The standard explanation for global warming is that increased levels of human-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere result in increased absorption of solar and terrestrial radiated heat, and an increase in terrestrial atmospheric temperature.
But it’s also recognised that particulate matter in terrestrial emissions produces a reflective haze which reduces the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface of the Earth, and so causes global cooling. Large volcanic eruptions are usually followed by cooler temperatures. And one frequently-cited explanation of current global cooling is that it is the result of the rapid industrialisation of China in recent decades, during which a large number of coal-fired power stations were built.
Now a new study takes this further:
A new paper (O’Dowd et al.) from the National University of Ireland presented this summer at the 19th International Conference on Nucleation and Atmospheric Aerosols suggests that clean air laws put in place in the 1970′s and 80′s have resulted in an increase in sunlight impacting the surface of the Earth, and thus have increased surface temperatures as a result. In one fell swoop, this can explain why surface temperature dipped in the 1970′s, prompting fears of an ice age, followed by concerns of global warming as the air got cleaner after pollution laws and controls were put in place.
This makes a lot of sense. And the same line of reasoning might also be used to explain temperature variations in previous decades. Between 1880 and 1915, global temperatures fell steadily (see right), and this would have been the result of industrialisation prior to WW1. And since WW1 was an industrial war, it represents the peak of industrial activity. It might also be suggested that during WW1, with millions of tons of exploding munitions throwing dust into the atmosphere, aerosol pollution levels would have been further raised.
The post-war slump in industrial activity and the Great Depression then saw aerosol pollution levels falling, and global temperature rising. And this trend would only have been reversed with WW2 re-armament, and millions more of tons of exploding munitions during WW2 (including, from 1945 onwards, numerous nuclear tests) kicking up yet more reflective dust to cool the planet.
More generally, it means that instead of human industrial activity warming the Earth (by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere) as has hitherto been thought, it has actually been cooling it (by added reflective aerosols into the atmosphere).
It also means that, with the global economy currently slumping, the combination of reduced industrial activity, strict emission controls on factories and cars and home heating, and the adoption of carbon-free solar and wind power generation, the Earth’s atmosphere is becoming cleaner, and this will bring a return of rising global temperatures.
If this renewed episode of Anthropogenic Global Warming is to be averted, the appropriate policy must be to increase industrial aerosol emissions rather than reduce them. We should go back to burning coal, of which we have huge resources. And we should also lift many of the restrictions on factory and vehicle exhaust emissions (e.g. catalytic converters). We should have lots of chimneys belching smoke. And we should return to using open coal and wood fires in smoke-free zones. And cook over barbecues. And we should return to using steam trains of the kind that largely fell out of use in Britain in the 1970s.
We should, in short, reverse more or less all the trends of recent decades. We should go back to doing what we were doing 50 years ago. With most of the highly-restrictive emission regulations lifted, and using cheap coal, industry would enjoy a marked cut in its production costs, which would help kickstart economic growth.
Such a complete turn-about could not, of course, be achieved inside less than a decade or two, and in the meantime concerned citizens should be encouraged to do their bit towards slowing global warming by the simple expedient of taking up smoking. If all 7 billion humans on the planet were to smoke 20 cigarettes a day (although 60 a day would be much better, obviously) they could probably generate the much-needed aerosol equivalent of several hundred large coal-fired power stations.
Accordingly, all health warnings about smoking (mostly hysterical nonsense anyway) will need to be replaced with the new message that Smoking Is Good For You. Cigarette advertising, rashly and unreasonably banned for decades, must be re-introduced. Smoking bans would of course be lifted everywhere. In fact, instead of smoking being prohibited, smoke-free zones would be prohibited instead.
Former smokers who have been induced to quit smoking in recent decades would be encouraged to start smoking again, this time unfiltered high-tar cigarettes. Instead of Stop Smoking courses, there would be Start Smoking courses, with particularly intensive regimes for hardcore capnophobes.
And rather than children being discouraged from ever taking up smoking, they would instead be encouraged to start smoking at the earliest possible opportunity.
All of this would be accompanied by intensive public campaigns to get people to smoke. For example, large billboards showing an pointed finger, with the glaring ruddy face behind it accusingly asking: “Why Aren’t You Smoking, Eh?”
In this manner, with sufficient dedication, enough smoke could be sufficiently rapidly generated to produce a light saloon bar haze of smoke over the entire planet that would serve to halt and then reverse the trend of rising global temperature.