Well that’s just great….

I’m half-way though [Fred] Pearce’s “With Speed and Violence“, and he just talked about the effect of aerosols on climate. There’s a growing concern among climatologists that the role of aerosols in mitigating temperature rise has been underestimated.What that means is that if fine particulate matter (like soot) was removed from the air, the true warming potential of the existing CO2 would be revealed.

This means that one of the unintended consequences of a complete replacement of coal with nuclear power, as its advocates insist upon, would be to eliminate the particulates that are currently shielding us from the consequences of our foolishness, and expose us to the full warming fury of the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere and will be there for another century. We’d get a global temperature rise of a couple of degrees as a consequence.

How’s that for being caught on the horns of a dilemma? Oh, by the way, the same principle applies to wind turbines and solar panels, but nuclear power is more dangerous in this regard because it might actually succeed in displacing some coal consumption.

Hmm, except isn’t coal responsible for much of the c02 being there in the first place?


  1. Yep. So I guess we’ll just have to burn wood, which is virtually carbon-neutral (aside from processing and transportation) and emits plenty of soot to shield us from the sun’s heat. And plant lots of trees, which are one of the few ways to actually REMOVE carbon from the atomsphere– at least until we burn it later on.

    Seriously, there’s no one good answer. But CO2 levels must be lowered, and that means first and most importantly stop CO2 emissions– which means reduction in consumption and population, two things no one wants to talk about– sacred cows no one wants to touch. Secondly, removing the existing CO2, either by growing long-lasting vegetable matter like trees, or by some technological method. These are not difficult concepts. But they’re politically indelicate, especially in a democracy.

    Leo Tolstoy said, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.”

    Similarly, we as concerned citizens, as a nation, and as a species are willing to do absolutely anything to mitigate future climate change– as long as it doesn’t mean having to change anything.

  2. The particulate matter they are discussing comes more from volcanoes, which play an extremely important role in global climate variations. Witness the effects of Krakatoa and Mt St. Helens in recent times. Coal is important, but there are plenty of natural sources of partiulate matter from geology. Tectonic plates rule!

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