What if, in our quest to stop man-made climate change, we are focusing on entirely the wrong pollution? That’s what a team of scientists lead by NASA suggest this week with a new report on methane and soot.
The Associated Press reports: “An international team of scientists says it’s figured out how to slow global warming in the short run and prevent millions of deaths from dirty air: Stop focusing so much on carbon dioxide.” Even though CO2 emissions, mostly from power plants, are the largest source of climate changing pollution by far, the models run by NASA’s Drew Shindell and colleagues show that reducing other pollutants offers a much bigger bang for the buck.
Scientists estimate that methane and soot will be responsible for 14 and 16 percent respectively of the earth’s projected 2.2 degree Celsius temperature rise over the next several decades. While eliminating the warming effect of those to pollutants would be have less of an impact on preventing warming than eliminating CO2 caused warming, doing so would be faster, easier, cheaper, and provide other health benefits in the process.
“The paper calculates that as of 2030, the pollution reduction methods would bring about $6.5 trillion in annual benefits from fewer people dying from air pollution, less global warming and increased crop production.
“In the United States, Shindell calculates the measures would prevent about 14,000 air pollution deaths in people older than 30 by the year 2030. About 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit of projected warming in the U.S. would be prevented by 2050.
“But health benefits would be far bigger in China and India where soot is more of a problem.”
In the developing world, advancements like better cooking stoves would save lives and stop warming by reducing soot pollution. As Care2′s Beth has reported:
“Over three billion people cook on open fires or inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated homes. Toxic smoke from indoor cooking causes severe lung and respiratory illness, contributes to climate change, and claims one life every 16 seconds in the developing world.
In the United States, methane capture technology on landfills and farms could generate electricity while stopping climate emissions. Once carbon dioxide from power plants are removed from the data, landfills are the biggest source of U.S. global warming emissions.
The research is turning heads. Even John Graham, Office of Management and Budget director under George W. Bush, told the Associated Press: “This is an important study that deserves serious consideration by policy makers as well as scientists.”
Photo source: US EPA