By Christina B. Farnsworth |
We have long known that the dirty air caused by rapid industrialization in the mi-1800s polluted cities and made people sick. People once deliberately sought to escape cities in search of healthy air. Problem is that the rural and mountain air may have been less dirty but not really clean. And black carbon, soot, settled in surprising places.
An article in the journal Nature argues that the Industrial Revolution dramatically changed Europe, Switzerland to be precise, 50 years before we began talking about climate change.
A study from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory argues that soot, from European smokestacks and steam locomotives, explains why 4,000 Alpine glaciers began to melt before the globe heated up. Scientists now they say the glaciers should have kept growing until 1910 rather than starting to melt.
Pockets of pollution so affected the Alps that Georg Kaser, glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, reports mid-19th century Innsbruck housewives did not dry laundry outdoors. Cores taken from remaining Alpine glaciers reveal high soot levels starting around 1860. Only in 1970 after we had greatly diminished pollution, they say, did climate warming become the cause for glaciers melting.
What is the lesson? Today, an Industrial Revolution is going on in China.
According to Time magazine, Linfen, China, “makes Dickensian London look as pristine as a nature park.” Some 3,000,000 people breathe sooty air. Laundry, if hung outside, the magazine reports, turns black before it dries. World Bank reports that China has 16 of the world’s most polluted cities.