Having painted themselves into an environmental conundrum, Kintisch and climate scientists are left debating how they are going to proceed with sulfate aerosols - a natural and anthropogenic air pollutant believed to have cooling properties on the earth's atmosphere.
"Thanks to cooling by aerosols starting in the 1940s, however, the planet has only felt a portion of that greenhouse warming. In the 1980s, sulfate pollution dropped as Western nations enhanced pollution controls, and as a result, global warming accelerated," Kintisch wrote.
"There's hot debate over the size of what amounts to a cooling mask, but there's no question that it will diminish as industries continue to clean traditional pollutants from their smokestacks. Unlike CO2, which persists in the atmosphere for centuries, aerosols last for a week at most in the air. So cutting them would probably accelerate global warming rapidly."
Kintisch and environmentalists will be happy to find out some scientists have predicted that recent fireworks in Iceland may become the norm the next 50 to 60 years, as volcanic ash is a major source of the atmospheric-cooling aerosol.
"[M]odelers forecast what would happen if nations instituted all existing pollution controls on industrial sources and vehicles by 2030," Kintisch stated. "They found the current rate of warming - roughly 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade - doubled worldwide, and nearly tripled in North America."
"Despite intransigence on carbon emissions, even China is taking aggressive steps to cut sulfate pollution, and temperatures have risen as a result."
And so, because all the other fixes have been so successful, Kintisch suggested we may need to resort to geo-engineering.
Stock image via howstuffworks.com