In today's "People Can Prove Whatever They Want If They Really Try Hard Enough" moment, Swiss scientists claimed early this week that efforts to clean the air over Europe the past three decades are responsible for at least half of that continent's 1°C rise in temperatures since 1980.
In an interesting chicken and the egg conundrum, scientists in America claimed Thursday that global warming causes smog.
So, cleaning the air causes global warming -- which ends up leading to higher levels of smog?
Let's start with the Swiss study reported by NewScientist Wednesday (emphasis added, photo courtesy Reuters):
GOODBYE air pollution and smoky chimneys, hello brighter days. That's been the trend in Europe for the past three decades - but unfortunately cleaning up the skies has allowed more of the sun's rays to pierce the atmosphere, contributing to at least half the warming that has occurred.
Since 1980, average air temperatures in Europe have risen 1 °C: much more than expected from greenhouse-gas warming alone. Christian Ruckstuhl of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland and colleagues took aerosol concentrations from six locations in northern Europe, measured between 1986 and 2005, and compared them with solar-radiation measurements over the same period. Aerosol concentrations dropped by up to 60 per cent over the 29-year period, while solar radiation rose by around 1 watt per square metre (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2008GL034228). "The decrease in aerosols probably accounts for at least half of the warming over Europe in the last 30 years," says Rolf Philipona, a co-author of the study at MeteoSwiss, Switzerland's national weather service.
See? That's what you get for trying to clean the air!
However, readers shouldn't be too concerned, for the following report from Reuters Friday makes it clear that global warming will increase smog (emphasis added):
U.S. environmental regulators quietly published a draft study on Thursday that linked global warming to higher levels of smog that could harm human health, a report green groups said stood in contrast to the Bush Administration's slow movement on climate change.
The draft report published by the Environmental Protection Agency in the Federal Register said, "Climate change has the potential to produce significant increases in near-surface (ozone) concentrations in many areas of the U.S."
It said parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and lower Midwest show some increases in ozone in study simulations, and the seasons in which ozone is a problem could last longer as a result of higher temperatures.
Confused? Well, this should add to that condition, for in 1987, the developed nations of the world entered into a treaty called the Montreal Protocol. This was designed to reduce and eventually eliminate the production and release of a number of substances thought at the time to be depleting ozone.
Wouldn't it be fascinating if such efforts lead to cleaner air around the world which ended up warming the planet, and that additional warmth is now breaking down the very ozone we thought we could save?
Even more hysterical was the August 2007 United Nations finding that "the biggest emissions-cutting projects under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming have directly contributed to an increase in the production of gases that destroy the ozone layer."
Lest we not forget the September 2007 study that debunked the consensus concerning exactly "how ozone holes are formed and how that relates to climate change."
In the end, doesn't all this simply prove that it's not nice to fool Mother Nature?