Many people who question the claims of global warming alarmists are nonetheless pleased that in the process of regulating CO2 emissions we will clean up air pollution. They could be making a bad assumption.
If you read, for example, the text of the most recent revision of California’s Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, you will see that the regulation of “criteria pollutants” is almost an afterthought. Here is the heart of the bill:
“42877. (a) On or before January 1, 2008, the state board shall adopt regulations that will reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 emission levels by 2020, taking into account projected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from state agency programs not subject to this chapter. The emission limits shall be expressed in total tons of allowable emissions of greenhouse gases, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, and shall include all emissions of greenhouse gases from the generation of electricity delivered by load-serving entities and consumed in California, whether generated in-state or imported. The state board shall consult with air pollution control districts and air quality management districts in the development of measures for the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases that will affect emissions of criteria pollutants from stationary sources.”
As you can see, the final sentence of this section addresses the desire to coordinate reductions in greenhouse emissions with programs to reduce emissions of “criteria pollutants.” But there are no targets set to reduce emissions of actual pollution, only CO2.
Is this really what we want?
Global warming is something that might be characterized as “low risk but high impact.” Most responsible atmospheric scientists don’t believe that catastrophic global warming is likely, only that it is possible. Read the BBC’s recent article “A Load of Hot Air?” for several examples of how global warming scenarios are being over-hyped.
What if it isn’t carbon dioxide, but deforestation and desertification that are the main causes of global warming?
One of the primary steps in models of the earth’s greenhouse effect is the absorption of solar heat by the land masses, which then is radiated into the atmosphere primarily in the form of infrared energy.
Over the past 150 years, the planet has gone from over 30 million square miles of forest to around 18 million square miles of forest. Meanwhile deserts have increased by about 40% to around 8 million square miles. In other words, of the 56 million square miles of land surface on earth, more than 25% of this land has been either deforested or desertified in the last 150 years! Wouldn’t a desert absorb and radiate heat more than a forest?
Where is the political momentum to plant more trees in urban centers to mitigate the urban heat island effect? Where is the political momentum to develop water projects to can reverse desertification, or reforestation projects on a global scale? These projects, which are also good on their own merit, with or without global warming, deserve equal time. And beware of any CO2 reduction schemes that don’t also require us to clean up noxious pollutants.