Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Can aerosols help against climate change?

Climate change is seen by many scientists as the biggest environmental threat of our time, and there have been many proposed solutions about how we should tackle it, with one of the most interesting solutions being the use of aerosols in order to cool the planet.

Aerosols are tiny particles that include sulfates, organic carbon, black carbon, nitrates, mineral dust, and sea salt. Despite their tiny size they can play major impact on our global climate.

Some aerosols as natural (coming from volcanoes) while other are primarily produced by pollution generated by humans. Different satellite methods have shown that aerosols cancel out approximately 20% of the global warming caused by greenhouse gases by blocking sunlight.

Because of their cooling ability there are some scientists who believe that we should be using aerosols as our main weapon against climate change by somehow injecting them in our atmosphere so they can block the sunlight and cool the planet.

It also has to be said here that the aerosols themselves reflect sunlight back into space, which also helps to stop global temperature increase.

According to a latest U.S. study the easiest way to inject more aerosols into our atmosphere is to use smaller volcanic eruptions and boost them by weather systems such as monsoons, in order to reach the atmosphere.

Aerosols are far from being the perfect solution against climate change because excessive emissions of aerosols would result in deaths of many people, and therefore when scientists talk about aerosols as solution against climate change they usually refer to limited emissions of aerosols.

How good are aerosols in cooling global temperature on our planet? Well, one measuring has showed that the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 temporarily decreased global temperatures by half a degree Celsius.

The potential is definitely there but aerosols should be really used as one of the last weapons against climate change, not just because their emissions are harmful to our health but also because science still doesn't know how much aerosols should be injected in our atmosphere and how, and what exactly would this do to our planet as there have been fears that if something goes wrong we could be soon experiencing yet another ice age.

Climate change is extremely complex phenomenon, and aerosols are really just one part of the puzzle, meaning that science must search for more answers that would allow more accurate models of climate behavior and change.