Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cuts in methane, soot emissions quickly save lives, climate, crops

Environment News Service: Reducing emissions of black carbon and methane into the atmosphere could slow climate change, increase crop yields and prevent hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year, finds new NASA-led research published today.

Carbon dioxide is the primary driver of climate change over the long term, because it remains in the atmosphere 200 to 300 years. The scientists say reducing black carbon and methane emissions would have a more immediate impact because these two pollutants circulate out of the atmosphere more quickly than CO2. Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of about 12 years, while black carbon falls to the ground within a few days.

While all regions of the world would benefit, countries in Asia and the Middle East would see the biggest health and agricultural gains from emissions reductions, says lead researcher Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

"We've shown that implementing specific practical emissions reductions chosen to maximize climate benefits would also have important win-win benefits for human health and agriculture," said Shindell. The research was published today in the journal "Science."

The new study builds on a United Nations Environment Program-World Meteorological Organization report published in February 2011, also led by Dr. Shindell, which indicated that reducing emissions of black carbon and methane could slow the rate of climate change over the next 50 years.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said of the newest findings, "The scientific case for fast action on these so-called 'short-lived climate forcers' has been steadily built over more than a decade, and this study provides further focused and compelling analysis of the likely benefits at the national and regional level."...

A paella being cooked on a wood fire in the middle of a Valencia street. Shot by Chamaeleon, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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