Over the past 15 years, Chinese officials saved the lives of an estimated more than 200,000 residents by reducing the air pollution from coal-fired power plants. But this public health campaign has an unfortunate side effect: The drop in pollutants is helping warm the planet.
In fact, China’s push to continue cleaning up its air in the future could warm the entire northern hemisphere by 0.1 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, making it even tougher to keep the Earth’s temperature below the 1.5 Celsius degree (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming limit that scientists say is necessary to avoid severe weather disruptions, increased rainfall, sea level rise, droughts, and other disastrous climate change effects by the year 2100. That’s because the same sulfur dioxide particles that come from coal burning and cause respiratory problems in humans also reflect sunlight, which cools the planet.
In a new study published this