responsible for recent climate change." An enraged MM insisted that the IPCC 2007 Synthesis Report "specifically rebuts the suggestion that the sun, rather than humans, is responsible for climate change."
In the weeks that followed, MM quoted the same report as gospel twice more. Once when rare bird Hollywood-conservative Douglas Urbanski rightly proclaimed that "there is no evidence that there is man-made climate change occurring." And again when Dobbs "questioned the impact of humans on global warming and suggested that solar activity may be far more responsible for global warming" during his January 5th show.
And yet, this IPCC report, much-hyped-and-hallowed by alarmists and media-drones alike, represents the combined work of only 52 carefully cherry-picked UN scientists. But the 231-page U.S. Senate Minority Report containing the IPCC-countering findings of more than 12 times that number (over 650 dissenting -- including many current and former UN IPCC -- scientists) is either gratuitously ridiculed or all but ignored by these same agents. And last year's Manhattan Declaration was similarly impressive in its signatories, and similarly mistreated by alarmists and their hand-puppets throughout the green-entranced MSM.
Grandia refers to a "cadre of scientists for hire" and Al Gore and Gorebots the likes of IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri refer to dissenting experts as flat-Earthers and variants of big-oil whores and label their views "outside the scientific consensus."
When in fact, even were consensus a foundation of science, there exists infinitely more that Al Gore, James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, Joe Romm, Kevin Grandia et al are snake-oil salesmen than of any anthropogenic impact on climate. And recent claims of a vaguely worded on-line survey with a 30% response rate from unnamed "scientists" being touted by the alarmists as proof otherwise change nothing. So 59% of Americans aren't buying it; climate experts across the globe aren't behind it; yet the alarmists continue to sell it and Democratic politicians remain steady customers.
All The President's Men (and Women) of Science
Indeed, whether born of ignorance, denial, or just political corner-painting, our new president continues to position fossil-fuel induced warming high on the list of immediate challenges he'll tackle, even when speaking in single-digit wind-chill locales, as he did last Saturday in Philadelphia. And that was just days after new E.P.A. chief Lisa Jackson avowed that "If confirmed, I will serve with science as my guide," and the very day after Interior secretary Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) promised to "put science first" in department decision-making.
Jackson -- who testified at her confirmation hearing that "curbing global warming" would be an E.P.A. priority -- has yet to disclose whether she'd move to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act, an extremely dangerous possibility nonetheless provided in 2007 by the wrongly decided Supreme Court decision of Massachusetts v. EPA. But as a committed GHG hypochondriac and avid supporter of cap-and-trade -- serving "as Vice President of the Executive Board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative," which has already launched the nation's first carbon trading system, her trump card -- should legislation fail -- is a no-brainer. And such radical regulation would empower unelected bureaucrats to impose massive behavior-modifying fines upon a broad range of residential and commercial "polluters."
Meanwhile, Salazar remains vague about further acting upon the remarkably bad decision to include global warming as an Endangered Species Act concern, stating that "it is something that we will take a look at." But look out -- immediately upon taking office on Tuesday, Obama halted progress on a Bush-installed revision that would wisely "block the law from being used to fight global warming." As we've pointed out in the past, the convergence of CO2 declared a greenhouse "pollutant" and animals listed as endangered by "climate change" creates a virtually unlimited potential for federal control over all manners of commerce and day-to-day existence.
Science first? My ice cold butt!
And speaking of furthering government control, Carol M. Browner -- Obama's choice for the new inanely-named position of "global warming czar" -- is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist. She's one of 14 leaders of Socialist International's Commission for a Sustainable World Society, which, according to the Washington Times, "calls for `global governance' and says rich countries must shrink their economies to address climate change." For more on the eco-Marxism scam, see Noel Sheppard's NASA's Hansen to Obama: Use Global Warming to Redistribute Wealth and my own The Climate Alarmist Manifesto. Then there's new energy secretary Steven Chu, another cap-and-trade champion, who declared at his confirmation hearing:
"Climate change is a growing and pressing problem. It is now clear that if we continue on our current path, we run the risk of dramatic disruptive changes to our climate in the lifetimes of our children and our grandchildren."
And let's not forget Obama's director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Boston Globe recently reminded us of John Holdren's own "contempt for researchers who are unconvinced that human activity is responsible for global warming, or that global warming is an onrushing disaster," calling their ideas which "infest" public discourse "dangerous," and that "paying any attention to their views is `a menace.'" Holdren also "contributed to a published assault on Bjorn Lomborg's notable 2001 book `The Skeptical Environmentalist'- an attack the Economist described as `strong on contempt and sneering, but weak on substance.'"
Card-carrying carbochondriacs -- the lot: Unwavering advocates of a scheme proven both wholly ineffectual in GHG abatement and clearly antithetical to our essential economic recovery by its international precursors. And Americans are waking up to the fact that the green power they and those driving them desire derives not from infeasible wind, solar or geothermal sources, but rather from economic command and control.
It's obvious that were they pure of motive, green ideologues could stick to tangibles like clean water and air, and breaking OPEC's strategically-dangerous strangle-hold on our energy supply; even limited intangibles like peak-oil and ambiguous "green jobs" -- and people could still believe. So why sully the believable with the unbelievable, particularly when the goals are supposedly identical?
And by the way, Obama's inaugural pledge to "restore science to its rightful place" wasn't alone in its incongruity on the subject. He also promised that the era of "protecting narrow interests" is over, reinforcing his campaign pledge that his administration "would not be beholden to special interests." But in fact, the green lobby represents perhaps the broadest and most dangerous of all influence peddlers -- those who literally want to micromanage not only the air we breathe and the food we eat, but also our homes, our businesses, our pastimes and even our vacation spots - not to mention what, how often and how far we drive or fly in shuttling between them.
Current polls affirm that despite a protracted and intense campaign of misinformation and dissent-gagging, Americans now want the debate Al Gore once declared over to actually begin. And they want it free of the mind-policing tactics advocated by Obama's science director, and long before any action is taken by climate zealots in either his cabinet or Congress.
Later in Tuesday's speech, the president swore to "restore the vital trust between people and their government." That was right before he promised the freezing crowd he'd "roll back the specter of a warming planet." Of course -- until he and his appointees take stock of the facts regarding the latter, there's little hope of success in the former.
China expolits nutty EU "carbon credits"
The hydroelectric dam, a low wall of concrete slicing across an old farming valley, is supposed to help a power company in distant Germany contribute to saving the climate - while putting lucrative "carbon credits" into the pockets of Chinese developers. But in the end the new Xiaoxi dam may do nothing to lower global-warming emissions as advertised. And many of the 7,500 people displaced by the project still seethe over losing their homes and farmland. "Nobody asked if we wanted to move," said a 38-year-old man whose family lost a small brick house. "The government just posted a notice that said, 'Your home will be demolished.'"
The dam will shortchange German consumers, Chinese villagers and the climate itself, if critics are right. And Xiaoxi is not alone. Similar stories are repeated across China and elsewhere around the world, as hundreds of hydro projects line up for carbon credits, at a potential cost of billions to Europeans, Japanese and soon perhaps Americans, in a trading system a new U.S. government review concludes has "uncertain effects" on greenhouse-gas emissions.
One American expert is more blunt. "The CDM" - the 4-year-old, U.N.-managed Clean Development Mechanism - "is an excessive subsidy that represents a massive waste of developed world resources," says Stanford University's Michael Wara.
Forced relocations have become common in China as people in hundreds of communities are moved to clear land for factories and other projects, provoking anger and occasionally violent protests. But what happened here is unusual in highlighting not just the human costs, but also the awkward fit between China's authoritarian system, in which complaints of official abuse abound, and Western environmental ideals.
Those ideals produced the Clean Development Mechanism as a market-based tool under the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to combat climate change. The CDM allows industrial nations, required by Kyoto to reduce emissions of gases blamed for global warming, to comply by paying developing nations to cut their emissions instead. Companies thousands of miles away, such as Germany's coal-burning, carbon dioxide-spewing RWE electric utility, accomplish this by buying carbon credits the U.N. issues to clean-energy projects like Xiaoxi's. The proceeds are meant to make such projects more financially feasible. As critics point out, however, if those projects were going to be built anyway, the climate doesn't gain, but loses.
Such projects "may allow covered entities" - such as RWE - "to increase their emissions without a corresponding reduction in a developing country," the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its December review. The system's defenders call it essential for hard-pressed industrialized nations to meet their Kyoto quotas, and say the CDM's standards are being tightened. "It's not as if we're printing money in a garage," Yvo de Boer, U.N. climate chief, said of the credits. "Lots of legitimate questions are being asked," he acknowledged to The Associated Press, but "that's why I'm happy we have a transparent process."
That transparency - online project documents and a U.N. database - allowed the AP to analyze in detail this exploding market, which attracts projects ranging from small solar-power efforts in Africa, to emissions controls on giant chemical plants in India and China. The AP has found that hydroelectric projects, whose climate impact is most widely questioned, have quickly become the No. 1 technology in the CDM, and China in particular is rushing in to capitalize. The Chinese now have at least 763 hydro projects in the CDM approval pipeline and are adding an average of 25 a month. By 2012, those projects alone are expected to generate more than 300 million "certified emission reductions," each supposedly representing reduction of one ton of carbon dioxide. Even at recent depressed market prices, those credits would be worth $4 billion.
If the United States enters the Kyoto system, as proposed by President-elect Barack Obama, it would be the biggest player in a market expected to be worth hundreds of billions a year by 2030....
The CDM money has spawned an industry of consultants who help Chinese companies assemble bids for emissions credits, and of U.N.-certified "validators," firms that then attest that projects meet U.N. standards. For Xiaoxi, the developer hired Germany's TUEV-SUED as validator, and then commissioned it again later to confirm that the project complied with European Union and German government requirements on "stakeholder consultation" - that local people approve of the project beforehand.
The TUEV-SUED report acknowledged that "the concerned villagers and their leaders were not involved in the decision process." But it contended the guidelines' "essence" was fulfilled because those affected "have improved their living environment." ....
Environmentalists also point out that hydro power has long been a national priority in China. Since the 1990s - long before the CDM - the Chinese have added an average 7.7 gigawatts a year of hydro power, equivalent to six Hoover Dams annually, International Rivers reports. In other words, Chinese planners aren't suddenly replacing emissions-heavy coal-fired power plants with emissions-free dams.
The Xiaoxi project design document, in fact, says Chinese regulations would block the building of such a relatively low-output coal plant here. But that's how planners determined the "emissions reductions" from the $183-million, 135-megawatt dam - by calculating how much carbon dioxide a 135-megawatt conventional power plant would produce instead. That bottom line - some 450,000 tons of global-warming gases each year - would be added to RWE's permitted emissions if it buys the Xiaoxi credits, at a current annual cost of $8 million. And such calculations will be repeated at 37 other Chinese hydro projects where RWE will buy credits. All told, the 38 are expected to produce more than 16 million CDM credits by 2012, legitimizing 16 million tons of emissions in Germany, equivalent to more than 1 percent of annual German emissions. ...
The CDM system "can be 'gamed' fairly easily," said German expert Axel Michaelowa, both a critic and a CDM insider, as a member of the U.N. team that registers CDM projects. But Michaelowa said the CDM remains "a crucial bridge between industrialized and developing countries." It has problems but they can be solved, he said. Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican ex-member of the board overseeing the CDM, echoed Michaelowa's view. She said it's crucial to encourage China in particular, whose coal power plants make it the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, to build clean-energy facilities. And she counters critics who oppose dams in general because of their environmental impact. "We cannot continue to demonize hydro," Figueres told the AP. [But Greenies everywhere else do!]
NASA discovers soot
It looks like the soot man is coming into his own
Governments could slow global warming dramatically, and buy time to avert disastrous climate change, by slashing emissions of one of humanity's most familiar pollutants - soot - according to Nasa scientists. A study by the space agency shows that cutting down on the pollutant, which has so far been largely ignored by climate scientists, can have an immediate cooling effect - and prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from air pollution at the same time.
At the beginning of the make-or-break year in international attempts to negotiate a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the soot removal proposal - which is being taken seriously by experts close to the Obama administration - offers hope of a rapid new way of tackling global warming. Governments have long experience in acting against soot.
Cutting its emissions has a virtually instantaneous effect, because it rapidly falls out of the atmosphere, unlike carbon dioxide which remains there for over a hundred years. And because soot is one of the worst killers among all pollutants, radical reductions save lives and so should command popular and political support.
The study - from Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics - concludes that tackling the pollution provides "substantial benefits for air quality while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation" and "may present a unique opportunity to engage parties and nations not yet fully committed to climate change mitigation for its own sake."
Black carbon, the component of soot that gives it its colour, is thought to be the second largest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide. Formed through incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and vegetation, it delivers a double whammy.
While in the air, it is spread around the globe by the wind, and helps to heat the atmosphere by absorbing and releasing solar radiation. And when it falls out it darkens snow and ice, at the poles or high in mountains, reducing its ability to reflect sunlight. As a result it melts more quickly, and exposes more dark land or water which absorbs even more energy, and so increases warming.
The bad news - as the Washington-based Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development points out - is that soot is causing global warming to happen much faster than expected. Its president, Durwood Zaelke, says "black carbon is exacerbating the climate situation": "Taking quick action is quite simply our only near-term option."
Rich countries have already reduced their emissions of black carbon from burning fossil fuels dramatically since the 1950s. The health benefits of a worldwide cut could be massive. Soot contains up to 40 different cancer-causing chemicals and can also cause respiratory and heart diseases. It is estimated to cause two million deaths in the developing world each year - mainly among children - when emitted from wood-burning stoves in poorly ventilated houses. In Britain, research has shown that people are twice as likely to die from respiratory disease when heavily exposed to soot emitted from vehicle exhausts.
Tackling these two health crises, the Nasa study concludes, would also be the most effective short-term way of slowing climate change. Its research shows that the "strongest leverage" on reducing global warming would be achieved by "reducing emissions from domestic fuel burning" in developing countries, particularly in Asia, and by "reduction in surface transport emissions in North America", especially from diesel engines.
In both cases solutions are known. Cookers using solar energy or biogas, for example, eliminate smoke. And last month California brought in measures to force trucks to fit filters to reduce diesel soot emissions by 85 per cent, estimating that they would save 9,400 lives over the next 16 years.
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