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Bailing out the planet

Wagner, Gernot; Weitzman, Martin L.

Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines that had been dormant for over 400 years, began to rumble on April 2, 1991. Two months later, volcanic activity went into overdrive, culminating in a final explosion on June 15.

As a direct result of the volcanic eruption, global temperatures temporarily decreased by about 0.5°C (0.9°F), wiping out the entire temperature effects of human-caused global warming up to that point.

Mount Pinatubo did all that by spewing some 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. That amount counteracted the global warming effect of around 585 billion tons of carbon dioxide that humans had managed to put into the atmosphere by then.

Two years later, after most of the sulfur dioxide from Mount Pinatubo had washed out of the atmosphere, temperatures jumped back by the same 0.5°C and resumed growth where it left off.

Excerpted from “Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet” by Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman.


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Milken Institute Review

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Academic Units
School of International and Public Affairs
Published Here
November 10, 2015