The Ecologist

December 1979 issue
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The Ecologist December 1979: Can we control pollution?

Edward Goldsmith

December, 1979

Thirty years ago Edward Goldsmith’s article ‘Can we control pollution?’ wondered what happens to pollution once we have ‘disposed’ of it

Are we actually in control of our pollution?

What happens to it once it is out of site? Can we predict how it will behave in the environment and with other pollutants? And is it enough to let it be diluted in by atmosphere?

From radioactive waste to oil, SO2 and CO2, Goldsmith explores what happens to these pollutants once we have finished with them:

‘…"recent investigations have indicated that the 'greenhouse effect' of CO2 is further enhanced by other man-made trace gases, such as the halocarbons (freons) with an atmospheric residence time of forty to seventy years and N2O (from fertilisers), as well as CH4 [methane] and NH3". Even if the further use of freons is prohibited, Flohn assures us that "the combined warming effect of these gases will nevertheless reach about fifty per cent of the CO2 alone. Due to residence-time of the infra-red absorbing gases and their fairly rapid mixing, they will soon take the leadership in the anthropogenic impacts on climate on a global scale...’

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