Sulfur emissions more important than CO2

 The headline reads: "Sulfur emissions more important than CO2 in warming, scientist says."

Apparently, a retired USGS geologist has determined that sulfur is primarily responsible for climate change rather than carbon dioxide.  According to the story in Greenwire, Peter Ward of Jackson Hole, Wyoming has correlated atmospheric concentrations of sulfur (based on ice core data) with global temperatures and concluded that sulfur dioxide is more important than carbon dioxide in driving global temperature.

I don't subscribe to the journal Thin Solid Films where it will be published (although I love the title) and the article hasn't been published yet in any case, but I think this is a great example of bad reporting.

The first thing you learn in a statistics class is that correlation is not causation. In order for this analysis to hold up, Ward has got to show a mechanism whereby atmospheric sulfur increases temperature. He's also got to show that it's the sulfur causing the temperature rise, rather than something else that is correlated with the sulfur, e.g. black carbon emissions from the same volcanoes that emitted the sulfur. Even if it turns out that, contrary to the existing understanding of atmospheric chemistry, sulfur dioxide is a potent GHG, that doesn't negate the research showing CO2 is a potent GHG.  

 As I said, I haven't read the paper, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that Ward is wrong. Not that I fault him for doing his research and coming up with an innovative hypotheses that runs contrary to accepted science. The problem isn't  the blind canyons scientists often find themselves in, but reporters who are willing to run with any man bites dog story they can find.