News / Science & Technology

    World Bank Calls for Soot, Methane Reduction

    Report: Short-lived Pollutants Accelerate Climate Changei
    X
    November 16, 2013 12:56 AM
    Officials from 192 countries meeting in Warsaw, Poland this week are taking steps to craft a United Nations treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate agreement that expired last year. While talks are expected to lead to a new treaty by 2015, a new World Bank report advocates action now. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, it calls for the reduction of shorter-lived pollutants - as a way to slow the pace of climate change and save lives.
    Report: Short-lived Pollutants Accelerate Climate Change
    Rosanne Skirble
    A new World Bank report calls for the reduction of shorter-lived pollutants, such as soot and methane, that could slow the pace of climate change and save lives. 

    A warmer planet creates the conditions for more intense and extreme weather, like the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last week, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

    “This is not going to be a one off event," said Rachel Kyte, vice president for Sustainable Development at the World Bank. "The intensity and frequency of storms as a result of climate change is very clear from the climate science and the evidence and is something that many countries will have to prepare for.”

    The World Bank's new report, On Thin Ice, deals with the cryosphere, the planet's perpetually frozen places: the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Andes and the Himalayas. 

    There, temperatures are rising at more than twice the global rate. Glaciers are receding, ice sheets are melting and the permafrost is thawing.

    (File Photo) A villager cooks dinner on a cook stove in Koh Kong province, west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.(File Photo) A villager cooks dinner on a cook stove in Koh Kong province, west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
    x
    (File Photo) A villager cooks dinner on a cook stove in Koh Kong province, west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
    (File Photo) A villager cooks dinner on a cook stove in Koh Kong province, west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

    “We’re seeing catastrophic change potentially in these regions," Kyte said. "If the ice of the Himalayas disappears, there are billions of people that depend on that ice cap for water and for livelihoods, and so we need to worry a lot about the amount of black carbon and methane that we’re putting up into the atmosphere.” 

    While most attention is focused on carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for millennia, the World Bank report calls for reducing shorter-lived pollutants.

    Methane - from livestock, mining operations and landfills - dissipates after about 12 years. Black carbon, or soot, from open-fire cook stoves stays in the air for just days or weeks. Kyte says they speed up warming, and acting quickly to reduce them can lessen the burden they cause. 

    “Six million people today die every year from outdoor and indoor air pollution," she said. "So if we were to change cooking methods, if we were to clean up emissions from old cars and from diesel engines, we could save six million lives and we could slow the rate at which climate change is coming.”

    Those actions and others, like reducing open field and forest burning and capturing gas from landfills, can buy time for nations to adapt. Scientists agree that the planet is heading for a two-degree Celsius warming above pre-industrial times by 2020, a threshold that raises the risk of more severe weather and rising seas.

    A farmer burns a paddy field to clear the land for a new crop in Thailand's Nakhonsawan province, north of Bangkok July 21, 2013.A farmer burns a paddy field to clear the land for a new crop in Thailand's Nakhonsawan province, north of Bangkok July 21, 2013.
    x
    A farmer burns a paddy field to clear the land for a new crop in Thailand's Nakhonsawan province, north of Bangkok July 21, 2013.
    A farmer burns a paddy field to clear the land for a new crop in Thailand's Nakhonsawan province, north of Bangkok July 21, 2013.
    Representatives from 192 countries meeting in Warsaw, Poland, this week are taking steps to craft a United Nations treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the global climate agreement that expired last year. Talks are expected to lead to a new treaty by 2015, and Kyte advises the negotiators to take note.

    “While we negotiate and while we deal with the really difficult political economy, of who is going to agree to do what, there are so many things that we can be doing that are affordable, that are achievable, and that if they happen and we start to see the change, they will build confidence,” she said.

    Kyte is encouraged by a growing coalition, which includes the United States, Arctic nations, and quickly industrializing African countries like Ghana and Nigeria, aimed at addressing short-term climate pollutants.

    “Those governments coming together with institutions like ourselves, the United Nations Environment Program, the International Cryosphere Association, but then also with civil society and the private sector saying, ‘We don’t have to wait for an international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. We can take action now on black carbon. We can take action now on methane, and we have a measurable impact in a very short period of time,'” she said.  

    The World Bank and the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative will present its report, On Thin Ice, at the U.N. climate change meeting in Warsaw.

    • Frozen areas of the planet, like the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, are warming at twice the global average. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Black carbon or soot in the atmosphere accelerates ice melt on Columbia Glacier, Alaska, as documented by the Extreme Ice Survey time lapse cameras. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Aerial view of melt water on Greenland Ice Sheet, which has experienced significant loss in recent years, and is likely to contribute significantly to sea level rise. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • On Greenland’s ice sheet, silt and soot blown from afar absorb solar heat and melt down into the ice. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Disko Bay, Greenland, where remains of the Ilulissat Glacier float toward the North Atlantic. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Icebergs, Ilulissat Isfjord, Greenland. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Aerial view of meltwater on the Greenland Ice Sheet. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Icebergs from Jökulsárlón, Iceland, break into small chucks like these so-called ice diamonds, which contribute, drop by drop, to the rise of global sea level. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Birthday Canyon, Greenland Ice Sheet, Greenland. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)
    • Greenland Ice Sheet melt water on the ice surface re-works windblown dust and soot into thick deposits. (James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey)

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.