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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid