Year 2, Month 7, Day 22: Ad Hoc Geoengineering

The Daily Mail (UK) runs an article on the Chinese sulfur emissions question:

China’s rapid industrial expansion may have halted global warming for much of the last decade, climate scientists claimed.

They said sulphur pollution from China’s coal-fired power stations helped to keep world temperatures stable despite soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

Burning coal releases carbon dioxide which traps heat from the Sun, raising temperatures. But it also emits particles of sulphur that help block the Sun’s rays and cool the Earth.

One of the attractions of the alternate-universes cosmology is the notion that somewhere there is a planet Earth where the humans haven’t fucked things up so completely.

Sent July 6:

The analysis suggesting that Chinese sulfur emissions have helped slow global heating trends is yet another confirmation of a simple fact: the science of climate change is complicated. Of course, that should be no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention, but the idea that there are multiple inter-relating factors seems to be hard for climate-change deniers to grasp. Given that ending the West’s dependence on fossil fuels will have enormously beneficial economic and environmental impacts, the reluctance of the denialists in our politics and media to move forward on this crucial issue can only be attributed to their fear of change, whether positive or negative. It certainly couldn’t be because they’re financially beholden to multinational energy corporations that will lose a few percentage points of profit; even the most avaricious of politicians surely wouldn’t put short-term profit over the survival of our species or our civilization. Or would they?

Warren Senders

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