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Earth Science

Soot Is Warming the World — a Lot 251

sciencehabit writes "Soot is bad stuff all around, whether you're breathing it into your lungs or it's heating the atmosphere by absorbing more of the sun's energy. But a new 4-year, 232-page assessment (PDF) of soot's role in climate finds that the combustion product could be warming the world twice as much as previously thought. The study points policymakers toward the best targets for reducing climate-warming soot emissions while at the same time improving the health of billions of people."
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Soot Is Warming the World — a Lot

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  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:22PM (#42608853)

    This reminds me of a cartoon []. Caption: "What if global warming is a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?"

    The reason that occurred to me is, here's a case where it makes sense to reduce a pollutant (soot) for public health reasons, even setting the global warming issue aside.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:25PM (#42608889)

    I find it surprising that this study is so late to the global warming game. I wonder how this affects the existing climate models. For, if as the study says, the exisitng affects of soot have been understated by a factor of 100%, does that not mean that the existing warming models are overstating the effect of CO2?

  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:29PM (#42608967)

    What you present is the argument that neither side want's to hear. Trust me, I tried. The arguments for curing global warming are identical to cleaning up pollution. In the 70s, there was a huge push on cleaning up pollution. The "clean" campaigns were all silenced in favor of high profit for a select few.

    While I agree with you, good luck getting anyone in current argument crowd discussing anything as logical as pollution.

    Basically we have 2 fronts: Big Oil and Money people saying "We are not doing anything wrong", and the other half saying "Humans are a plague on the planet." Anyone else is ignored, ridiculed, or drown out in noise.

  • Some Corrections (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:35PM (#42609037) Journal

    So it's not the cars causing global warming? Or is this just a way to garner more research funds?

    This is about the contributions soot has to global warming and the magnitude of those contributions. This is, by no means, an attempt to isolate global warming down to one factor. It is a complex situation and your logical fallacy is to prey upon that complexity in order to disprove any additional information people try to publish on it.

    Also, the paper had a very helpful executive summary. Had you bothered to read even that small fraction of it, one of the opening sentences states:

    Sources whose emissions are rich in black carbon (‘BC-rich’) can be grouped into a small number of categories, broadly described as diesel engines, industry, residential solid fuel and open burning.

    So, yes, according to the paper in the Americas and Europe diesel engines are some of the biggest contributors whereas in Africa and Asia the biggest contributors are coal and biomass burning operations.

    I'm confused.

    I know -- it's quite evident. I'm here to help.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:38PM (#42609087)

    as long as coal powers the turbines that make the electricity, that's exactly what those things are.

  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:53PM (#42609323) Journal

    "What if global warming is a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?"

    I'm thinking the real question is, "What if global warming is true (and it seems to be), but we spend trillions of dollars - presumably to the
    detriment of other beneficial things - to obtain only a marginally better outcome?"

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:00PM (#42609437) Journal

    The argument is also identical to pre-emptive moves to prepare the world economy for the end of cheap oil. It's irrelevant to Big Oil's cheerleaders, and seemingly by the general public, who want to believe, no matter how foolish it is, that fossil fuels cause only limited (if any) climate change and are of infinite supply.

    And you'll find that the actual climatology community doesn't have a lot of "humans are a plague" types. While there are some extreme green types out there, that everyone who accepts AGW is some crazed tree hugging lunatic is a pretty huge strawman.

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:07PM (#42609557) Journal

    Do you think the universe gives a flying fuck about politics? If the climate is changing (and just about every active researcher in the field says it is), then it does not matter what fucking little bit whether you find it political. Nature is not bound by any ideology, or by politics, or by your distaste for either.

    Grow the fuck up. What are you, eight years old, that your reaction to this sort of thing is to shove your fingers in your ears and declare you don't want to hear about it?

  • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:08PM (#42609567) Journal

    Can i get a refund on my carbon credits then?

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:17PM (#42609709) Journal

    The problem is NOT a case of "creating a better world for nothing" as many of us that are currently against AGW would think that would be great, wonderful, all for it. the problem that many of us have against AGW is the current "solutions" are a scam [] set up by the same groups that gave us credit default swaps and all the other lovely scams in the real estate bubble which We, The People, are still being handed bills for.

    Take Mr "inconvenient truth" Rev Al Gore, not only has he not said a word about tariffs on China who has said they won't play the carbon game (hint, he makes crazy money there), not only has he set himself up to make billions on the carbon scam [] but he has the diamond plated balls to say puttering around in his Lear Jet and driving his SUV makes him "carbon neutral" because he pays HIMSELF carbon credits from his OWN COMPANY which then hands him the money back as capital gains which he doesn't have to pay taxes on! It would be like moving money from your left pocket to your right and getting a tax break for doing it!

    So you want to make the world cleaner? All for it, add huge tariffs to Chinese goods, we can pick up their fricking pollution on the west coast so if you want cleaner air there is a good start, tell the NIMBYs to fuck off and start building new nuclear reactors, tell the DoD to fuck off and allow reprocessing to deal with the waste, and invest in a people's car that runs on diesel, gets at least 40MPG and costs less than 20K. Give tax breaks and a huge "cash for clunkers" to the poor to get rid of all the old used cars on the road...tada! Wow I just solved a good portion of the problems right there, aren't I a genius? Why isn't this being done? Answer is obvious, its because the scammers can't leech more money with a sensible system that actually makes things better which is why the ONLY "solution" you'll hear from the AGW is carbon credits.

    Oh and FYI but what EXACTLY do you think will happen to what few American factories are left if they have zero penalty for moving to China? Duh, they'll just move where they don't pay for carbon crap and make more money! Of course Rev Al won't say shit about that, he and his buddies make mad monies on cheap Chinese labor don't cha know? What a fucking scam, and what saddens me is how many "greenies" are buying the bullshit. This will do about as much to clean up the place as throwing all your garbage in the closet. Sure you won't see it but its still there and it will get worse until it spills out all over the place.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:17PM (#42609711)

    "What if global warming is true ... but we spend trillions of dollars - presumably to the detriment of other beneficial things - to obtain only a marginally better outcome?"

    I don't know if it's true (and I do have my doubts) but I think this is really the essential point.

    Even if you dismiss economist Bjorn Lomborg as an "anti-warmist", nobody has really refuted his calculations: that the cost of reducing CO2 warming by 1 degree C over the course of 100 years is about the same that it would cost to completely end world hunger... and that's taking changed conditions and population into account.

    Which is more important?

  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:26PM (#42609849)
    It's not the same. When you drive up the costs of using fossil fuels, commodity agriculture products get more expensive, and people in the third world starve and riot, creating misery.

    If the AGW people would focus their efforts on expanding use of nuclear energy, especially new, safe designs, then there wouldn't be a problem. But they don't want to do that. They want carbon taxes and increased government intervention on every front.
  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:28PM (#42609879)
    Oil is priced the same as its 50 year average. Well, priced in non-inflating gold, that is.

    Oil only seems expensive because governments around the world are destroying the value of their currencies.
  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @06:40PM (#42610023) Journal
    That's my favorite political cartoon, glad to see others spreading it. :)

    As for TFA, twice the forcing from soot is within the previous error bars []. Studies like this don't really tell us anything new, but they are important if you want to shrink those pesky error bars. As can be seen from the graph, forcing from soot is still dwarfed by the forcing from CO2.
  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @07:25PM (#42610717)

    "at the cost of reducing CO2 warming by 1 degree C over the course of 100 years is about the same that it would cost to completely end world hunger."
    That's actually pretty small. The cost of not reducing CO2 will of course include substantial destruction of highly economically valuable coastal infrastructure which supplies jobs and creates wealth, as well as lowering agricultural productiivty and increasing food costs.

    The error is computing the "cost of hunger" using today's data.

    1 degree C is huge as a long-term global average (including all seasons, latitudes, and the 70% of the planet which is ocean, the common way to calculate it).
    The problem with world hunger is lack of money in hungry people---since we aren't giving them money now we won't be doing so in the future.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @07:28PM (#42610771) Homepage Journal

    Not really, it's only cheaper if we carefully ignore all of the external costs.

  • by Zalbik ( 308903 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @07:33PM (#42610819)

    WTF does this stupid argument keep coming up?

    Natural gas is the future...
    Wind is the future...
    Geothermal is the future
    Solar is the future...
    Nuclear (fission) is the future...
    Nuclear (fusion) is the future...
    Embrace all of the above.

    This is a zombie problem, not a werewolf problem.

    i.e. We need a shotgun approach, not a silver bullet.

  • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @07:52PM (#42611015)
    The problem is, the crazed tree hugging lunatics who think humans are a plague are very loud, and get a lot of attention.
  • by wakeboarder ( 2695839 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @08:56PM (#42611577)

    Turns out that this is very easy to remove from the smoke of coal, at my local plant they've been doing it for years and it get's a lot of it ou. One thing is for sure, as we move more of our manufacturing to China we are essentially 'Sooting' our planet because regulations are much less strict there. I wouldn't be surprised if they just send it straight up in the air. If you've ever been in the western united states and seen the haze, most of it is from China.

  • by tragedy ( 27079 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @10:33PM (#42612487)

    Can you define "non-inflating gold" for us? How is this gold different from the regular inflating type that's risen around 300% in the last ten years? Is "non-inflating" gold a short hand for gold value adjusted for the current position in the gold boom-bust cycle?

  • by jbburks ( 853501 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @10:49PM (#42612615)
    Most of the Co2 crowd isn't really interested in reducing Co2 globally, or curing the problem. They're more interested in redistributing $trillions to the third-world and China. China has become the largest emitter of Co2 in the world. But most of the activists focus on the per-capita emission of the US and Western Europe. If China gets anywhere close to the West, it won't be AGW that bothers us - we will smother in Co2. China is building a coal-powered electric plant every week. The schemes for a carbon tax don't include China or India. Therefore, all the Western industry will move there and continue to export to the West. Then there's the transfer payments. The 1% won't see a difference if food and transportation (oil) go up 10x. The proposed transfer payments will take care of the very poor. China and India get a pass. The only ones cutting back are Americans and Europeans. No way.
  • by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @03:00AM (#42614147)

    Of course we do ! Any savings from cheaper power goes directly into your pocket, while the extenal costs are shared with 7 billion people.

    That's the problem with externalities. If I can make a deal that is a win of $10 million for me -- but that cauces a loss of $0.05 for every human being on the planet, then it's a huge win for me, so barring laws stopping me, I'll likely say yes. Meanwhile, the deal creates $10M of value, and does $350M worth of damage, thus for humanity as a whole, the deal is a huge loss.

    Externalities is one of the biggest problems with capitalism. It explains why rational players can end up making decisions that are a net loss overall.

  • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @05:29AM (#42614673)

    >Looking at the measures countries are taking with AGW, it looks like the "better world" will consist of one where power producers are taxed more, and household power bills increase. Um, yay?

    Firstly - that's bullshit, the money saved on healthcare costs alone will be far larger than what is spent on additional energy costs even if you were right.
    To get the TRUE price of fossil fuels we would have to demand they run with zero-pollution, only then are we internalizing the costs that pollution is exerting on the consumer. Do you really think coal power plants would still cost so little if they had to filter every pollutant out and store it safely instead of pumping it into the air and making us pay for the results ?
    But even though it would cost a fortune more to have clean coal, it would STILL cost LESS than we ALREADY spend on healthcare caused by pollution.

    And then your basic assumptions is false anyway:

    *More green energy would cost LESS to produce in the medium because fuel is not having to be paid for - in fact, many of them are cheaper even in the short term.
    *In Australia there is already measure being proposed to tax people who generate some of their power off-grid from solar. The massive reductions in their power bills from doing so is causing a major price depression on the power plants. So much so that the crony-capitalism of the power generators are trying to demand people can only get HALF the power they generate themselves off their bill !

    So who is trying to prevent normal market operations now ?
    The REAL truth is that investment in green energy even on the SMALL scale of "my house during daylight hours while using grid at night" is already adding competition that drives down prices for consumers. More green energy on the large scale will only increase this.

    No my friend - fossil energy companies are battling AGW measures because that is their excuse to prevent anybody from investing in renewable energy. They don't want people investing in renewable energy because they don't want the competition. Competition drives down prices - which is good for consumers, but bad for incumbents. The entire anti-AGW campaign is nothing but classic monopolist behaviour by an incumbent industry trying all in their power to prevent the rise of competing products that can and will consistently undercut it and will only be able to undercut it FURTHER over time as initial investments are paid off and production is scaled up.

  • by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @05:56AM (#42614805)

    What gets me, is that this has been known "forever", aslong as there's been a solid theory of capitalism, atleast.

    The solution, of course, is to set a fair price on the externalities. What that price is, and how to practically evaluate, collect and distribute that money, is a difficult problem, however notice that even if the money is collected in a highly inefficient manner, it is still frequently better than the alternative.

    If you want to do something that gains you $50M while costing every human being $0.05 - then the overall loss is $300M. If there was a tax on your pollution to the tune of $250M, then you'd conclude it's not worth it since the taxes are higher than your gains.

    In this case, no taxes are collected, and no deal is made - but nevertheless the tax-code was useful: it prevented $300M worth of harm from taking place.

    Notice that even mostly-squandered taxes is a win from the perspective of everyone-but-you.

    Let's say instead you want to do something that gains you $100M, while costing the rest of humanity $25M. We tax your activity at $50M, and the inefficiency of bureacracy means half of the collected taxes are completely wasted.

    End result: With the tax you gain $50M and everyone else breaks even. Without the tax, you gain $100M, and everyone else is down $25M. -- thus the tax, despite being 50% wasteful, is a net-gain for everyone except you.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!