There are natural aerosols and aerosol pollutants. Combined, the total amount, and type, of aerosols affect the amount of atmospheric forcing imposed inside the climate system. This is because some aerosols help reflect sunlight back out into space. This reduces the amount of solar energy reaching the earth's surface. To calculate total warming and cooling potentials, the total effect of aerosols and greenhouse gases (GHG's) needs to be calculated.
Atmospheric aerosol pollution, mixed with natural aerosols in the context of human caused global warming presents some interesting and extremely important challenges for consideration. Industrial aerosol pollution is contributing to negative climate forcing. That means that if the pollution becomes too detrimental to human health and we stop that pollution, we will warm even faster.
With modern satellite measurements we can fairly accurately calculate atmospheric greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere. This gives scientists a much more clear view of what is actually occurring in the atmosphere with these different gases. That in turn allows for reasonable calculations based on the quantities measured.
Current: The net current effect, within the error bars, calculated on the mean (average center) the formula looks like this. From thermal equilibrium (radiative forcing relatively zero including natural variation) for the past 10,000 years (Holocene), since the beginning of the Industrial age, the earth climate system is currently estimated to be 3.6 W/m2 positively charged (GHG's, and -2.0 W/m2 negatively charged (aerosols). Thus the total system is estimated to me 1.6 W/m2 positively charged.
Once one understands that we have increased both greenhouse gases and aerosols, one begins to understand the predicament we have created. We have created a two edged sword of increased positive (GHG's) and negative (aerosols) forcing components in the atmosphere.
In a sense we have made a deal with the devil (The Faustian Bargain), and in this case, we are the devil... so, in fact we have made a very tricky deal with ourselves. We have interrupted the natural balance in two directions, and the net result is a positive bias in the climate system. Drawing down the aerosol pollution increases the positive bias, thus accelerating the warming effect of GHG's.
If we come to a point where we can not afford to continue to pollute with negative aerosols for health, or other reasons, then we commit to even larger positive forcings that will cause further and faster warming.
In reality, we are already warming very fast and that will impose problems into our economy such as changes and affects:
- Food scarcity
- Climate latitudinal shift
- Snow storms
The problem is already beginning to manifest, but in the near future it is expected to become increasingly noticeable and also this is logically expected to increase the associated human costs and tolls. These sociological effects will be due to changes in jet-stream patterns, soil moisture content, precipitation patterns involving increased snowfall events and rain events and many other biological effects. In other words, global warming will increasingly impact the resource economy as the increased thermal energy is absorbed into the earth climate system in the atmosphere, ocean and land effects.
It would be highly illogical to assume this will have a net positive effect for the global economy which will become increasingly stressed as time passes.
- Yet more aerosols: Comment on Shindell and Faluvegi
- Aerosol formation and climate, Part I
- Aerosol effects and climate, Part II: the role of nucleation and cosmic rays.
- Global Dimming? () ()
- Global Dimming II () ()
- Pollution-Climate Connections () ()
- Global Dimming may have a brighter future () ()
- Climate sensitivity and aerosol forcings
- An Aerosol Tour de Forcing
- Global Dimming and climate models
- Current volcanic activity and climate?
- Aerosols: The Last Frontier? () ()
- Ozone impacts on climate change
- Perspectives from China
- Global dimming and global warming
- Aerosols, Chemistry and Climate