Study: Effects of global warming being limited by … burning coal

posted at 8:07 pm on July 5, 2011 by Allahpundit

This is like finding out that the secret to bringing down the national debt is more government spending. (Yes, Keynesians, I know. “It is!”)

As much as I’m ready to don a “Stop global warming — burn more carbon!” t-shirt, there is, alas, a wrinkle to the findings:

“People normally just focus on the warming effect of CO2 (carbon dioxide), but during the Chinese economic expansion there was a huge increase in sulfur emissions,” which have a cooling effect, explained Robert K. Kaufmann of Boston University. He’s the lead author of the study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science…

Chinese coal consumption doubled between 2003 and 2007, and that caused a 26 percent increase in global coal consumption, Kaufmann said.

Now, Chinese leaders have recognized the effects of that pollution on their environment and their citizens’ health and are installing equipment to scrub out the sulfur particles, Kaufmann said.

Sulfur quickly drops out of the air if it is not replenished, while carbon dioxide remains for a long time, so its warming effects are beginning to be visible again, he noted. The plateau in temperature growth disappeared in 2009 and 2010, when temperatures lurched upward.

The obvious question: Why not start churning sulfur into the upper atmosphere, where it’s too high up to do much harm but high enough to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth? Read this Atlantic piece from 2009 for a what-if on that. It’d be surprisingly cheap to do, but side effects could include acid rain, unintended extremes in current climate patterns (an even hotter, drier Africa, if you can believe it), and the minor fact that once we turn the A/C on, there’s no easy way to turn it off. If/when we stopped pumping, the sulfur in the atmosphere would quickly dissipate but we’d still be left with the carbon that had built up over time, which, per AGW theory, would lead to sudden rapid heating of the surface. Sulfur’s necessarily a temporary fix, in other words, unless/until we figure out a way to quickly dissipate the carbon in the atmosphere (and in that case, who needs sulfur?) or we come up with some sort of sulfur-like coolant with the same benefits but less of the drawbacks. Tick tock!

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Why does Hot Air insist on lowering themselves to the level of the typical Poli Sci/JournoLister type, and keep posting pictures that pretend to depict Carbon Dioxide (‘Carbon’ for those whose education is limited?)

Aren’t pictures such as these best left for the New York Times reader?

MNHawk on July 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Smells like desperation to me! They admit global warming has leveled off, not accelerated as they predicted. Up until now they’ve been in denial about that.

starboardhelm on July 5, 2011 at 10:57 PM

Exactly. They can’t deny it any longer. It makes them look more foolish that they already look. Now they’re trying desperately to keep AGW relevant by blaming the lack of warming on something else.

darwin on July 6, 2011 at 8:22 AM

The primary course of action needs to be reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and sooner rather than later.

oakland on July 5, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Because God knows we can’t be feeding plants extra CO2! They might produce more O2 and make the earth… green! (How dare they do that without wind or solar!) And that extra growing season (like from the Middle Ages) is sacrilege! What would we ever do if excess food went to feeding the hungry! They might actually get out from under our thumb and start thinking differently, and… (gulp) voting differently! /s

dominigan on July 6, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Diatoms

Terp Mole on July 6, 2011 at 9:01 AM

Oddly, progressives don’t talk about any of these possible solutions. The only plan that makes sense to them is confiscating the money and freedom of others. Almost as if they don’t really worry about the environment at all…

hawksruleva on July 6, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Because God knows we can’t be feeding plants extra CO2! They might produce more O2 and make the earth… green!

dominigan on July 6, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Funny thing. You know where all of this evil CO2 came from? It came from the decayed remains of plants and animals. Once upon a time, all of that CO2 was up here on the surface of the earth, enjoying a merry old time. But humans, in their infinite wisdom, proclaim it improper for CO2 to be brought back to the earth’s surface.

In many ways, the “green movement” is really about jet-setting liberals wanting Nantucket and Vail to stay as they are. The idea that there’s a natural cycle of heating and cooling strikes them as primitive, like having a house without air conditioning. And they’d never live like that – though they’d condemn millions of others to that fate.

hawksruleva on July 6, 2011 at 9:09 AM

The only plan that makes sense to them is confiscating the money and freedom of others. Almost as if they don’t really worry about the environment at all…

hawksruleva on July 6, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Aha! That’s because you don’t understand how deadly global warmimg is! The progressives don’t just want to save the earth, they’re trying to save the universe itself!

The intense warming produced by carbon dioxide will eventually overpower the atmosphere and radiate into space where it will cause a reversal of the Big Bang. Once this starts to happen the entire universe will collapse in a matter of minutes.

Progressives know this because they all went to Harvard Law School and Community Organizing camp.

Taking money away from people so they can’t buy fossil fuels is the only answer.

Thanks God for progressives!

darwin on July 6, 2011 at 9:18 AM

The temp was 39 this am, but will be in the 80′s this afternoon. Does this qualify as climate change? I’ll bet the true believers understood everything this guy had to say or pretend to. They’ll probably go out and look for a tree or rat to save from the acid rain.

Kissmygrits on July 6, 2011 at 9:19 AM

It’s funny how every new fact that undermines teh AGW theory (and there have been many) is somehow twisted to actually support the theory.

It’s almost as if this isn’t science.

It’s colder than predicted? That’s caused by AGW.

It’s not warming? That’s caused by AGW.

How people like Oakland can still pretend this is science is laughable. I suppose they’ll hang onto this until the next alleged “crisis” comes along that they can glom onto as an excuse to enact their marxist agenda.

Monkeytoe on July 6, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Just tell me what I need to burn to keep it around 66 all the time, as nature intended.

J.E. Dyer on July 5, 2011 at 8:51 PM

In the Vietnam era, the Progressives wanted 69 all the time…

(…and they didn’t seem to be concerned about emissions…)

landlines on July 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM

Good effin’ grief–how stupid can people be?

Coal contains sulfur compounds, some of which are combustible, and some of which are not. When coal is burned, some of the non-combustible compounds (some of which contain sulfur) are emitted as particulate matter. Particulate matter emitted from coal is usually dark in color, which can absorb the sun’s rays and allow less sunlight to the earth’s surface, resulting in cooling. But this particulate matter is NOT pure sulfur (which is yellow in color)–what does the article mean by “sulfur particles”?

In the United States, EPA regulations require controls on particulate matter, usually as “fabric filters” (sometimes called baghouses) which remove and recover most particulate matter from flue gases.

Sulfur in combustible compounds forms sulfur dioxide (SO2) when burned, which can then react with rainwater to form dilute sulfuric acid (acid rain), which is harmful to forests, and can also accelerate corrosion of metal structures. Sulfur dioxide is also toxic to human and animal life if inhaled, and EPA regulations also limit SO2 emissions from power plants, which is usually removed by contacting flue gas with water or some alkaline solution, recovering the sulfur either as liquid sulfuric acid or solid sulfate salts.

Kudos to the Chinese if they want to reduce the toxic effects of indiscriminate release of sulfur dioxide (gas) and/or sulfur-containing particulates to the atmosphere, as our EPA did 40 years ago. If this results in local (not global) warming in China due to more sunlight reaching the earth, so be it–let the sun shine in at the dawning of the age of Aquarius, and the Forbidden City will rust more slowly.

But let’s not get wee-wee’d up about the CO2–let’s face it, China has four times our population and owns half of our debt, and will do whatever it believes is in its own interest. If their electric power is cheaper than ours, our industries will move there.

Steve Z on July 6, 2011 at 11:45 AM

The temp was 39 this am, but will be in the 80′s this afternoon. Does this qualify as climate change? I’ll bet the true believers understood everything this guy had to say or pretend to. They’ll probably go out and look for a tree or rat to save from the acid rain.

Kissmygrits on July 6, 2011 at 9:19 AM

As Dick Cheney once said at a press corps roast, there was warming in Wyoming, known as “spring”. Followed by cooling known as “autumn”. It happens every year.

Steve Z on July 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM

oakland you refuse to address what I state on these threads every time, that CO2 concentrations rise in response to rising atmospheric temperatures & that it has not been demonstrated so far that it directly causes atmospheric temps to rise.
Never mind the whole measuring methodology in the 1st place.
Never mind that after reading the ‘Climate-Gate’ emails any sot with 1/2 a brain could understand those people attempted to engage in dishonest obfuscation of the facts.
Never mind the Sun’s driving role in climate.
Never mind the lack of isostatic factors when ‘calculating’ sea levels.
Never mind the fact that water vapor is the major greenhouse gas.
Never mind the fact that Earth has been warmer, much warmer than ever since man-kind’s time upon the Earth.
Never mind that climate is so complicated that weather is only predictable ~3 days out with a pi$$-poor accuracy rate of ~35-40% or so.
Never mind that there is much about how climate behaves that scientists do not understand.
Never mind that NASA has not taken cloud cover into account regarding surface temps.
Etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum.
AGW-shot full of holes.
Yet the stupid, ignorant, & desperate tyrants continue to espouse the lie.

Badger40 on July 6, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Also nevermind the fact that AGW hysterics claims have not come to pass.
Nevermind that the IPCC turned out to be a lie & a joke.
Nevermind that carbon credit trading schemes do NOTHING to affect the environment.
Nevermind that warmer temperatures in general have always allowed the human race to PROSPER, whereas colder temps have caused the human race to STRUGGLE & DIE.
Nevermind the fact that polar bears are NOT decreasing in numbers.
Nevermind that climate science was a very small niche that has ballooned out of proportion in order to garner funds.
Nevermind that many climate computer models were not only based upon tweaked & probably falsified data that curiously cannot be found in its raw state anywhere were created by people who were not statisticians.
I could go on.
There is so much to tear apart.

Badger40 on July 6, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Badger40 on July 6, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Badger40 on July 6, 2011 at 11:54 AM

OK, now you’re just badgering oakland. ;-)

oakland is nothing more than a gadfly whose mind will not be changed by facts. His method is to misdirect with incessant questions. Note that he never actually addresses issues that people place in front of him that get to close to the truth.

I perused the entire report. Last evening I posted part of their closing “discussion” section so he could see the scientific weasel wording used. He totally ignored that with a misdirection.

The problem is that he teaches kids as a profession. Scary.

Yoop on July 6, 2011 at 12:25 PM

The problem is that he teaches kids as a profession. Scary.

Yoop on July 6, 2011 at 12:25 PM

I’m working real hard on my end here to hopefully at least cancel him out.

Badger40 on July 6, 2011 at 1:05 PM

The problem is that he teaches kids as a profession. Scary.

Yoop on July 6, 2011 at 12:25 PM

Teaches what? I’ve seen oakland take anti-left stances on other threads. Granted they’re far and few between because oakland almost exclusively comments on AGW threads.

darwin on July 6, 2011 at 1:37 PM

darwin on July 6, 2011 at 1:37 PM

When someone asked a while back he wouldn’t say. I got the impression it wasn’t science, but can’t say that for sure.

Yoop on July 6, 2011 at 2:57 PM

High sulfur coal burning may be why the amount of warming has been on the lower end of the range of predictions generally accepted by climate experts.

oakland on July 5, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Your statement begs the question of whether “the amount of warming has been on the lower end of the range of predictions generally accepted by climate experts.”

Would you like to support your assertion? Can you produce documentation of the “range of predictions” that were being offered in 1998 or earlier, wherein the actual temperature for 2008 fell within the predicted range… simply on the “lower end”?

I’m sure it must be available… otherwise, how is it that climate experts generally accepted it?

VekTor on July 6, 2011 at 6:26 PM

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