Counting the ways we could be screwed by abrupt climate swings. Avoiding them? It’s not all about CO2

By December 9, 2009March 19th, 20152 Comments


  • orna izakson says:

    Nice, Robert! But even if implemented, haven’t we functionally passed at least a few tipping points? Do you think we still CAN back our way out of this, within, say, the lifetime of anyone we might ever know?

  • I’ve been following the discussions about black carbon and short-lived species for a little while. One of the key differences that I see between the short-lived species (especially black carbon) and CO2 is that reducing the short-lived species can provide concrete benefits in the short term, whereas the benefits of CO2 reduction tend to be too abstract and long term. Cleaning up diesel engines in the U.S., for example, would lead to cleaner air and better respiratory health in the near term, often with results that we can see (like tailpipes that formerly spewed clouds of smoke now spewing nothing). In the developing world, more efficient cook-stoves make for less smoke in the cooking area, healthier mothers and children, and less effort to collect or buy fuel. It’s something people instinctively understand. And so it’s possible that spending foreign aid dollars on cookstoves could attract more political support in the U.S. than something like forest preservation or some kind of mystical regime of credits and trading.

    A series of reports at the Lancet followed this line of reasoning in great detail, describing how “Cutting greenhouse pollutants could directly save millions of lives worldwide: Analyses show global health benefits from cutting ozone and black carbon” (

Leave a Reply