Preface: My entire purpose for writing
this essay is to urge that decision-makers do what is best for our
planet and not do something which will cause more harm than good.
Environmentalists should check my background below before dismissing
this out of hand.
When I pointed out a couple of days ago that a group of scientists and much of the popular press warned in the 1970s of an imminent ice age, I didn't realize they had such a prominent member.
Specifically, as New York Times science columnist John Tierney noted in September:
In 1971, long before Dr. Holdren came President Obama's science adviser, in an essay [titled] "Overpopulation and the Potential for Ecocide," Dr. Holdren and his co-author, the ecologist Paul Ehrlich, warned of a coming ice age.
They certainly weren't the only scientists in the 1970s to warn of a coming ice age, but I can't think of any others who were so creative in their catastrophizing. Although they noted that the greenhouse effect from rising emissions of carbon dioxide emissions could cause future warming of the planet, they concluded from the mid-century cooling trend that the consequences of human activities (like industrial soot, dust from farms, jet exhaust, urbanization and deforestation) were more likely to first cause an ice age. Dr. Holdren and Dr. Ehrlich wrote:
The effects of a new ice age on agriculture and the supportability of large human populations scarcely need elaboration here. Even more dramatic results are possible, however; for instance, a sudden outward slumping in the Antarctic ice cap, induced by added weight, could generate a tidal wave of proportions unprecedented in recorded history.
Shooting Soot into the Upper Atmosphere
And when I wrote that some scientists considered pouring soot over the Arctic in the 1970s to help melt the ice - to prevent an ice age - I didn't realize that soot was still on the table as a way to battle climate change.
Specifically, Dr. Holdren has suggested (as a last resort):
Shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays.
The most common type of man-made "pollution particle" is soot. Indeed, as the American Lung Association points out:
Soot is an old name for particle pollution.So President Obama's science advisor, Dr. Holdren, is now saying that we might need to use soot to stop runway global warming. (Soot in the upper atmosphere can reflect sunlight and cool temperatures, but soot on the surface of ice helps warm and melt the ice by absorbing sunlight).
What's Wrong with That?
What's wrong with that?
Well, soot is a major cause of ice warming and melting in the Arctic and in the Himalayas.
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