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Thank God, He's Smarter Than Us (And Al Gore Too!)
Volume 3, Number 9: 1 May 2000

Man may mess with nature, but God created it; and, being somewhat brighter than most of us (and having greater foresight), we presume that he designed his creation to limit the havoc we would wreck on it if left to our own devices.  Are we speaking tongue-in-cheek?  Of course.  But the concept does have merit; and we suggest that some insight relative to the hypothesis may be gained by considering man's potential to perturb earth's climate in light of the findings of a recent study that shows how nature sometimes rights our wrongs.

Using satellite data obtained from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, Rosenfeld (2000) recently looked for terrestrial analogues of the ship tracks or cloud trails that form in the wakes of ships at sea as a consequence of their emissions of particulates that redistribute cloud-water into larger numbers of smaller droplets that do not rain out of the atmosphere as readily as they would in the absence of this phenomenon, having previously demonstrated a similar precipitation-suppressing effect produced by the particulates that comprise the smoke emitted by burning vegetation.

Satellite visualizations produced from the mission data clearly revealed the existence of enhanced cloud trails downwind of urban and industrial complexes in Turkey, Canada and Australia, to which Rosenfeld gave the name "pollution tracks."  He further demonstrated that the clouds comprising these pollution tracks were composed of droplets of reduced size that did indeed suppress precipitation by inhibiting further coalescence and ice precipitation formation.

According to Rosenfeld, the results of his study indicate that "human activity may be altering clouds and natural precipitation on a global scale."  It is clear, however, that the anthropogenic-induced reduction in global precipitation implied by his findings would tend to ameliorate the human-induced increase in the activity of the hydrologic cycle that is predicted by climate models to accompany greenhouse gas-induced global warming.  It would also tend to counter anthropogenically-stimulated reductions in North Atlantic Deep Water Formation, which have been hypothesized to result from global warming-induced increases in precipitation in this region of the globe.

Greater numbers of smaller and more-highly-reflective cloud particles would also tend to reflect more incoming solar radiation back to space and thereby cool the planet, which would tend to blunt the impact of the human-intensified greenhouse effect.  In addition, Toon (2000) notes that, with smaller cloud droplets, clouds will not "rain out" as quickly and will therefore last longer and cover more of the earth, both of which effects would also tend to cool the globe.  Hence, whereas one consequence of the industrial activities of man, i.e., greenhouse gas emissions, may tend to warm and wet the world, other consequences of his industrial activities, as described here, tend to cool and dry it.

Scientific observations such as these suggest to us that, like the Constitution of the United States, what we could call the "Constitution of Nature" may truly be described as one of checks and balances, where the unanticipated consequences of certain of our industrial activities are often moderated - or even completely compensated for - by other unanticipated consequences of the very same enterprises.  Does this give new (and unanticipated) meaning to the title of that infamous book Earth in the Balance? Probably not.  But it does suggest that Deity well knew what he was doing when he laid the foundations of the world and placed us here to do our things, both good and bad.  Hence, whereas "Nature and Nature's God" appear to have planned appropriately for our lack of vision in some matters, the implementation of the world view of Al Gore and others of like persuasion could well result in our checkmating ourselves, and all the rest of the biosphere as well.  And with only one earth to mess with, we better be darn sure we don't make, well, a mess of it.

Dr. Craig D. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Rosenfeld, D.  2000.  Suppression of rain and snow by urban and industrial air pollution.  Science 287: 1793-1796.

Toon, O. W.  2000.  How pollution suppresses rain.  Science 287: 1763-1765.