“Space tourism to accelerate climate change” screams this Nature.com article that Matt Drudge links to — but then, doesn’t everything?
Climate change caused by black carbon, also known as soot, emitted during a decade of commercial space flight would be comparable to that from current global aviation, researchers estimate.
The findings, reported in a paper in press in Geophysical Research Letters1, suggest that emissions from 1,000 private rocket launches a year would persist high in the stratosphere, potentially altering global atmospheric circulation and distributions of ozone. The simulations show that the changes to Earth’s climate could increase polar surface temperatures by 1 °C, and reduce polar sea ice by 5–15%.
“There are fundamental limits to how much material human beings can put into orbit without having a significant impact,” says Martin Ross, an atmospheric scientist at the Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles, California and an author of the study.
But just last year, AP reported with a straight face when John Holdren, President Obama’s Malthusian, Strangelovian in-house mad scientist said that he wanted to dump plenty of soot into the atmosphere to stop global warming:
The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air. John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.
“It’s got to be looked at,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”
Or as Jim Treacher quipped on Twitter, that whole “‘Obama is a megalomaniac’ thing is such a ridiculous right-wing smear. By the way, now he wants to take over the weather.”
Besides, it was just last April (though sadly not April 1st) that the L.A. Times ran an article titled “Why cleaner air could speed global warming” — no, really:
But even as industrialized and developing nations alike steadily reduce aerosol pollution — caused primarily by burning coal — climate scientists are beginning to understand just how much these tiny particles have helped keep the planet cool. A silent benefit of sulfates, in fact, is that they’ve been helpfully blocking sunlight from striking the Earth for many decades, by brightening clouds and expanding their coverage. Emerging science suggests that their underappreciated impact has been incredible.
Researchers believe greenhouse gases such as CO2 have committed the Earth to an eventual warming of roughly 4 degrees Fahrenheit, a quarter of which the planet has already experienced. 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.
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.
Since the Nature.com article claims that climate change from commercial space flight “would be comparable to that from current global aviation,” none of their writers ever get on airplane, right? But then, we know they personally don’t take their own fears about global warming all that seriously, since they have a Website powered by racks of servers in air-conditioned rooms.
I would suggest that they shut voluntarily shut their site down, but no pressure, though.