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back to article Soot forces temperatures more than thought: AGU

A paper just published by the American Geophysical Union has elevated the role of soot – “black carbon” in the science – to a new high in terms of its climate influence. According to the new study, soot is a stronger influencer of the global climate than methane. While the study doesn’t downplay the dominant role of carbon …

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Yes there's a study coming out every week and most of them aren't in IPCCs favor. Either way, I wouldn't base policy on any of them, particularly when it comes to something as long-term as climate change. That said, soot and other particulates need to be eliminated as much as possible - climate effects or not, they're terrible for ones health. I just wish we dealt with actual problems (which we have plenty of) rather than running around screaming about the boogie monster du jour.

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upvote for this - "soot and other particulates need to be eliminated as much as possible - climate effects or not, they're terrible for ones health"

Plus, is that an extra incentive to increase fracking + use of gas to REPLACE the use of coal. Watt for watt* we get both less particulates and less CO2 emmissions.

*I'm under no illusion that expanding fracking will simlpy 1-to-1 replace coal, in reality coal use will decrease less than gas use increases with overall more energy produced. But even producing more energy with teh same emmissions level is a win right now.

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I see you propose to run a gas pipe out to my house in the countryside!* When can I expect this? regards, Rag.

* This is the only way you will get me to stop using wood/coal.

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@Ragarath

No, I meant replace coal-fired power stations with gas-fired ones.

As you were.

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Holmes

Exactly

is the IR absorption of greater impact than the ability of aerosols to accelerate cloud condensation nuclei and cause cooling clouds to form?

Volcanic eruption studies suggest that soot and particulates in the atmosphere have a far greater cooling than warming effects.

You can always cherry pick one side of the equation to force through legislation that costs the consumer money, and favours whoever it is making the solution.

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We have options people!

So wood burning *can* be a clean process if done right.

Luckily for us its is pretty cheap to do AND because Rocket Mass Heaters are super cheap to make (AFAIK there are no commercial unit at this time) many people are building them into their homes. A huge advantage is that an RMH re-burns the smoke, extracting pretty much ALL of the chemical energy out of wood, almost nothing but CO2 and water come out of the chimney, at around 90F.

One woman stuck her face into the exhaust and could faintly smell wood burning. But I digress, people who use these things are finding that they are using around 1/8th (or less) wood to heat their homes for a winter (in Montana!) and they are staying more comfortable doing it. Also they have no problem with creosote buildup, that is part of what gets re-burned in normal operation.

This site has diagrams and such:

http://www.richsoil.com/rocket-stove-mass-heater.jsp

And then there's wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_mass_heater

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@SolidSoup

Ever heard of the 'Clean Air Act'?

Various countries have introduced a 'Clean Air Act' (UK did this first in 1956) in order to reduce the levels of pollutants (in particular: Soot) and improve air quality.

Strangely, French research showed that the various pollutants had been keeping ground temperatures lower than they should have been: Artificially cooling the planet rather than heating it. Cleaning up the pollutants resulted in a notable increase in global temperatures. The various incarnations of clean air acts are also why vehicles have particle filters on their exhausts in Europe. Filters are also being fitted to chimneys, particularly industrial chimneys, to reduce pollutant levels.

So, we are dealing with the problem, and have been for over 50 years. We just need to make sure we keep on top of it and close any loopholes so air quality continues to improve (it's dipped again around London apparently).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Ragarath

well the anti-humanists pushing this research are targeting "home wood burners". It's stated as if we are villians just manaically burning wood trying to choke gaia or something! These studies come out that make vague references to macro causes while the specific references concern individuals' use of resources. That is what all this BS is about: controlling and stealing from individuals. Generally the taxes from these schemes are used to buy more control over sovereign resources and once gathered by these international theives, levied towards new victims.

way to tow the line Reg! no seriously, BOOO to you! BOOOO!

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Facepalm

Re: @Ragarath

Ah, sorry, took it the wrong way, my apologies. That makes much more sense :)

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Re: @Ragarath

My above reply was @James Micallef, forgot to change the title.

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Anonymous Coward

Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

...and there I was, being informed that all this had been completely resolved long ago. "The experts" had all reached "consensus" to such a degree that there's been no possibility of any error/oversight/meaningful discourse regarding this "truth" for at least a decade. So what can be this heresy? Spaken forth from thou high priests of AGW! We're all doomed!

Off you go cowering halfwits... get jabbing with your pitchforks... it's the red one on the right.

Ooohh... that tickles.

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Happy

Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

Re " "The experts" had all reached "consensus" to such a degree that there's been no possibility of any error/oversight/meaningful discourse regarding this "truth" for at least a decade"

The EXPERTS all agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is causing it. (1) Burning fossil fuels produces CO2 in a calculable amount (high-school-level chemistry). (2) More CO2 in the atmosphere increases greenhouse effects (graduate-level physics). (3) Greenhouse effects cause warming (basic thermodynamics and undergraduate-level physics). All of that science is well-understood and irrefutable*.

What IS debatable (and indeed IS being debated by climate scientists themselves) is the degree of warming, and the effects of warming. This is because Earth + weather is an unbelievably complex system of which we do not have a good understanding**. But confusion about the details of the models does not invalidate the big picture.

Any person who disagrees with the basic statements 1,2 and 3 is doing so on the basis of "religion" and dogma, not science.

*of course, being science, it actually IS refutable, you just have to experimentally show that you are right. Simply arguing against it is NOT a refutation

**Quite possibly it is cheaper*** to continue development now and use technology + energy to mitigate the effects later... or maybe it is cheaper to cut emmissions drastically now. This is a debate worth having but unfortunately many people are entrenched in their position where only their solution is the right one

***not just cash-cheaper but also population-relocation issues, quality of life etc etc

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@James Micallef

"The EXPERTS all agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is causing it. "

"What IS debatable (and indeed IS being debated by climate scientists themselves) is the degree of warming, and the effects of warming. "

One thing missing from that - it is also still debatable what percentage of global warming is caused by human activities, as there have been fluctuations in the past that couldn't be down to human actions (i.e. before humans really existed).

You have given bald statements that strongly imply that all climate change is down to humans polluting the earth by burning fossil fuels, which is clearly not the case going by past changes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

The EXPERTS all agree that global warming is happening and that human activity is causing it. (1) Burning fossil fuels produces CO2 in a calculable amount (high-school-level chemistry). (2) More CO2 in the atmosphere increases greenhouse effects (graduate-level physics). (3) Greenhouse effects cause warming (basic thermodynamics and undergraduate-level physics). All of that science is well-understood and irrefutable*.

Any person who decrees statements 2 and 3 is doing so on the basis of "religion" and dogma, not science. Allow me to help you a bit...

The EXPERTS all agree that an adjusted mean global temperature rose between 1960 and 1990 and that human activity may be CONTRIBUTING to it. (1) Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 in a calculable amount (primary school science). (2) More CO2 in the atmosphere can contribute to greenhouse effects (even this was woefully naïve - the "greenhouse effect" alone is immensely complex and poorly understood. e.g. water vapour is a far more important "greenhouse gas" than CO2 and even something as essential and elementary as influence of changes in CO2 on water vapour distribution is extremely poorly understood. If "the greenhouse effect" was as simple as you pretend, there'd be no ice ages. ). (3) Greenhouse effects contribute to maintaining the global temperature (the earth’s temperature is an incredibly complex dynamic system with countless feedback systems, both "positive" and "negative", interacting in a manner which is unknown to anyone. CO2 has been immensely higher than it is today and at those levels the earth and its inhabitants enjoyed long periods of stable climate, CO2 has also been a bit lower than it is today and again for long periods of climatic stability. There is no model which can correctly simulate any of this... even though it's the "historical data" on which those models are based!). There is a great deal of well understood science a great deal of supposition and theory and a great deal of pure mystery which has yet to be explored. We simply DO NOT KNOW

This is because Earth + weather is an unbelievably complex system of which we do not have a good understanding. The constant confusion and demonstrable failure of the models does prove them unfit to determine "the big picture".

Any imbecile can become smug and conceited about how much they know... or think they know... yet it really does take some thought and intelligence to understand how little you know... and that may well be a slightly greater little than those most eager to boast their conceit.

Go on... poke me some more. You have your righteous faith on your side...

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Holmes

Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

The only people saying the science is settled are non scientists.

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Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

It is possible to argue that no global warming is still happening. Depending on how you select and or smooth the data, you can make either case.

The only unassailable facts are that the atmospheric CO2 is higher than it was some years ago, and that its unlikely this wont have any effect at all.

The rest of the science..is not settled at all.

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Boffin

Re: @James Micallef

@Corinne "You have given bald statements that strongly imply that all climate change is down to humans polluting the earth by burning fossil fuels"

Re-read my post carefully, that's NOT what I said at all. I said that human activity, specifically generating CO2 through burning fossil fuels, causes warming. I never said that ALL observed warming is due to CO2, and I don't think it's implied either. So to be 100% clear, yes it's not only possible but quite probable that there are other warming sources. However back-of-the envelope calculations (see 'do the math' blog) indicate that at least around half the observed warming is due to CO2

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Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

@AC - erm - as explained to Corinne above, I in no way state or imply that CO2 is the only greenhouse gas, nor do I state or imply that greenhouse effect is the only cause of global warming. So sure you can add "contributes to", but it doesn't change the gist of it.

"Any imbecile can become smug and conceited about how much they know... or think they know"

If you bothered to read my post till the end, I am clear that neither myself nor anyone else can claim to have the whole picture. I am also clear that I am open to the possibility that current policies are wrong and a more open discussion is needed.

"You have your righteous faith on your side"

You can believe in whatever makes you happy, I don't mind. I also don't mind stating my opinions publicly with my name to them :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

"You can believe in whatever makes you happy, I don't mind. I also don't mind stating my opinions publicly with my name to them :)"

I suspect that is because you've never had to endure the type of abuse which we sceptical sorts regularly receive!

p.s. I am not in the pay of Big Oil - I'm not that well off :)

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Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

>"Any imbecile can become smug and conceited about how much they know"

Glass houses

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

>"Glass houses"

People in greenhouses...

Surely?

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Happy

Re: Yet another filthy great hole in the models. Who'd have thunked it possible?

"I suspect that is because you've never had to endure the type of abuse which we sceptical sorts regularly receive!"

Well, not nice to hear that you've had abuse thrown at you for an opinion, but I'm not the one throwing abuse your way... on the other hand, I'm the one who is having subtle digs sent my way:

"Any imbecile can become smug and conceited about how much they know"

No worries, I don't take offence :)

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And of course

All the coal producers are going to fight this as hard as they can.

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Re: And of course

Yeah, yeah, plenty of thumbs down, but I notice nobody's actually arguing the point. Coal is one of the dirtiest power sources we have and coal companies WILL fight as hard as they can against any legislative controls on their ability to rake in cash while filling the air with shit.

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Flame

Re: And of course

They don't need to. Nobody wants nuclear (because radiation!), nobody wants shale gas (because earthquakes!) and nobody really wants windfarms (because eyesore! oh, and horrifying expense).

We ain't going back to burning trees on an industrial scale, so what else is there?

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Re: And of course

I for one want nuclear. They can put a reactor in my backyard, no problem. A coal power plant will release much more radiation than a nuke plant ever will due to thorium and uranium in the coal, plus it has all that lovely particulate matter to boot. Wind is okay as a supplement in areas suitable for it - people complaining that it's ugly should be told to get over it - and we should be spending much more money on getting to grips with solar thermal generators (not photovoltaics) as well as geothermal. We need to stop relying on burning stuff to generate our power.

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Mushroom

Re: And of course

and filling your wires with electrons.

Cost benefit m'dear.

And the main culprits are Chinese, and their politicians don't read El Reg..

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Re: And of course

@Ratty

>I for one want nuclear.

With you 100% on that... with one (and it is only one) caveat... you can't trust the wetware.

A sensibly designed station, properly designed, constructed and run, would be ideal. Thing is, there's always the risk that some corrupt corporation will pop up peddling some dirt cheap and unthinkably dangerous design they'd cobbled together by doing something really, really stupid - like pinching a submarine design and just scaling everything up! If said corporation crept up to the right politico with an appropriate bung you'd be in for a world of hurt!... and then there's the construction... bit of cost-cutting on the aggregate, slip a few quid to the chap x-raying the welds, etc... and then once the deathtrap new station is commissioned... it's only a matter of time before some bright spark at the controls has a flash of initiative... like VPNing his terminal to someone in China and nipping down t' pub.

A coal power plant will release much more radiation than a nuke plant ever will due to thorium and uranium in the coal, plus it has all that lovely particulate matter to boot.

Indeed ...except as caveat above... I hear the "fallout" - so to speak - and cleanup when something goes pyriform can be a bit slow, costly and unhealthy.

>Wind is okay as a supplement in areas suitable for it - people complaining that it's ugly should be told to get over it - and we should be spending much more money on getting to grips with solar thermal generators (not photovoltaics) as well as geothermal.

Wind's a bit of a red herring I think but geothermal, tidal and wave all seem to have serious potential... depending on where you are of course. Cool fusion would be nice too... There's no panic... I'm sure we'll be fine as long as we just keep plodding along with learning how the universe works and inventing nifty stuff... like rounded corners to rectangles ;o)

>We need to stop relying on burning stuff to generate our power.

I don't think anyone (sane) would argue with that.

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Re: And of course

We ain't going back to burning trees on an industrial scale, so what else is there?

Treadmills, sweaters, and bicycles.

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Stop

Aw fiddlesticks!

President Obama just approved of EPA rules that sharply limit soot production by those evil oil companies with their fetid boilers and heaters. The fact that it will drive the cost of gasoline and deisel is seen as a bonus by the Obama Regime. But, I have to ask. How in the world did we get by without all this stuff? I mean, sure, they have a lot of trouble with coal ash in Beijing, but not anywhere in the United States has it been that bad for decades--not even in Los Angeles. The tricky part of nuisance law is knowning when to quit before the law itself becomes an onerous nuisance.

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Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

"President Obama just approved of EPA rules that sharply limit soot production "

Good for President Obama

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Stop

Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

You're confusing different problems.

The Chinese are suffering from smog. It's a localised effect caused by soot, sulphur dioxide and hydrocarbons combining with fog to form a dense cloud. It's less of a risk to global warming and more of a risk to actually breathing, so needs to be dealt with pretty quickly.

Carbon dioxide and carbon particulates from Diesel engines are a different issue. They are suspected of being a significant factor in global warming, which is a slow, long term effect. Modern diesels tend to be fitted with particulate traps and/or they inject an urea/water mix into the exhaust of a lean mix combustion to remove soot and NOX. The problem therefore is in older vehicles or engines that need to be cleaned up.

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Devil

Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

I was under the impression that SCR (aqueous urea injection) only reduces NOx, also adoption is hardly significant is it? Add to that the unlikelyhood of anyone actually bothering to refill it...

Ban diseasels. Think of the children etc.

While we're at it, ban autos.

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Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

Running a Diesel engine lean reduces particulates at the cost of increased NOX. Adding the urea mix into the exhaust brings the NOX back down, so it's a two part strategy.

There are strategies you can use to get people to refill the urea tank (anything from a warning light on the dash to refusing to start when it runs empty). NOX is pretty nasty stuff and we definitely want to keep emissions of it down.

There's always a balance to be found between utility and impact. Unless something is seriously dangerous or harmful then make the cost of buying/running it at least cover the cost of the impact. You can then let the public decide if they are prepared to pay for the utility.

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Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

Time flies. older engine problem solves itself.

Rather than rush into doing something which may well not be needed, shades of Kyoto, I would prefer to see the theory tested and proved before we start....I very much doubt that soot from diesels is higher than from open fires (which would include open as in forest etc)

And the physics of greenhouse gasses is by no means clear-cut...neither is the ubiquitous greenhouse effect.

The CO2 scare having ground to a temporary halt, as has global warning/climate-change, we now have the soot from diesels scare arriving at platform one, and on time.

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Pint

Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

Jeremy Clarkson is paid more in ONE WEEK ($467k/week) than the President of the USA is paid in one year ($400k/year). Obviously Mr. Clarkson's opinions on AGW, etc. must be given more weight. He traditionally hates diesel powered vehicles, so he's a man ahead of his time (again).

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Re: Aw fiddlesticks!

Jeremy Clarkson is agin anything which gives him less power from a given size engine. If he could get a street legal car that burned nitromethane then he'd love that. Diesel is however better at delivering torque (which is why it is popular in trucks) and delivers better fuel economy (though modern petrol engines are getting closer).

Since diesel oil is a by-product of the cracking process we may as well use it productively, but it needs more effort to clean up its exhausts.

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Politically useful differentiators

The study suggests that emissions reduction efforts focusing on diesel and some types of household wood and coal burners would have an immediate cooling impact.

I doubt we'll see the major users of diesel, such as mining, forestry, and other resource based industries, playing along with this. They're too strong a lobby, because they feed the economy. Household wood burners are already much cleaner with their catalytic converters (I've got one), and the few who use the old inefficient stoves are poor people who will be hurt by stronger regulation. Coal burners probably have their own differentiator, which might be particularly useful for climate politics. The burners in developed countries are very clean, and the ones in third world, or developing countries will be the ones to blame. In the end we will (as Bill Catringer points out above) just get nuisance laws. Apart from that, it'll be some unenforceable global policy which will give the West a bargaining chip to justify doing nothing.

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Particles

Given that an erupting volcano dumps a lot of dust into the upper atmosphere and the planet cools slightly, perhaps we've got our approach to particulates wrong.

When Nature has a good burn, it releases a lot of CO2 from burning vegetation into the atmosphere, but also releases a lot of small particles which may well have the same effect as the volcanic dust in cooling down. This is where we've got it wrong, we're releasing the CO2 but taking steps to inhibit the small particles that might mitigate the effect.

No evidence apart from the effects of volcanic dust, but it's just as valid as any of the global warming theories.

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Re: Particles

Soot particles in the air cause a lot of health problems - article about Beijing's air quality on this very site today.

But what's more important is that ordinary volcano activity basically wipes out all of man's contributions for a year in terms of soot. Short of putting a hat on every volcano in the world, we aren't going to be able to stop the largest sources of it.

As with everything "global warming"-wise, we can't stop it all, natural processes have been beating us in terms of pollution on almost all fronts for millions of years (possible exception of mercury, etc. but the global warming stuff, certainly), and yet still nobody actually proposes solutions.

Let's assume the soot in the air is THE MOST IMPORTANT factor. How do we get rid of it? Stop burning wood. Stop using diesel. Fine. Let's assume (somehow) we make them both illegal and nobody ever burns a piece of wood in open air again, across the entire planet, and we combat all the natural sources of such. Now we save "half a degree" (per year? per decade? for ever? The article isn't clear). Now, what do we do instead? We now have entire fleets of vehicles out of action. The alternatives are petrol and electrics (which are nowhere near viable on that kind of scale - i.e. replacing diesel - and bring their own problems of supply sources and pollution). We can't use wood-burning stoves anywhere so we have to buy more gas, or more electricity, or more paraffin or SOMETHING to make up for it.

So even if they are right, even if we implement a perfect solution, even if we claw back that half-a-degree that "buys us ten years" (Until what? Death? On what? A century? A millenia?), we have no way to replace the things we were doing that we had to stop doing. People are out of work, transport systems near collapse, we're burning more of other things that we're also told not to burn, etc. I've taken it to extremes using perfect (and unachievable) assumptions, but the same happens on any scale you try (e.g. say we find a product that "collects" soot from the air on an industrial scale that can be fitted to anything - even a wood fire - how much is it going to cost, what is it going to be made of, how many will we need, how will we get them to everyone we need to use them, etc. etc. etc.)

It's the usual "global warming" problem: I believe you, in general. Let's assume I believe you 100% and that your science is absolutely perfect (unlikely, but let's just assume). Now what do we DO about it and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, what does that fix cost us? Because if it costs us more than it saves us, we might as well just carrying on doing what we're doing. Let's say we will eliminate soot, or CO2 or whatever we think is causing the problem: What's the knock-on effect of our fix, or reduced levels of those things (i.e. are we likely to trigger some natural process or even affect plantlife and wildlife because of a rapid change in the other direction?), and just what do we have to "break" elsewhere in order to "fix" this part? Robbing Peter to pay Paul comes to mind, and the situation comes up in ALL of these discussions but is never mentioned.

Let's assume we all stop burning any oil-based fuel tomorrow and go with the best alternative. Just what does that mean, not just for us, but for the switchover, for the long-term transition, for the costs of transitioning, for people caught up in that change, etc. If it's not PROBABLY less (and you can't say that without looking as deeply into it as you do the problems of global warming) than what we imagine to happen under global warming, then it's actually more sensible to DO NOTHING.

We're humans, we have a brain. When we change things it's often got side-effects that we didn't bother to think of and that can be worse than the original problem was (e.g. cane toads in Australia). And nobody is really looking at that.

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FAIL

Re: Particles

I don't suggest that we charge in, all guns blazing, and ban these things, but failing to look for and implement cost effective measures to mitigate or reduce things that we think are causing a problem is the height of irresponsibility. If we followed your model then no car would have seat belts or air bags, after all those folks were going to die sometime weren't they?

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Trollface

Re: Particles

"No evidence apart from the effects of volcanic dust, but it's just as valid as any of the global warming theories."

I.e. more or less bunk from start to finish.

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Alien

Only solution...

The one and only solution gets overlooked every time: if the human population is reduced or at least stopped from increasing, it will solve a lot of problems... This poor space-rock is overcrowded by the biggest parasite of them all: humans!

And it wouldn't only reduce the soot and carbon output, but solve a myriad of other problems too!

So, put in place a very strict pro-creation regime (allowance of three-quarter child per person, as mentioned in KSR's Mars trilogy), and start building those space ships and space stations, and get as many humans off this rock before it is all beyond repairable levels.

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Pirate

Re: Only solution...

I nominate you as the first to be depopulated. :-P

Pirate, because buccaneers are good at depopulating.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only solution...

Won't happen, every country on the planet (except perhaps Afghanistan and some others) is obsessed with GDP growth. You can only grow economies by increasing the number of people working in the economy.

Not to mention the fact that Labour did the utmost to encourage people to have more kids as they felt they needed lots of young people to pay taxes to fund the pensions of those retiring (but who are living longer). A policy that was totally flawed since they didn't do enough to ensure that young people could get into work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Only solution...

Final solution. EAT GREENS AND SHOOT

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Meh

Re: Only solution...

Brilliant.

Perhaps we should appoint a "population Tsar" to mange the process.

I've hear of a fellow called Kodos whose meant to have been very effective at matters of population control.

He should be available for the job.

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Happy

Re: Only solution...

@BAG (Nice acronym from your moniker :) ):

Bring it on! Give me the space ship, and I'm off!

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But human health isn't enough?

As seen in Beijing this past week, soot, black carbon, fine particulate matter, etc., isn't a global warming issue. It's a direct human health issue. Black lung is a very well-known disease caused by coal dust and that isn't even as fine as the combustion products that come from diesel. In polluted urban centers, black lung or similar symptoms are appearing among the people living there.

Honestly, if we can't even be bothered to take action to clean up the air so it doesn't shorten our lives and worsen lung conditions, why would finding that reducing it might decrease global warming by a small bit spur us into action?

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