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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d91feb68

At the World Climate Conference in Geneva last fall [1990], King Hussein of Jordan warned of the ecological dangers of war in the Persian Gulf. If the several hundred oil wells in Kuwait were set ablaze, the enormous quantities of smoke likely to be released could cause regional or even global climatic perturbations and acidic rain. Scientific opinion on this topic is still being formed, but at a meeting with Hussein's chief scientific advisor in London in early January 1991, scientists said that while global catastrophe is highly unlikely, serious regional impacts could result in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. John Cox, a chemical engineer for a major oil company in the Gulf, presented a paper estimating that even a small reduction in surface temperatures could alter the formation of the Indian monsoon and its essential rainfall. The British Meteorological Office plans to study the problem, but lacks sufficient data to employ its atmospheric model. Richard Turco, who has extensive experience modeling nuclear winter scenarios, will collaborate with other U.S. scientists in determining the environmental effects of such a large smoke release. Cox and several other prominent scientists have written to U.N. Environment Program Director Mostafa Tolba concerning the implications of prolonged oil well fires in Kuwait. (See New Scientist, pp. 30-31, Jan. 12, 1991; p. 18, Jan. 19.)

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