The Chinese burning of coal may explain why global warming has halted in the last 10 years, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Global temperatures from 1998 to 2008 hasn't really changed. So what's going on?
The study suggests that coal is responsible.
China is the largest consumer and producer of coal in the world. The electricity generated from burning coal is what powered its economy to blistering rates of growth and becoming the second largest in the world.
The PNAS study asserted that China's coal burning, in addition to releasing carbon dioxide (which contributes to global warming), also releases sulphate aerosol particles, which dims the effects of global warming by reflecting the light and heat coming from the sun back into space.
The effect of the sulphate aerosol particles, asserted the study, outweighs the carbon dioxide emission of coal burning and was enough to outweigh all other human activities that generated global warming.
Piers Forster, an environmental expert, told BBC:
The masking of CO2-induced global warming by short term sulphur 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.
Indeed, global temperature stayed flat between 1940 and 1985.
Moreover, the small difference between 1998 and 2008 can be attributed to specific factors that drove up temperatures in 1998, including declining solar activities and a strong El Nino.
Lastly, the trend of global warming is firmly in place in the last 100 years; an interruption of a decade, like the 1950s and 2000s, may just be a blip.
Global warming skeptics, however, don't buy it.
Dr. David Whitehouse of the Global warming Policy Foundation said it's good the PNAS study admitted that there has been no meaningful global temperature increase in the last decade. However, the conclusion that Chinese coal burning is the cause is bogus, he said.
The researchers tweak an out-of-date climate computer model and cherry-pick the outcome to get their desired result, he said.
As for the 100-year global warming uptrend, doubters like to cite a chart from Long Range Weather (upper left), which shows that the current 100-year global warming trend might be just a blip in the last 4,500 years of global warmings and coolings.
Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly used GLOBAL Temperature Anomalies in .01 C from NASA as the globe's average temperature in C.