Burning Coal Slowed Climate Change: Study

Sulfur pollution masked effect of CO2 emissions
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 5, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
Chinese coal consumption doubled between 2002 and 2007.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The vast amounts of coal China burned during the 2000s may have actually slowed down climate change, according to a new study. Researchers believe the sulfur pollution caused by burning coal deflected the sun's rays, causing a temporary plateau in warming, the AP reports. But while sulfur drops out of the air quickly, carbon dioxide, another byproduct, remains for a long time—and carbon dioxide's warming effects are beginning to be visible again. Temperatures lurched upward in 2009 and 2010, the study finds.

The surge in industrial production after World War II was responsible for a similar pause in global warming, according to the study. Some scientists have proposed injecting sulfur compounds into the atmosphere to ease global warming, although this is widely seen as a bad idea. "While climate change is a major threat, more research is required before society attempts global geoengineering solutions," an expert on sulfur pollution says. (In Australia, meanwhile, authorities plan a cull to reduce emissions from camel burps.)

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