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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid