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January 17, 2012

New York Times gets behind fixing Soot as a major climate change mitigation first step

NY Times gets behind a proposal to fix soot and methane as the faster way to address climate change while also improving public health.

Science - Simultaneously Mitigating Near-Term Climate Change and Improving Human Health and Food Security

Tropospheric ozone and black carbon (BC) contribute to both degraded air quality and global warming. We considered ~400 emission control measures to reduce these pollutants by using current technology and experience. We identified 14 measures targeting methane and BC emissions that reduce projected global mean warming ~0.5°C by 2050. This strategy avoids 0.7 to 4.7 million annual premature deaths from outdoor air pollution and increases annual crop yields by 30 to 135 million metric tons due to ozone reductions in 2030 and beyond. Benefits of methane emissions reductions are valued at $700 to $5000 per metric ton, which is well above typical marginal abatement costs (less than $250). The selected controls target different sources and influence climate on shorter time scales than those of carbon dioxide–reduction measures. Implementing both substantially reduces the risks of crossing the 2°C threshold.

Nextbigfuture has been calling for action on black carbon (soot) and other air pollution for years. I am glad that it is finally being addressed.

It has been listed as the biggest technologies for addressing greenhouse gas emission.

Soot causes 40% of the worlds warming and fixing soot would be the fastest impact on global temperatures. Soot is in and out of the atmosphere in weeks but carbon dioxide is there for decades.

Reductions in low-level ozone and black carbon would yield lots of benefits long before 2050. Because people would be breathing cleaner air, 700,000 to 4.7 million premature deaths would be avoided each year. Thanks to improved crop yields, farmers would produce at least 30 million more metric tons of food annually.

Dealing with soot is a win for the countries who do it as it saves the lives of their people and lowers health costs. It pays for itself and is not a sacrifice. Carbon dioxide mitigations as they have been presented are calls to lower economic growth. There are ways to address carbon dioxide emissions that do not sacrifice economic growth but those ideas have also not been promoted. The environmental movement has been focused on using carbon dioxide mitigation as a tool to force slower economic growth and to promote technologies that they prefer.

Making small modular factory mass produced breeder reactors and getting a lot of uranium is not a solution that they like. Even though that is a path which could also be implemented over the 30-50 year timeframe of their own plan and set the stage for a world economy that could be 100 times larger while still fixing the climate. There can also be cement that absorbs carbon dioxide instead of releasing it. The pro-growth solutions to climate change have been ignored. They seem to be too technical for some people and some who do understand it have a bias to solar and wind power versus nuclear power and green cement.

The technocrats in China do understand it and are on the path to implementation.




“The beauty of these pollution-control measures is that over five to 10 years they pay for themselves in the developing world,” says Drew Shindell, the lead author of the proposal, who is a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and at Columbia University. “They slow global warming, but there are local benefits, too. If you make black carbon reductions in China or India, you get most of the benefits in China or India.”

These pollution-control policies aren’t especially controversial — even Republicans hostile to environmentalists have supported research into black carbon — but neither have they have been especially popular. Mainstream environmental groups haven’t put them on the agenda. One reason is the lack of glamour: Encouraging villagers to use diesel engine filters and drain their rice paddies is less newsworthy than negotiating a global treaty on carbon at a United Nations conference.

Dealing with the short-lived pollutants might really be a way to bridge some of the differences, both between the two sides in the United States and between the developed and the developing world.”

No matter what people think about global warming, there aren’t a lot of fans of dirty snow, poor crops and diseased lungs.

32 pages of supporting material

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