Chinese Coal Plants Mask Climate Change

While carbon dioxide emissions have risen steadily from 1998 to 2009, global temperatures have not. Scientists say Chinese coal-fired power plants that release sulfur have cooled the planet.

What's the Latest Development?


Why haven't global temperatures risen commensurate with increasing carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere over the last decade? New research out of Boston University says sulphate particles released by China's booming economy, powered by coal-fired electricity stations, are reflecting sunlight back into space. "The rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the past decade and the amount of coal they used to fuel it has tended to cool the climate, which offset to some extent the warming effect of carbon dioxide emissions," said Robert Kaufmann of B.U.

What's the Big Idea?

While the data may be interpreted superficially to say that human actions are naturally balancing temperature changes on the planet's surface, according to the climate scientists behind the research, the opposite is true. They say that Chinese sulphates in the atmosphere merely mask climate change and that, once the sulphates dissipate, the levels of carbon dioxide that have risen over the past decade will cause a quick spike in surface temperatures. 

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