Fox News Confuses Sulfur Pollution with Greenhouse Gases

Here is my headline:  “Study: Hottest Decade on Record Would Have Been Even Hotter But for Chinese Coal Plant Sulfur Pollution.”

Here is the Reuters headline:  “Asia pollution blamed for halt in warming: study.

The FOX NationHere is the Fox News headline (for the same Reuters story): “Reuters Bombshell: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduce Global Warming.

Seriously.  Or, rather, unseriously.  Sulfur pollution is not a greenhouse gas.  Quite the reverse, as the Reuters article Fox News links to makes clear.  Indeed, its ability to cool the globe has been known for many, many decades.

I suppose it is too generous to claim that Fox Nation “a conservative news website operated by the Fox News Channel” is merely confusing sulfur pollution with greenhouse gases.  By now, they must know their headline is dead wrong.  They just don’t care (see Warning: “Greater exposure” to Fox News will lead to “increased misinformation” on policy issues, especially climate science).

As Media Matters reports, the study’s lead author, Robert Kaufmann, denounced the headline as “patently false” 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….

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.

The Media Matters story notes:

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 himself has also pointed out the study is the furthest thing from evidence that we should keep listening to the deniers of Fox News and keep delaying action to reduce GHG emissions:

“If anything the paper suggests that reductions in carbon emissions will be more important as China installs scrubbers [on its coal-fired power stations], which reduce sulphur emissions. This, and solar insolation increasing as part of the normal solar cycle, [will mean] temperature is likely to increase faster.”

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Below are the earlier comments from the Facebook commenting system:

Mike Roddy

It’s important that Fox be called out here, though this absurd headline is just business as usual for them. Keep in mind, every one of their news anchors is a denier, who rely on people like Anthony Watts when they need expert testimony.

This has nothing to do with ignorance, or even politics. What we are seeing is a deliberate attempt by banks and fossil fuel companies to squeeze another decade or two of monstrous profits from their operations.

Fox is not just being skeptical about global warming, they are cheerleading it. There should be consequences, starting with organized boycotts of all of their outlets and the companies who advertise there. Then, the editors should be subpoenaed to explain their distortions to flood and drought victims in court.

July 5 at 9:48pm



July 6 at 12:43am

John McCormick

Mike, we, you, Climate Progress just called Faux out. And, that is as far as it will go. We are spectators curing at the umpires. No plan. No strategy. Angst. Plenty that and no time left.

July 6 at 7:27am

Wit’s End

Deniers should be forced to watch “Global Dimming” before being allowed to formulate misleading headlines. This documentary is completely persuasive and deeply worrisome – the amount of heating being masked by pollution is unknown, but given the frightening effects of extreme events like droughts and wildfires and violent weather we’ve already seen, I doubt we want to find out…

I can’t recommend this movie highly enough.


July 5 at 11:09pm


This is how the GOP gets it’s votes.

Texas Supreme Court rules that no e-voting paper trail is required; a coalition of voters had sued the state, claiming the machines were insecure and did not allow meaningful recounts.​litics/comments/ihhfb/texa​s_supreme_court_rules_that​_no_evoting_paper/

July 5 at 9:44pm

James Hwang

The deniers are out in full force in the blogs and news websites. I ran into 4 or 5 deniers on one page of NPR comments alone. The progressives have been too afraid to play dirty. The public doesn’t buy the truth too often. We need a campaign just as loud and vicious as the deniers. THAT would really convince the majority of people too lazy to figure anything out for themselves.

July 5 at 11:22pm

George Ennis

FOX news has already formulated its position on all climate studies including those not published. To think of FOX as a “news channel” is to buy into the idea that propaganda is information.

July 6 at 9:43am

Bart Laws

Fox doesn’t care who tries to call them out for their constant falsehoods — they generally don’t correct them and they just carry on to the next lie. It’s not a problem for them because their viewers exist in a closed universe in which Fox is the one true reality. So really, why even bother?

July 6 at 7:35am

Geo Hernandez

Faux News doesn’t just lie. It states the exact reverse of the truth.

If we say “A” they don’t say “M” or “S”; instead they say “Z”. If we say “Black” they don’t say “Red” or “Blue”; they say “Black”.

This gives me an idea. If we want them to say the truth perhaps we should start saying the exact opposite of what the science reveals. Then they’ll be sure to (unintentionally) tell the truth.

July 6 at 8:29pm


Too bad we all don’t still wear wooden shoes. A wooden shoe could crush a fox head.

July 6 at 11:29am

Alan Gregory

Well heck, at least it was “fair and balanced,” right? Duh

July 6 at 1:34pm

Comments are closed.