Air Pollution - Bad Is Bad, But Good Is Worse?

The willful ignorance of some people when it comes to pollution of the air and water never ceases to amaze me. I don't know how often I've heard people say something along the lines of “Pollution is getting so much worse, poisoning the land, air, and water.” It's mostly some of the younger people under the age of 45 saying that because they didn't experience what it was like back in the 60's and early 70's, when the air was dirty and the water in rivers and lakes was unfit to drink or swim in. One river, the Cuyahoga in Ohio, was so polluted it actually caught fire. The old joke went that New Yorkers didn't trust air they couldn't see.

Seeing pictures of a number of cities around the US back in the 60's and early 70's it was easy to see the heavy brown haze that hung over them day after day. Looking at pictures at those same cities today the first thing most people will notice is the lack of the brown haze that was so prevalent 40 and 50 years ago.

Rivers and lakes that were dangerous to be exposed to for any length of time are now clean and are being used for recreation and as water supplies again.

Have all the polluting sources been eliminated yet? No, but progress is still being made in reducing or mitigating what sources still exist. That sounds good, right? But to some the reduced pollution, and specifically air pollution, is a bad thing, particularly when it comes to global warming.

You’re likely to hear a chorus of dire warnings as we approach Earth Day, but there’s a serious shortage few pundits are talking about: air pollution. That’s right, the world is running short on air pollution, and if we continue to cut back on smoke pouring forth from industrial smokestacks, the increase in global warming could be profound.

Cleaner air, one of the signature achievements of the U.S. environmental movement, is certainly worth celebrating. Scientists estimate that the U.S. Clean Air Act has cut a major air pollutant called sulfate aerosols, for example, by 30% to 50% since the 1980s, helping greatly reduce cases of asthma and other respiratory problems.

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.

Here it is, we've spent around 40 years and a lot of money to greatly reduce air pollution and now the AGW folks are saying that because of the cleaner air we're making global warming worse?

We just can't friggin' win, can we? No matter what we do, even if it leads to cleaner air and water, it's the wrong thing as far as the AGW faithful are concerned. So the only way to slow global warming is for us to undo the last 40 years of air pollution control? They have got to be kidding, right?

Unfortunately, they are entirely serious.