UN: Reducing methane and black carbon could give climate temporary quick fix
A new UN report concentrates on the warming effects of black carbon (soot) and ground-level ozone like methane. Both are considered “short-lived climate forcers”, which have more immediate effects on temperatures than CO2. Therefore limiting their production would also have a more immediate impact on the climate.
In the past this strategy has been largely ignored in favor of plans to limit CO2 emissions, which have so far proved ineffective and lack the immediacy of results that can be so problematic in terms of politics and public opinion.
The Guardian reports:
Soot is a particular problem because when it falls on snow and ice it darkens the surface, increasing the absorption of sunlight, in turn hastening the melting process. Black carbon has been shown to have a dramatic effect in the rapid melting of the Arctic, and affects the water cycle in regions such as the Himalayas.
But the limiting of black carbon is doable as well as beneficial for human health.
Slash and burn agriculture, heavily polluting vehicles and organic material or coal-fired stoves in developing countries cause health problems like cardio-pulmonary diseases. Therefore clean burning stoves in poor areas are win-win for the climate and local populations.
From an article in the Washington Post
To reduce ground-level ozone, including methane, the study recommends upgrading wastewater treatment, controlling methane emissions from livestock and reducing gas emissions from long-distance pipelines.
Ground level ozone also pollutes water, kills crops and has adverse impacts on health.
Limiting both soot and methane may be a stopgap solution for climate change and fail to address long-term warming caused by CO2, but it will allow more time for progress on the CO2 front as well as have an immediate impact on human and environmental health.