WASHINGTON (AP) -- Scientists have come up with a seemingly counterintuitive explanation for why the rise in Earth's temperature paused for a bit during the 2000s.
Researchers say it may be connected with coal-burning during China's economic expansion. Chinese coal consumption doubled between 2003 and 2007.
The scientists say sulfur particles in the air from the coal would deflect the sun's rays, causing a temporary cooling. That can happen even as coal-burning produces the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.
But researchers associated with the National Academy of Science say the cooling effect would be only temporary, while carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a long time.
Chinese leaders have recognized the effects of sulfur pollution on their environment and their citizens' health, and are installing equipment to scrub out the particles.
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