Is global warming due to sulfur and not carbon

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on

A great post by DA Mittell on his new blog (welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Mittell!), where he delves into the work by Dr. Peter Langdon Ward on volcanic activity, sulfur and global warming. I quote at length, because there is no snipping where Mittell is concerned:

A year ago, I had the privilege as a mere editorialist of reading, along with scientists of several disciplines, the draft of a paper on the causes of global warming written by Massachusetts native Dr. Peter Langdon Ward. Dr. Ward studied earthquakes, plate tectonics and volcanoes for 27 years at the U.S Geological Survey.

Viewing climate change over the whole history of the Earth, Dr. Ward noticed that warming patterns have appeared consistently during periods of very high volcanic activity. The immediate effect is cooling; warming follows as sulfur dioxide crowds out (my term) the oxidizing capacity of the OH radical. Small but relatively excessive amounts of sulfur dioxide thus pull the plug on the “tropospheric vacuum cleaner,” causing concentrations of greenhouse gases to build up, leading to rapid warming.

Carbon dioxide increases as well, but primarily as an effect, not a cause of warming. The warming ocean releases carbon dioxide just as a warm bottle of soda pop goes flat.

From borings in Greenland’s ice core, Dr. Ward has studied the ice ages of recent geologic times, the warming and cooling trends of the Christian Era, unto the reduction of anthropomorphicgenic sulfur after 1979 in the effort to delimit acid rain. His findings are confirmatory, and he notably believes that the 18 percent reduction in atmospheric sulfur achieved by the acid-rain program had the effect of stopping further warming after 2000. But with hundreds of new coal-fired, sulfur-producing power plants opening around the world, the pause in warming is about to end.

Removing sulfur dioxide is simpler than removing carbon dioxide and the technology for doing so is more advanced. If sulfur, not carbon, is the main culprit, the implication is that climate change can be controlled without also pulling down capitalism and democracy. Distressing to some, but profoundly assuring to serious policy makers.