Climate Change Notebook, May 2010

Posted on May 13, 2010


Cleaner air could mean more warming. Since air pollution has declined in the last 20 years, the percentage of aerosols in the atmosphere has also declined.  Aerosols—as well as having side-effects like acid rain, smog and/or asthma, and so on, depending upon which aerosol we’re talking about—have a net cooling effect in the atmosphere.  They block sunlight and make clouds more reflective.  Nobody is quite sure how strong the cooling effect is, however, which, with the continuing decline of their presence in the atmosphere, complicates the other necessary environmental task of settling emission targets for CO2.  The only thing that is sure is that the continuing decline of aerosol pollution will have the ironic effect of accelerating—nobody knows by how much—the effects of global climate change.

The Pliocene Epoch happened between 5.3 to 1.8 million years ago.

Climate might be up to 50% more sensitive to CO2. A recent study by British and United States scientists, studying the climate of the mid-Pliocene, found that Earth’s climate might be 30 to 50 percent more sensitive to increases in atmospheric CO2 than current climate models predict.  Climate sensitivity may have been underestimated because long-term changes in ice sheets and vegetation are not well represented in current climate models, they say.  Most models currently only integrate relatively fast-moving processes in climate.

Harvesting wave energy from the inshore ocean may be practical. Conventional analysis has held that harvesting wave energy is only practical out to sea, where the problem is that it’s expensive and difficult to harvest.  New thinking says that’s not necessarily true, that it can be done closer to shore, which removes many of the problems which developers of the potential energy source have faced up to now.

Climate bill introduced in US Senate. The world watches.  Even if the bill passes, it still won’t be enough, because no world government except the Maldives is talking enough.  Enough, that is, to effectively solve the problem of human-produced carbon and climate change.  But everyone is hoping action from the US—almost any real action—would be enough to make a start.