Blog: Global dimming
Dave Leggett | 14 January 2005
Yesterday was a reasonably agreeable day but one with a sting in the tail. I slaved over a hot PC until mid-afternoon, when I emerged into the bright winter sunshine to make my way to London's West End for a couple of meetings. The meetings went well and the second concluded with a few cold pints of Peroni beer at a very pleasant subterranean bar on Soho's Wardour Street (Luigi's). Perfect. But things went south later on when I'd got home and switched the TV on. I caught one of those scientific eco-horror programmes. You know the sort of thing I'm sure: global warming, climate change, extreme weather, melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, Gulf Stream stops, crops fail, rainforests disappear and we're basically all doomed.
But this one introduced a new concept: 'global dimming'. I'd never heard of it. Apparently, as we pollute the atmosphere, the particles in the atmosphere block some of the sun's heat from reaching the earth's surface. They also act as a mirror, reflecting some of the sun's heat energy back into space. Anyway, the overall cooling effect acts as a kind of counter-balance to global warming. Problem is, as we clean our act up and reduce particulates pollution from industry and automobiles, that counter-balance is taken away. Some recent research suggests that global dimming may be a stronger factor in the world's climate than previously estimated. If we clean up on pollutants therefore, we may actually be encouraging global warming. How bizarre is that? Even worse, there's a whole load of methane gas (I think that's what they said) trapped at the bottom of the ocean and that could be released and has a global warming capability that is ten times that of carbon dioxide. Earth rapidly turns into something resembling planet Mercury. Game over.
Scary. But I need to lighten up perhaps. The scientists tend to disagree anyway.
Some car mags have at least cheered me up this morning.
I learn that a brand new Ford Mustang Convertible with a 4.6-litre 300bhp V8 engine can be had for just USD30,000 in the US. Looks cool too. I'd like one at that price. I also learn that South Africans call the latest BMWs 'G-string cars' after the shape of the grille (take a look and you'll see that the sliver of metal between the vents does indeed form a G-stringish shape) and many of them eat smilies (sheeps heads mixed with salt and bread). And I still cannot quite believe the styling of the new Seat Toledo. Front half is fine - borrows from sharp looking Altea. But the bulbous rear end is not at all fine - looks like it is from another car. Not quite the Latin flair for Volkswagen's Alfa brand wannabe that some of the design concepts of recent years have promised. What were they thinking?
And maybe someone from Porsche can settle something for me? Upcoming hard top Boxster - C7 - gets quite a bit of coverage this week in the consumer press here. But Autocar reckons it will be priced from £50,000 (okay, they say the first production model will be a 3.4-litre - that's a new engine variant - 'S' with another 'slightly cheaper' 3.2-litre model following later), while Car magazine just says an estimated £30,000 to start and existing Boxster's 2.7-litre and 3.2-litre engines. The latter sounds more sensible to me.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....
Given the startling complexity of obtaining a journalist visa for China - the code 'J2' is now indelibly stamped on my mind - it was with some surprise how swiftly I managed to sail through airport im...