Monday, November 07, 2016

Not Quite Off the Hook But Getting Closer.

Okay, so we in the industrialized nations of the northern hemisphere, are the heavy emitters of bad stuff that gets pumped into the atmosphere - CO2, methane, ozone and such. Most of what's already up there has come from us.

Until now it's been a story of the wealthy bad guys versus the impoverished good guys,  the David and Goliath story of the developed world and the vulnerable and relatively blameless Third World.

Now, however, when those Third Worlders start pointing their self-righteous fingers at us we can point ours right back at them.

When it comes to air pollution, a new study has found countries close to the equator do more damage than their northern neighbours, even when those in the tropics produce fewer emissions.

...That means where we pollute matters more than how much we pollute, at least when it comes to ozone-producing chemicals from car exhaust fumes, power plants, biomass burning and more. 

So while China's emissions have increased more than India's and Southeast Asia's from 1980 to 2010, the last two have contributed more to the total global ozone increase, the researchers say.

The intense, heat-producing sunlight near the equator speeds up the chemical reactions that form ozone. The higher temperatures also push the air up faster, transporting more pollutants higher into the troposphere, where they stick around longer and produce more ozone.

There you have it. We're off the hook in a way, sort of, maybe. When it comes to ozone at least.

In a related story, the sky is actually falling.

Cooling in the stratosphere is causing it to shrink, lowering that layer by "a number of kilometres", NASA noted recently.

Our burning of fossil fuels and emissions of other greenhouse gases mean more of the earth's heat that would have been radiated back to space – warming the stratosphere on the way – is being trapped at lower levels of the atmosphere.

"It's like when you insulate your roof – your house warms but your attic will get a bit cooler," says Steven Sherwood, a climate scientist at the University of NSW. Those "attic" temperatures have cooled 2-3 degrees since the 1960s.


Toby said...

For those who really want to get scared, there is this.

Gwynne Dyer - The Geopolitics of Climate Change

As you remember, Dyer wrote the book on Climate Wars and did the Massey lecture on it. This is a follow-up lecture with Q. & A. following.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Toby. Thanks for the link. I have "Climate Wars" around here somewhere - wait, it's on my desk at the bottom of one of these fast breeding stacks of books. I'll see what's new in the YouTube piece before going back to the book.

Hugh said...

I just heard on the radio news, they say we need something called "low-carbon growth".

The Mound of Sound said...

"Low carbon growth" - that's certainly a loaded term. It can mean just about anything which means it can be used to conceal one thing masquerading as something else.

The Chinese are currently big on the "energy intensity" game, itself a sort of low(er) carbon growth. They use efficiency techniques that require less fossil energy per unit of production. The Tar Sanders and others do the same. Usually it's a device employed to accompany a significant increase in output that generates a large net increase in emissions. It's certainly better than nothing but, when taken in the context of the "carbon budget," the limits to the overall GHG we can still emit, it's a double edged sword.

The sort of low carbon growth supported by the Steady State movement seeks to cap and reduce overall emissions by limiting extraction, production, consumption and waste by prohibiting the production and sale of useless junk and requiring products, such as appliances, to be repairable and upgradable as needed to extend their lifetime by twice or three times what it is today. Growth is still allowed but it will be growth in knowledge that can be put to service of general populations to improve their quality of life and overall happiness. The goal is to live better yet manage the economy so that it stays safely within the finite limits of the environment.

Jose said...

Very convenient "studies" made by the north.

The Mound of Sound said...

I hope you realize, Jose, that my remarks were satirical.