UPDATE: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday (Feb. 16) that the United States and five other nations will undertake a special effort to cut emissions from methane, soot and other pollutants, based largely on the findings of the study outlined below. A related SOP post is here.
Relatively cheap, simple steps using existing technologies could cut projected global warming by one degree Fahrenheit – a substantial amount — by focusing on sources of methane and soot, concludes a new study by an international team of scientists.
The study, published today in Science, suggests reducing sources of pollution could have immediate effects on the emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce the number of premature deaths from air pollution and boost crop yields. The effort would target methane escaping from coal mines, oil and natural gas operations, wastewater treatment plants and landfills, and agricultural operations; and soot from diesel-powered vehicles, burning of agricultural lands and family cookstoves, among other sources.
Carbon dioxide, a product of human fossil-fuel and biomass burning, is the major long-term driver of global warming. But the political, economic and technological challenges to reducing emissions are huge, and once in the air, CO2 remains for centuries. Methane and soot contribute to warming too, but they naturally cycle out of the air much faster—and there are already immediate ways available to deal with them, say the authors.
“Ultimately, we have to deal with CO2, but dealing with these pollutants is more doable, and it brings fast benefits,” said lead author Drew Shindell, a researcher at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
(This post is adapted from the full story by EI’s chief science writer, Kevin Krajick.)
Read more about the new research:
Link to Study in Science
Link to UNEP/WMO Assessment Report
Interview with Drew Shindell