Ralph Kahn believes future levels of pollution will reflect our choices

Jung Bin at the International School of Tianjin in northern China had a question to ask scientists about Earth’s atmosphere. He asked, “Will there be more pollution in the future?” To help answer this question, EarthSky went to atmospheric scientist Ralph Kahn at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Ralph Kahn: That’s a very good question. And it depends a lot on the choices that we make. Kahn said that in developing nations like China, more pollution can come from an increasing demand for energy.

But people can create better fuels that make less pollution.

Ralph Kahn: Particles in the atmosphere live for about a week before they’re rained out, typically. So if we have less sulfur-containing fuels that we burn, then sulfate particles – the particles that end up in the atmosphere when you burn fossil fuels – within a very short period of time, they’ll be removed from the system.

So, Jung Bin, the answer is that people can work to reduce pollution.

Ralph Kahn: The adage about ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ captures a lot of what we can do as individuals. I certainly am hopeful that we’ll take the steps needed to reduce pollution in our atmosphere and make the planet a better place for us to live.

Our thanks to the Monsanto Fund, bridging the gap between people and their resources.

Our thanks to:
Ralph Kahn
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD

January 24, 2009

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