We just can’t win when it comes to environmental stewardship. After blithely polluting the skies for most of the 20th century, the US and Europe pushed through a number of laws in the 1970s-80s to clear the air. Now we’re finding out that in doing so, we’ve made more hurricanes. The FT reports:
Until now, it was thought that naturally occurring ocean circulation patterns were mostly responsible for whether there was more or less activity, said Nick Dunstone, lead author.But Dr Dunstone and his colleagues found that tiny aerosol particles in air pollution make clouds brighter, which in turn causes more of the sun’s heat to be reflected back into space. That cools the ocean below and affects other weather patterns in a way that makes it less likely hurricanes will form.
This is yet another example of how scientists are still at an early stage of understanding earth’s incredibly complex climate system. There are so many variables, and so many relationships between said variables, that predicting what comes next becomes nearly impossible.But while we’re far from being able to predict the future, we should pick the so-called “low-hanging fruit” of green policy—options that decrease emissions while improving quality of life, like improving energy efficiency, or promoting more widespread adoption of telework. Until we have a better grasp on our climate, the fruit hanging higher up on the tree should go unpicked.[Hurricane image courtesy of Wikimedia.]