Climate change and air pollution - Letter in the Times, December 8 2012
David Aaronovitch draws a misleading parallel between government action to reduce air pollution in the 1950s and current carbon dioxide emissions reduction policy (Opinion, Dec 6).
Smog formation is well understood, it leads directly to respiratory problems, and simply eliminating coal fires and reducing particulate pollution from industry solves the problem. Also, smog is a localised problem — reduce air pollution in an urban area, and smog formation stops.
Climate change, on the other hand, is a global issue and is highly complex. Manmade CO2 emissions certainly have a role, but their importance is still not clear, despite the messages Mr Aaronovitch has taken as fact. Simply adding more CO2 to the atmosphere has a range of effects and is, up to a point, likely to be on balance beneficial.
If we could find a secure, affordable energy source to replace fossil fuels it would make sense to adopt it, and governments would have no need to subsidise it. But not only is wind energy not secure and affordable, but any modest emissions reduction it brings are (and will be) swamped by the increased emissions from China and other developing economies.
Climate change policy is not working and has no chance of working unless China decides to stop developing. In the meantime, air pollution remains a serious health issue for poor people in the developing world who continue to rely on indoor wood fires for cooking. Like London smog, that’s something we can do something about.
Scientific Alliance, Cambridge
Copyright Times Newspapers 2012