Stating the bleedin’ obvious…

Scientists warn of soot effect on climate· Coal and wood ‘more damaging than thought’

Thus the headline to a Guardian article today. I can only assume that the researchers are either very young, or very stupid.

Anybody who experienced the lethal, coal-fire-generated smogs of the first half of the 20th century (though they were nothing new even then – smogs were born with the Industrial Revolution), which provided the impetus for the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, already knows how enormously damaging coal fires can be and, since wood is, in effect immature coal (yeah, yeah, I know…), it’s logical that it, too, is extremely damaging.

These days the only deaths from fog come from drivers too witless to slow down, or to use their lights (or, if you live where I do, in Wirral, both at once!), or hill walkers who can’t use map or compass. When I was a child it was the smogs themselves that killed. The “Great Smog of 1952” has entered the history books because it affected London (then, as now, assumed to be the centre of the universe!), but all major towns were very badly affected by smog (the exact degree depending on their level of industry as well as density of population), like the one that came very close to killing me, in Liverpool**, a couple of years later, but it wasn’t London, so it didn’t matter! And smogs could last for days because unlike mere fog, which is a meteorological event, smog was man-made, and production of pollutants was a 24/7 process, as China, these days, is demonstrating all too clearly.

** A bus journey I made at that time, from Liverpool centre out to the suburbs of Bootle, where I lived, took the better part of half a day (normally 25 minutes), because the conductor had to walk along the kerb with one hand on the bus (luckily, in the mid 50s, parked cars weren’t a problem), and the driver had to open all his windows so he could get slightly better vision but, more importantly, to be able to talk to the conductor as he guided him every foot of the way. You wouldn’t get that sort of commitment to the job these days, that’s for sure.

Still, already-known facts have never stopped scientists from re-inventing the wheel – especially when there’s a grant at stake.

Here’s a thought, though, for people who deny climate change – when did you last see a serious fog (and by serious, I mean one in which you can’t see across the road)? For me, it’s at least 15 years, and about 10 years since I saw any fog at all.