January 14, 2012

Will cutting soot cut climate change? Is this a poor study?

Color me skeptical of the interesting research that says cutting soot, along with methane, could offer a quicker short-term bit of help on global warming than addressing carbon dioxide.

Why am I skeptical? Two reasons.

First, this study seems imprecise in referring "soot" rather than than "particulate pollutants." We know these include more than just "black carbon."

Second, most previous research on global warming has indicated that soot has actually helped slow global temperature rises, through blocking a bit of solar radiation. In fact, pumping more of it into the air has been highly touted as a geoengineering solution to global warming. Indeed, some scientists worry that a China reducing coal-fired power plants as an electricity source may not do as much good as once hoped.

I'm not denigrating the many non-warming benefits of cutting soot, but think it's being oversold.

And, there's one more concern.

Due to previous studies about geoengineering I referenced under Point 2, I'm waiting for the denialists to come out of the woodwork on this one. And, because the story I linked, at least, doesn't address already extant claims about geoengineering, or say that the researchers took that into account, the denialists wouldn't be all wrong at jumping on this one.

More proof this may be a backwards idea: new research connects the start of the Little Ice Age to particulates from volcanic eruptions.

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