Year 2, Month 7, Day 20: For Every Complex Problem, There’s A Simple Answer. And It’s Wrong.

The July 4 Albany Times-Union notes that since China burned a whole shitload of coal over the past decade, and it’s been really dirty coal, it’s emitted a lot of sulfur. Which has, apparently, slowed down our planetary rush to the rotisserie:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists have come up with a possible explanation for why the rise in Earth’s temperature paused for a bit during the 2000s, one of the hottest decades on record.

The answer seems counterintuitive. It’s all that sulfur pollution in the air from China’s massive coal-burning, according to a new study.

Sulfur particles in the air deflect the sun’s rays and can temporarily cool things down a bit. That can happen even as coal-burning produces the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.

I’m not surprised by this. How about you? Sent July 4:

The phenomena of climate change frequently seem to defy common sense. The notion that a relatively small increase in carbon dioxide emission can trigger such disastrous effects, for example, is almost unbelievable. Similarly, since humans are notoriously poor at planning for the long term, the thought that what we do today will affect our descendants in the centuries to come is all but impossible to comprehend. The fact that Chinese sulfur emissions could slow down the planetary warming trend for a while is likewise counterintuitive, running contrary to the ingrained knowledge of the world which our species has honed over countless millennia. For thousands of years, our “common sense” has told us that the Earth was an unlimited and infinitely resilient resource, ripe for our exploitation. If we and our civilization are to survive in the long term, we must transform both our wasteful behavior and our incorrect, hubristic intuitions.

Warren Senders