July 5, 2011
Global Warming Trends Paused As Asia Increases Emissions
Although greenhouse gas emissions have soared in the last decade, the rise in global warming trends has halted, at least temporarily, according to a new US-led study.
This may lead to a more rapid warming in average global temperatures once emissions are reduced with crackdowns on pollution in emerging Asian factories, Reuters is reporting.
Researchers from Boston and Harvard Universities and Finland's University of Turku said pollution, and specifically sulfur emissions from coal-fueled growth in Asia, were responsible for the cooling effect. Sulfur allows water drops or aerosols to form in the upper atmosphere, creating hazy clouds and reflecting sunlight back into space.
"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, lead author of the study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Chinese coal consumption doubled between 2003 and 2007, causing a 26 percent increase in global coal consumption, Kaufmann explained. Chinese leaders are acknowledging the effects of that pollution on their environment and their citizens' health and are installing equipment to scrub out the sulfur particles, Kaufmann explained to the Associated Press (AP).
Some researchers are suggesting the use of sulfur as a geoengineering tool to lower global temperatures on the planet by injecting sulfur compounds very high into the atmosphere. The idea is that this might help ease global warming by increasing clouds and haze by reflecting sunlight.
Other scientists have concluded that it is a bad idea. Using enough sulfur to reduce warming would wipe out the protective Arctic ozone layer, high above Earth, and would delay recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by as much as 70 years, according to an analysis by Simone Tilmes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Global temperatures overall have been increasing for more than a century since the industrial revolution began with more factories emitting carbon dioxide to the air. There have been similar plateaus, however, such as during the post-World War II era when industrial production boosted sulfur emissions in several parts of the world, Kaufmann explained.
Atmospheric scientists and environmentalists are concerned that continued rising temperatures could continue having serious impacts worldwide. Areas of drought in some areas, increasing floods, changes in storm patterns, spread of tropical diseases and rising sea levels are generally believed to be symptoms of manmade atmospheric tampering and they have strong research to bolster their claims despite skeptics' assertions otherwise.
Kaufmann is in no doubt that temperatures will pick up if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. "People can choose not to believe in [man-made] climate change - but the correct term here is "Ëbelief' - believing is an act of faith, whereas science is a testing of hypotheses and seeing whether they hold up against real world data," BBC News reports.
"Even before this paper there wasn't much scientific evidence for denying climate change, and now I don't see any credible scientific contradiction - if people don't believe it, it'll be because they choose not to believe it."
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- Boston University
- Harvard University
- University of Turku
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
- National Center for Atmospheric Research