New Analysis Provides Global Sulfur Dioxide Emission Trends


Atmospheric aerosols from both natural and anthropogenic sources have a net cooling effect on climate by
blocking incoming solar radiation and brightening clouds. Pollution aerosols also have deleterious health and environmental effects. The most important anthropogenic aerosol type is sulfate, which
results from oxidation of sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide, emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline, has increased in the atmosphere since industrialization. In recent decades, however, various emission control strategies and technologies have been implemented. Ongoing monitoring of sulfur
dioxide emissions is needed to track, and simulate in climate models, the extent to which aerosols may offset greenhouse gas warming in various regions. Researchers, including a U.S. Department of Energy scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), estimated sulfur dioxide emissions from 2000
through 2011. The work verified a previous PNNL study that found an increase in emissions from 2000 to 2005. The new work found that emissions have declined in recent years largely due to increased
emission controls in North America and China. The study found that sulfur dioxide emissions in the recently released Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios, used by the Fifth Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), are consistent with these inventory estimates.


Klimont, Z., S. J. Smith, and J. Cofala. 2013. “The Last Decade of Global Anthropogenic Sulfur Dioxide:
2000–2011 Emissions,” Environmental Research Letters 8(1), 014003. DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014003.