As an arctic state, it is recognized that Alaska will bear the significant effects of climate change. Extensive beach erosion and disappearing lakes offer clues of coming change. The state worldview of the issue is at times tenuous. While many leaders here deny even the existence of climate change, most will concede change is underway. Balancing this position is the region’s economic dependence on the oil industry. There are people in the state unwilling to acknowledge any connection between the business and changes in the environment.
Researchers with the United States Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) have determined short-lived locally generated gas and particle pollutants have a significant influence global climate change. Long-lived gasses like methane or carbon dioxide found high in the atmosphere persist for years and promote global warming. The short-term pollutants studied by the CCSP are concentrated in the lower atmosphere and remain there for only a few days.
Pollutants of interest in the study are soot (carbon black), low-level ozone, nitrates, and sulfates. Each pollutant has a unique environmental effect; while soot encourages warming, methane promotes climate cooling.
CCSP Publishes New Research Concerning Locally Generated Pollutants
As part of a series of synthesis and assessment reports addressing the environment, the CCSP has released a report titled Climate Projections Based on Emissions Scenarios for Long-Lived and Short-Lived Radiatively Active Gases and Aerosols that looks at the effects of locally generated pollutants. The full report and a companion executive summary are available for viewing online.
Senior Research Scientist Hiram “Chip” Levy, Ph.D. says of the study, “Previous research suggests that the warming of the surface climate by increasing levels of long-lived greenhouse gases has been partially offset by increasing levels of those short-lived particles that reflect sunlight. This study found that over the 21st century the climate impacts of projected changes in human emissions of short-lived gases may in fact enhance global warming.”
Climate Model Projections
Climate change caused by short-lived pollutants has been modeled and researchers have made some predictions related to these materials:
- Short-term pollutants will contribute to 20 percent of global warming experienced by 2050
- Short-lived pollutants generated in one regions can greatly effect the weather in another one. Emissions in Asia could raise temperatures in the United States.
- Regional pollution control efforts can greatly benefit future changes in the climate. Reduction of local pollution benefits public health as well as address climate change concerns
As the energy crisis in the United States deepens, it will be prudent for community leaders and planners to consider the impacts of new coal fired generation stations and increased drilling on the North Slope. It will pay to monitor other industrial development occurring in neighboring regions. There are likely many ways to mitigate the negative effects of development if potential solutions are included in project planning and development. Awareness of these issues by state leadership would benefit future Alaskans.
Copyright © 2013 by Alan Sorum