January 19, 2012

Simple measures could go a long way

Anyone who follows news about climate change knows that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of trapped heat in the Earth’s atmosphere which causes temperatures to rise.   But a group of our scientific colleagues have published a study which says simple, low-cost ways to cut methane and soot (a.k.a. “black carbon”) emissions could slow rising temperatures, boost crop production, and save lives.

The Washington Post covered the study, which found that

[J]ust 14 interventions — such as eliminating wood-burning stoves, dampening emissions from diesel vehicles and capturing methane released from coal mines — would offer big benefits.

This is, of course, easier said than done, considering that three billion people — nearly half the world’s population relies on stoves that send soot into the air. (We’ve seen these kinds of stoves all over Central and Latin America in our studies; a New York Times article several years ago reported that soot in developing countries is responsible for up to 18% of global warming.

This solar cooker is an inexpensive and wood-saving alternative for preparing food.

Solar cookers, such as the one pictured above, are a great alternative, but are occasionally slow to catch on with traditonally-minded villagers who prefer the familiarity of a fire.

Other practices touted by the study include plowing agricultural waste under in developing nations, instead of burning it, as is customary practice, which would cost next to nothing.

Our colleagues (an international team of 24) ran computer simulations that showed cutting methane and soot in the air would slow global warming by almost one degree Fahrenheit by the mid-2100s.  And better air quality would help prevent lung and cardiovascular diseases, saving “anywhere from 700,000 to 4.7 million lives annually.”  Not to mention ocean, plant, and animal life (ahem).

Even if all these practices were immediately implemented, CO2 would still be the world’s biggest problem, and the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from China, the U.S., India, and the European Union.

And that may be the most difficult change of all to implement.


  • Featured Video

    No matching videos
    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
    Click here to comment!