Friday, April 07, 2006


Global Dimming

Ready to be really terrified? That whole human-caused climate change, handily termed "global warming" and accepted as scientific fact by everyone except the current president, oil companies and the scientists they carry in their hip-pockets? Well, it turns out it's much, much worse than we thought.

Allison and I caught the episode of BBC's Horizon on "Global Dimming" the other week, which was the first we'd heard of it. So far as I know, it isn't being widely reported, if at all, in the States, though the science behind it has been percolating for decades. The short version is that pollution levels, specifically ash and particulate pollutants in the atmosphere, have had the effect of reducing the amount of sunlight hitting the surface of the Earth for decades. In recent years, we've been doing a much better job of curbing these sorts of pollutants (while still doing nothing about carbon dioxide emissions), and as a result the temperature has been climbing much, much faster than even climatologists' direst models had predicted. The theory is that the dimming effect has skewed the predictions about how bad we've really borked the environment with CO2, which still isn't classified as a pollutant in the US. The most optimistic predictions say that we've got just a few years at most to curb CO2 emissions, or within a generation England's going to look like North Africa and the rainforests are going to catch fire and burn. Oh, and if you thought post-Katrina New Orleans was bad, wait until Florida and the Netherlands are floating under a few meters of saltwater. And that's assuming that the sudden rise in temperature doesn't destabilize the methane hydrate concentrations beneath the oceans, because if those things hit the surface, then we're really screwed.

Isn't it great to live in a country where the environment policy is written by oil companies, though?

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