Frustrated climate alarmists, who have failed to match global temperature trends to their dramatic global warming predictions for years, have come up with a counterintuitive study to explain the lack of global warming since 1998: China's excessive burning of coal during its rapid growth had a cooling effect on the earth's temperature.
The new study, based on Fox News global warming skepticism, contradicts much of the anti-coal sentiments held by environmentalists. While it explains that burning coal does emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, it also releases heat-reflecting sulfur into the atmosphere, and the two work to cancel each other's effects out.
This study comes after global warming skeptics questioned lead researcher Robert Kaufmann about the lack of global warming over the past decade. As Kaufmann explained to BBC News:
Two years ago, I gave a talk to a general audience in New Jersey about climate change.
And an older gentleman asked me 'why should I believe in this climate change - I was watching Fox News and they said the earth's temperature hasn't changed in 10 years and has actually gone down.'
At that stage I wasn't paying much attention to climate change - I'd returned to working on oil markets - so I went back and checked the data and found that was just about right.
As it turns out, China, which climate alarmists have long blamed as a major and unregulated contributor to global warming, may surprisingly be responsible for keeping the earth at cooler temperatures over the last decade due to its emission of sulfur into the atmosphere.
Because of other indications that sulfur emissions are bad for the environment, though (it is a major contributor to acid rain), environmentalists pressured China to enact regulations to scrub sulfur from coal-fired boilers to prevent its release into the atmosphere. Without the counterweight of sulfur, the unbalanced release of carbon dioxide may indeed have the exact effect environmentalists seek to prevent.
There have been similar periods of global temperature plateaus in the past during times of industrialization. Piers Forster, a climate professor at Leeds University in England, explained the phenomenon to BBC.
The masking of CO2-induced global warming by short term sulfur emissions is well known - it's believed that the flattening off of global mean temperatures in the 1950s was due to European and US coal burning, and just such a mechanism could be operating today from Chinese coal.
Environmentalists like Forster argue that as soon as the sulfur emission masks are removed, warming continues in an upwards direction.
Ironically, just two weeks ago, global warming fear monger Al Gore praised the idea of population control, most famously used in China, as a means to curb pollution. Now it looks like Gore can praise China for a different reason: their coal-powered industrial growth preventing global warming since 1998.