Getting the Lead Out

An extraordinarily interesting little study reminds us of unintended consequences. It appears that lead pollution mitigated the effect of carbon dioxide release on global warming, and that by reducing our releases of this toxic metal, we have inadvertently increased the force of anthropogenically-induced climate change:

“Scientists now assume that as a result of the significantly higher levels of lead pollution in the 1970s and 1980s – resulting from the use of leaded petrol and due to lead emissions from power stations – the great majority of all mineral dust particles were contaminated with lead and as a result more heat escaped from the earth than at present. ‘This probably led to global inhibition of rises in temperature to some extent, whereas today almost the full greenhouse effect is kicking in,’ says Curtius.

“But a return to the lead emission levels of the late 20th century is hardly desirable. Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause severe damage to health. ‘However, with the benefit of hindsight we can now explain why there has been a trend towards more rapid temperature rises in recent years; it is because mankind has cut back its emissions of lead and sulphates,’ claims Borrmann.”

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