Pollution is building up in the atmosphere, at a far greater rate in some areas than others, and now scientists think that the pollution in the air might be having some unexpected consequences. All the pollution is actually helping to cool the climate, protecting the globe from some of the warming that's happened already.
This new discovery may mean cleaning the pollution in some areas may not be a good thing overall. A new <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL076079/full">study</a> in the Journal of Geophysical Research Letters, suggests that eliminating the human emission of aerosols, tiny air-polluting particles, may actually warm the globe even further anywhere from a half a degree to 1 degree Celsius.
Scientists theorize that cleaning these particles would virtually ensure that the planet will exceed the upper range of the climate targets outlined in the Paris agreement. Bjorn Samset, a climate scientist at Norway's CICERO Center for International Climate Research and the study's lead author said, "Since we're trying to keep to a 1.5- or 2-degree target, then this is something we still need to keep in mind."
"We also see that the impact that these aerosols have on the temperature in Asia really transports northwards to the Arctic region, northern Europe, Norway, the northern U.S.," he continued. "That part of the world is also quite sensitive to the changes in aerosols in Asia."
It isn't anything new for scientists to know that some kinds of pollution can help cool the climate, certain aerosols such as sulfate can reflect sunlight away from Earth or make cloud cover more sun-reflecting.
Climatologist Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said, "While aerosols are linked to many of the activities related to CO2 emissions (coal burning, deforestation), there is not a one-to-one correspondence. You cannot assume that net zero CO2 emissions must also imply zero anthropogenic aerosol emissions"
Schmidt is sure to add that anthropogenic aerosols "will not suddenly disappear and make global warming much worse."
Overall, the general consensus is widely converging to agree that greenhouse gas emissions have been having a greater impact than we have credited them for, but the recent discovery of exactly how impactful the presence of air pollution is has caused a notable shift in our understanding of the climate.
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