(note: this is part one of a new "Blanket Effect" series, in which a leading expert in ozone depletion, Paul J. Crutzen, proposes a radical idea to cool down our overheating planet. Due to the technical nature of the referenced paper, a non-scientific interpretation provided by the Editor of the Blanket Effect is included with each paragraph. Opinions expressed within each 'translation' are of the Editor's and not necessarily Dr. Crutzen's)
ALBEDO ENHANCEMENT BY STRATOSPHERIC SULFUR
INJECTIONS: A CONTRIBUTION TO RESOLVE A POLICY
DILEMMA? Pt. 1
An Editorial Essay
P. J. CRUTZEN
(published August 2006 online by Springerlink)
Fossil fuel burning releases about 25 Pg of CO2 per year into the atmosphere, which leads to global warming (Prentice et al., 2001).
(translation: " Burning wood, oil, and gas dumps a lot of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere every year, which has led to global warming.")
However, it also emits 55 Tg S as SO2 per year, about half of which is converted to sub-micrometer size sulfate particles, the remainder being dry deposited.
(translation: " However, a lot of tiny sulfur particles also get put into the atmosphere, though half of it lands on the ground.")
Recent research has shown that the warming of earth by the increasing concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases is partially countered by some backscattering to space of solar radiation by the sulfate particles, which act as cloud condensation nuclei and thereby influence the micro-physical and optical properties of clouds, affecting regional precipitation patterns, and increasing cloud albedo.
(translation: " Some of the pollution kicks solar radiation back to Space, and create inadvertant weather modification on Earth.")
Anthropogenically enhanced sulfate particle concentrations thus cool the planet, offsetting an uncertain fraction of the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas warming. However, this fortunate coincidence is “bought” at a substantial price.
(translation: human caused pollution then cools the planet, offsetting some of the climate heating.")
According to the World Health Organization, the pollution particles affect health and lead to more than 500,000 premature deaths per year worldwide. Through acid precipitation and deposition, SO2 and sulfates also cause various kinds of ecological damage.
(translation: Tiny pollution particles do a lot of damage to people as well as to the Earth.")
This creates a dilemma for environmental policy makers, because the required emission reductions of SO2,and also anthropogenic organics (except black carbon), as dictated by health and ecological considerations, add to global warming and associated negative consequences,such as sea level rise, caused by the greenhouse gases.
(The government knows about the bad effects of pollution, but they don't know what to do about it.")
In fact, after earlier rises, global SO2 emissions and thus sulfate loading have been declining at the rate of 2.7% per year, potentially explaining the observed reverse from dimming to brightening in surface solar radiation at many stations worldwide.
The corresponding increase in solar radiation by 0.10% per year from 1983 to 2001contributed to the observed climate warming during the
(translation: "Sulfur emussions have been going down anyway, which explains why it seems to be finally getting brighter, though it's also getting warmer.")
According to model calculations by Brasseur and Roeckner (2005), complete improvement in air quality could lead to a decadal global average surface
air temperature increase by 0.8 K on most continents and 4 K in the Arctic.
(translation: "However, according to the experts, improving air quality could actually lead to much higher temperatures worldwide.")
Further studies by Andreae et al. (2005) and Stainforth et al. (2005) indicate that global average climate warming during this century may even surpass the highest values in the projected IPCC global warming range of 1.4–5.8 ◦C
(translation: "In fact, it may even get hotter than the experts think!"