Scientist Calls Fox's Global Warming Headline "Patently False"

Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

Fox Nation is claiming a recent study, covered by Reuters, found that "Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduce Global Warming":

In fact, the study said that the "cooling effect" of the "rapid growth in short-lived sulfur emissions," largely due to Chinese coal consumption, "partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations." Responding to the Fox headline, the study's lead author, Robert Kaufmann, wrote via email:

Now come the worst part of publishing an article on a topic of general interest...the distortions. Sulfur emissions ARE NOT GREENHOUSE GASES and the article carefully separates the two. Sulfur emissions are known as radiatively active gases because they reflect incoming solar radiation back to space. But they are not greenhouse gases, which affect Earth's energy balance by absorbing out-going long wave radiation. So the headline is PATENTLY FALSE.

The Associated Press also reported that "sulfur's cooling effect is only temporary, while the carbon dioxide from coal burning stays in Earth's atmosphere a long time." The new study suggests that as China and other developing nations begin to control their sulfur emissions, it will be more difficult for the long-term global warming trend to hide.

Kaufmann added that sulfur emissions have "severe" health effects:

Sulfur emissions are bad air pollutants--with severe health (e.g. respiratory disease that contribute to tens of thousands of deaths) and environmental effects (acid deposition, which makes entire lakes lifeless). I am no an expert in this area, but these effects are the reasons that all industrial nations have strict limits on sulfur emissions and now developing nations are scrubbing their emissions too.

Indeed the EPA states:

Current scientific evidence links short-term exposures to SO2, ranging from 5 minutes to 24 hours, with an array of adverse respiratory effects including bronchoconstriction and increased asthma symptoms. These effects are particularly important for asthmatics at elevated ventilation rates (e.g., while exercising or playing.)

Studies also show a connection between short-term exposure and increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk populations including children, the elderly, and asthmatics.

EPA's National Ambient Air Quality Standard for SO2 is designed to protect against exposure to the entire group of sulfur oxides (SOx). SO2 is the component of greatest concern and is used as the indicator for the larger group of gaseous sulfur oxides (SOx).


SOx can react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form small particles. These particles penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs and can cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease, leading to increased hospital admissions and premature death.

Update: Now Fox is taking credit for inspiring the study:

Kaufmann reportedly said he was motivated to research climate change after "an older gentlemen" 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?'"

Kaufmann's study confirmed "the current understanding" that greenhouse gases exert a warming influence on the climate and "do not contradict" the IPCC's statement that most of the warming since the mid20th century is "very likely" due to human activity.

Does this mean Fox will be inspired to correct their awful climate coverage?

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
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