News / Health

Study: Slow Global Warming by Cutting Soot, Methane

Old-style wood stoves like this one can still be found in U.S. homes.
Old-style wood stoves like this one can still be found in U.S. homes.
Rosanne Skirble

An international team of scientists says global warming can be slowed in the short term by focusing less on carbon dioxide and more on the emission of methane and soot.

Carbon dioxide emissions produced by burning fossil fuels are the major cause of global warming, so efforts to combat climate change have focused on ways to cut CO2 releases. But according to the new study published this week in the journal Science, a quicker and more effective strategy would be to reduce emissions of other, shorter-lived air pollutants. The measures would not just slow climate change, but also boost crop yields, save money, and save lives.  

Once CO2 is released into the atmosphere, it remains there for decades, while other global-warming pollutants such as methane and black carbon, or soot, do not. Soot is a byproduct of inefficient burning, a big problem in developing countries with cook stoves using wood, dung or coal.  Soot stays in the air for only a few days. Methane, a gas released from landfills, farms, mines and natural gas wells, stays in the atmosphere for about a decade.  

Researchers analyzed 2,000 existing pollution control measures for the two pollutants to determine which would be most effective in both slowing global warming and cleaning up the air.

Drew Shindell, a climate scientist with NASA, the U.S. space agency, led the analysis. In an interview with the journal Science, he pointed to the control measures that ranked at the top of the list.  

For methane, he said, that means “… capturing leaks from pipelines and storage tanks, capturing instead of either releasing or flaring off methane that is produced naturally in coal mining, and in oil and gas production, and capturing methane from city landfills.

Measures to reduce black carbon, also known as BC, focused largely on controlling soot emissions from diesel engines and switching to cleaner burning cook stoves.

“So regions where you are reducing BC [black carbon], where the sources are especially large in Asia, especially south Asia and also parts of Africa, those regions would tend to see the greatest benefits in both local reduction of warming and in public health,” Shindell said.

Adopting such controls could avoid between 700,000 and 4.7 million premature deaths, the study estimates, and save one-third of a million lives in India and China alone.  

Shindell said the measures are cost effective. For example, profits from captured methane from a mining operation or landfill could boost the economy and protect public health.  

“Typically the benefits [come from] reduced damage to agriculture and to health," he said. "And if you value the climate benefits as well, these more than offset the cost. If you invest $50 million and get $70 million back, we think it’s a great idea.”

Control measures would also increase the annual yields of major crops by as much as 135 million metric tons. And Shindell said other effects would begin immediately.

“So for something like black carbon, one of the things that it will do is disrupt the hydrologic cycle," he said. "So as soon as you stop emitting it, the same week, the atmosphere responds and you would have a educed disruption of rainfall patterns, staring virtually immediately.”

Under the methane and black carbon reduction scenario, the study predicts fewer droughts in southern Europe and parts of Africa, and less severe monsoons in Asia. And implementing this strategy could shave a half degree off the expected 1.2 degree Celsius rise in global mean temperature now expected over the next four decades.

Shindell says that while carbon dioxide emissions must be addressed in the long-term, these short-term measures that impact both climate change and public health are worth taking now.


You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid