Shock: Burning coal now causes global cooling

Aerosol clever

On the one hand, the warmists insist we stop burning coal because the evil CO2 emissions were frying the planet. But now, because the planet isn’t warming as their clunky models think it should, they’re on the lookout for excuses, and this is a good one.

Burning coal, no less, is also cooling the planet allegedly, by greater emission of sulphur into the atmosphere, cancelling out the warming from CO2 we would otherwise have seen:

CHINA’S soaring coal consumption in the last decade held back global warming as sulphur emissions served as a coolant, according to a study that takes head-on a key argument of climate sceptics. [Notice how AFP is more interested in gleefully scoring points over climate sceptics than actually getting to the truth; no surprise there – Ed]

While 2005 and 2010 are tied as the hottest years on record, sceptics have charged that an absence of a steady rise from 1998 to 2008 disproves the view that people are heating up the planet through greenhouse gas emissions.

Robert Kaufmann, a professor at Boston University, said he was motivated to conduct the study after a sceptic confronted him at a public forum, telling him he had seen on Fox News that temperatures had not risen over the decade.

“Nothing that I had read that other people have done gave me a quick answer to explain that seeming contradiction, because I knew that carbon dioxide concentrations have risen,” Kaufmann said.

The US-Finnish study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, named a culprit – coal.

The burning of coal jumped in the past decade, particularly in China, whose economy has grown at breakneck pace. Coal emits sulphur, which stops the Sun’s rays from reaching the Earth.

Warming hysteric Joe Romm goes into full “Yah boo sucks” mode, thinking this will shut up the filthy deniers once and for good (er, wrong, by the way):

“There has been no hiatus in global warming,” Romm wrote on his blog, saying that the years 1998 and 2008 were “the favourite cherry-picked endpoints of the deniers” due to outside factors such as El Nino and La Nina. (source)

Dr David Whitehouse restores a bit of sanity on WUWT:

The researchers tweak an out-of-date climate computer model and cherry-pick the outcome to get their desired result. They do not use the latest data on the sun’s influence on the Earth, rendering their results of academic interest only.

They blame China’s increasing coal consumption that they say is adding particles into the atmosphere that reflect sunlight and therefore cool the planet. The effect of aerosols and their interplay with other agents of combustion is a major uncertainty in climate models. Moreover, despite China’s coal burning, data indicate that in the past decade the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere has not increased. [I have emailed Dr Whitehouse for sources of that data – Ed]

Despite what the authors of this paper state after their tinkering with an out of date climate computer model, there is as yet no convincing explanation for the global temperature standstill of the past decade.

Either man-made and natural climatic effects have conspired to completely offset the warming that should have occurred due to greenhouse gasses in the past decade, or our estimation of the ‘climate sensitivity’ to greenhouse gasses is too large.

This is not an extreme or ‘sceptic’ position but represents part of the diversity of scientific opinion presented to the IPCC that is seldom reported. (source where you can also download the paper)


  1. What an entirely spirous excuse. That is all it is, an excuse. Why will they not accept the fact that they can’t explain the fact the models are being discredited by the real world data? Aerosols (a great uncertainty in the climate to begin with) from China’s emissions would not provide a globally uniform lack of warming which is what we are seeing.

  2. Nonetheless, despite what the aerosols say, there are only two conclusions: either there was no warming forced by anthropogenic carbon dioxide for a decade, meaning that coal-burning power stations are not responsible for global warming, and they should not be scrapped by our Government or there was no warming for a decade because of emissions from power stations, meaning that coal-burning power stations prevent global warming, and they should not be scrapped by our Government.
    Either way, we have no need of a tax on carbon dioxide.

    China’s emissions,
    awarmists say, are cooling
    the globe on the whole.

    It it obvious
    what we must do for the Earth:
    we should burn more coal.

  3. andyscrase says:

    “Robert Kaufmann, a professor at Boston University, said he was motivated to conduct the study after a sceptic confronted him at a public forum,”

    That one sentence says so much.

    I must spend more time trying to understand climate science than this lemon

  4. Baldrick says:

    The normal scientific method:
    a} state a fact
    b} propose a theory
    c} use the theory to prove the fact

    The climate change scientific method:
    a} state a fact
    b} propose a theory
    c} when the fact doesn’t prove the theory – change the fact to whatever it is you want to prove

  5. Joe Public says:

    Yep, those warmists are a bunch of aerosols

  6. Judy Curry has also chimed in with this comment…

    Their argument is totally unconvincing to me. However, the link between flat/cooling global temperature and increased coal burning in China is certainly an interesting argument from a political perspective. The scientific motivation for this article seems to be that that scientists understand the evolution of global temperature forcing and that the answer is forced variability (not natural internal variability), and this explanation of the recent lack of warming supports a similar argument for the cooling between 1940 and 1970. The political consequence of this article seems to be that the simplest solution to global warming is for the Chinese to burn more coal, which they intend to do anyways.

  7. David Davidovics says:

    I don’t really see what the big deal is since they tried to sell this sulfur dioxide crap several times going back to the 70s. Some mad scientists are suggesting that the deliberate pumping of it into the atmosphere could be a stop gap measure to forestall catastrophic global warming.

  8. i wonder if they are going to burn their warming papers so no one has any record of what they said then do a complete somersault & say they didn’t mention global warming in this context

  9. I have just come across a page –
    which tells us that:
    “UN climate official admits climate hoax is about redistributing wealth globally”

    “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection”, says the German economist and IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer. “The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”
    By Michael Whipple, Editor”

    This is very interesting as it highlights the concern now facing Americans.

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