Sulphur cools the planet, Monckton on tour and climate drought questions

  • 06 Jul 2011, 13:00
  • The Carbon Brief

Mining coal in China

Sulfur emissions may have slowed temperature rise

A new paper published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has attracted attention after it blamed a slow-down in rate of temperature rise over the last decade on increased sulfur emissions from coal. Sulfur in the atmosphere has a cooling effect as it reflects sunlight, and this may have masked the long-term warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Media coverage, including by the BBC, the Guardian and the Washington Post pointed to the significant increase in coal production in China as the likely cuplrit - while the Mail headline overstated the paper's findings somewhat -

"Coal-burning China's rapid growth may have HALTED global warming"

The results, which are based on a computer model, may suggest another compelling reason to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly - because as China installs technology to reduce sulfur emission from its coal plants, the masking effect could reduce and lead to a short-term temperature ' spike'. We covered the issue here.

Britain to give £38m in food aid to Ethiopia

The international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell announced that Britain is to provide £38m in emergency food aid for 1.3 million people in Ethiopia. The UN office estimates that 10 million people across the Horn of Africa are facing a severe food crisis following a prolonged drought in the region.

A Guardian article examined the possible connections between the drought and climate change - which are predictably complicated. It noted that:

"...The last intergovernment panel on climate change report suggested that the Horn of Africa would get wetter with climate change, while more recent academic research has concluded that global warming will increase drought in the region...according to aid agencies, the weather has become more erratic and extreme in recent years".

Predicting the regional impacts of climate change on this scale is notoriously difficult.

Monckton in trouble down under

British climate skeptic and peer Lord Monckton has continued his speaking tour in Australia. Monckton was heavily criticized last week after suggesting that Australian science advisor Professor Ross Garnaut's views on climate change were "fascist", and subsequently issued a somewhat grudging 'unreserved' apology.

More than 50 Australian academics signed a letter urging Notre Dame University in Perth to cancel a speech by Monckton, arguing that Lord Monckton "stands for the kind of ignorance and superstition that universities have a duty to counter", but the speech went ahead anyway.

Other climate skeptic lobbyists are also heading south. Later this month Australians can look forward to a visit from Czech President Václav Klaus, and in November, an appearance from our former UK chancellor Nigel Lawson.

On our blog

Scientists go to extremes to understand climate change
Researchers from the Met Office, the US National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organisation (NOAA) have joined forces in a new coalition. The Attribution of Climate-Related Events will investigate individual extreme weather events to determine the probability that they have been caused or exacerbated by manmade climate change. This follows a three-part special on the potential links between extreme weather events and manmade climate change published last week in  Scientific American.

OECD to business: Scientific uncertainty is not a reason to ignore climate change
The latest version of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, a central text in defining the relationship between business and government, has been revised to state that businesses should no longer use scientific uncertainty to avoid action on environmental issues, including climate change.

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