Scientists Say World Attention on Wrong Climate Pollutant

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.

U.S. Climate Pollution Excluding Carbon Dioxide, U.S. EPA

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


Louis F.
Louis Fournier5 years ago

The man-made CO2 thing is a scam. The tendency is to measure an effect (such as temperature increase) and to attribute the entire effect to a man-made "pollutant". But the effect is in fact due to the sum of ALL pertinent "pollutants" and "NON-pollutants". For example, water vapor is a green-house gas, but, it is not listed as a "pollutant", even though there are literally clouds of it all over Earth.

True, methane is a green-house gas too, but whether used by nature or Mankind, its ultimate fate is to oxidize to carbon dioxide, another green-house gas, and usually water vapor, another green-house gas.

Samantha Richardson

I am really glad that articles like this are pointing out the importance of focusing on pollutants other than just carbon dioxide. I mean, even if we reduce CO2 emissions to zero tomorrow, we would still have a HUGE problem because of all the methane being pumped into the atmosphere.

Tanasije Rakic
Tanasije Rakic5 years ago

We should reduce ALL pollutants, and as for methane we can use it for: fuel, heating or electricity production.

Robert Garvin
Robert Garvin5 years ago

One thing I did not mention, by harnessing the Methane gas, it will cut pollution AND provide a clean gas for the generation of electricity. Seems like a good idea to me. Must see if i can work out some device to collect the human methane gas and use it for driving the car. Hopefully the smell will be burnt out of it by the time it comes out the car exhaust.

Robert Garvin
Robert Garvin5 years ago

Aha, it's the money thing. It might be harder to tax the methane challenge and would take a bit more work to do something about it. Nope, lets stick with taxing heavily on the CO2. Its much easier for Governments to control and send businesses broke paying the unequal tax. As for giving it back to the people with hand outs, here is exactly what is going to happen over a period of time.

When the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great. But when government takes all the reward away, very few will try or want to succeed.
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.
(substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian5 years ago

Hi Jim :)

Sorry about the late reply. I didn't mean that methane itself is good for many organisms. It is just an inevitable result of a process which converts trash to food and is, in total, good.

Vicki P.
Victoria P5 years ago

Thanks to all...

pam w.
pam w5 years ago

PLEASE! Can we recognize that this is NOT a one-tool problem?

Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy5 years ago

Yes lets focus on the other cause but don't give up the CO2 struggle!