New Paper shows Inverse Relationship between Global Warming and Coal-Fired Power Plants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 6th, 2013

Week in Review

In the Seventies they were scaring kids about a coming ice age.  And about air pollution so bad that we would one day have to wear gas masks when going outside.  The planet is a lot cleaner now.  And there is no talk about Americans one day having to wear a gas mask when going outside.  And that coming ice age?  Well, they were just wrong about that.  For what they thought was global cooling was actually global warming.  An easy mistake to make.  Because they’re both about temperature.  One just moves in one direction.  While the other moves in the other.  And unless you do something like record temperatures periodically how are you going to know which direction those temperatures are moving?

Then again, perhaps there was cooling then.  Before that cooling turned into warming.  For it now appears the reverse is happening.  A move from warming back to cooling.  Thanks to the Chinese and the Indians (see Climate forcing growth rates: doubling down on our Faustian bargain posted on IOP Science).

Remarkably, and we will argue importantly, the airborne fraction has declined since 2000 (figure 3) during a period without any large volcanic eruptions… The airborne fraction is affected by factors other than the efficiency of carbon sinks, most notably by changes in the rate of fossil fuel emissions (Gloor et al 2010). However, it is the dependence of the airborne fraction on fossil fuel emission rate that makes the post-2000 downturn of the airborne fraction particularly striking. The change of emission rate in 2000 from 1.5% yr-1 to 3.1% yr-1 (figure 1), other things being equal, would have caused a sharp increase of the airborne fraction (the simple reason being that a rapid source increase provides less time for carbon to be moved downward out of the ocean’s upper layers).

A decrease in land use emissions during the past decade (Harris et al 2012) could contribute to the decreasing airborne fraction in figure 3, although Malhi (2010) presents evidence that tropical forest deforestation and regrowth are approximately in balance, within uncertainties. Land use change can be only a partial explanation for the decrease of the airborne fraction; something more than land use change seems to be occurring.

We suggest that the huge post-2000 increase of uptake by the carbon sinks implied by figure 3 is related to the simultaneous sharp increase in coal use (figure 1). Increased coal use occurred primarily in China and India… Associated gaseous and particulate emissions increased rapidly after 2000 in China and India (Lu et al 2011, Tian et al 2010). Some decrease of the sulfur component of emissions occurred in China after 2006 as wide application of flue-gas desulfurization began to be initiated (Lu et al 2010), but this was largely offset by continuing emission increases from India (Lu et al 2011).

We suggest that the surge of fossil fuel use, mainly coal, since 2000 is a basic cause of the large increase of carbon uptake by the combined terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks… Sulfate aerosols from coal burning also might increase carbon uptake by increasing the proportion of diffuse insolation, as noted above for Pinatubo aerosols, even though the total solar radiation reaching the surface is reduced…

Reduction of the net human-made climate forcing by aerosols has been described as a ‘Faustian bargain’ (Hansen and Lacis 1990, Hansen 2009), because the aerosols constitute deleterious particulate air pollution. Reduction of the net climate forcing by half will continue only if we allow air pollution to build up to greater and greater amounts.

Let’s review.  The airborne fraction carbon dioxide has fallen since 2000.  And, as a result, global temperatures did not rise as projected.  Even though there were no large volcanic eruptions.  Which cause global cooling.  Tropical forest deforestation and re-growth are balancing each other out.  So that’s not a factor in this decline of airborne carbon dioxide.  Which leaves the sole remaining answer for the decline in airborne carbon dioxide levels as China’s and India’s explosion in new coal-fired power plants.  Yes, the wonderful air pollution from burning coal apparently cools the planet.  Like a volcanic eruption does.

Are you seeing the bigger picture here?  For a hundred years or so the Industrial Revolution belched so much ash, soot, smoke, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the air that it left black clouds over cities.  And a layer of soot and ash on everything.  This is why we electrified trains in our cities.  To keep coal-fired locomotives and their great black plumes of smoke out of the cities.  Was there a global warming problem then?  No.  That didn’t come into vogue until Al Gore started talking about it in the Nineties.  When the planet was doomed if we didn’t act immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Despite only a few years earlier the climate scientists were warning us of the coming ice age.  Probably because of all that global cooling from our coal-fired power plants, steam engines and locomotives.

As oil, gas and electricity replaced coal-fired boilers everywhere (we even used coal in our home furnaces) all that pollution from coal went away.  And then came the Nineties.  And catastrophic global warming.  Just as China and India began to incorporate some capitalism into their economies.  Which they fed with electricity provided by more and more coal-fired power plants.  And as they belched all that wonderful pollution into the air the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide as well as global temperatures fell.  So I ask again, do you see the bigger picture here?

Yes, global warming is man-made.  At least this is what one can conclude from this paper.  And it is the climate scientists who made it.  By telling us to reduce all of the cooling emissions from our coal-fired power plants.  But, thankfully, the Indians and the Chinese still care enough about Mother Earth to pump those cooling emissions into the air.  And gave us a reprieve from the global warming apocalypse.  But if the climate scientists get their way they’ll bring on that apocalypse.  By pressuring China and India to stop putting those cooling emissions into the air.  And for the sake of the planet we can only hope that they don’t succumb to that pressure.

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