June 7, 2012

Asian Air Pollution Warms U.S. More Than U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

There is a just-published study that provides evidence that air pollution emanating from Asia will warm the U.S. as much as or even more than all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Such a result effectively renders all EPA and other efforts at mitigating climate change in the U.S. by limiting homegrown GHG emissions mute.

Over at the web site Master Resource, there is a detailed discussion into how the warming effect from Asian air pollution compares with the warming effect of U.S. CO2 emissions. [Spoiler Alert] It turns out, that the two are pretty much on par with one another—which leads to the uncomfortable question: If the future temperature rise in the U.S. is subject to the whims of Asian environmental and energy policy, then what sense does it make for Americans to have their energy choices regulated by efforts aimed at mitigating future temperature increases across the US—efforts which may have less of an impact on temperatures than the policies enacted across Asia?

The new study appearing in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters is authored by a team led by Haiyan Teng from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado. The paper is titled “Potential Impacts of Asian Carbon Aerosols on Future US Warming.”

Here is the abstract of the paper:

This study uses an atmosphere-ocean fully coupled climate model to investigate possible remote impacts of Asian carbonaceous aerosols on US climate change. We took a 21st century mitigation scenario as a reference, and carried out three sets of sensitivity experiments in which the prescribed carbonaceous aerosol concentrations over a selected Asian domain are increased by a factor of two, six, and ten respectively during the period of 2005-2024. The resulting enhancement of atmospheric solar absorption (only the direct effect of aerosols is included) over Asia induces tropospheric heating anomalies that force large-scale circulation changes which, averaged over the twenty-year period, add as much as an additional 0.4°C warming over the eastern US during winter and over most of the US during summer. Such remote impacts are confirmed by an atmosphere standalone experiment with specified heating anomalies over Asia that represent the direct effect of the carbon aerosols.

To see more details of this study and how warming from Asian air pollution compares to temperature savings from U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reduction proposals, be sure to read the article “Asian Air Pollution Warms U.S. More Than U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions?” posted at Master Resource.

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