Cutting “black carbon” benefits climate change



New research by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that reducing air pollutants such as soot and methane will have immediate benefits for climate change and save millions of lives. It says cutting down on non-CO2 pollutants such as “black carbon” – also produced by burning fossil fuels – will not only result in cleaner air but play a major role in limiting global warming. The research was presented during the UNEP Governing Council, where world environment ministers are meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Bryan Coll reports.

Debate over how to tackle climate change generally focus on carbon dioxide emissions.

But new research shows that controlling the levels of ozone, methane and soot in the air will have a faster effect on reducing climate change – and improve the health of millions of people worldwide.

A major component of soot is “black carbon”. It is emitted by diesel engines, cook stoves and the burning of biomass.

When black carbon falls on snow and ice, it increases absorption of sunlight, which accelerates melting. It also disturbs rainfall and regional climate patterns

Low-level ozone, methane and black carbon are collectively known as “short-term forcers” of climate change. This is because they stay in the atmosphere for a much shorter period than carbon dioxide.

UNEP’s Bradnee Chambers says that tackling these non-CO2 emissions will also have major benefits for human heath and food security.

They are very significant particularly for those suffering from respiratory diseases, the elderly and children. Crop damage for example in the European Union from tropospheric ozone has resulted in about 6.7 billion dollars per year. You can see that there are a number of multiple benefits you can get when you tackle short-term forcers.

The UNEP report lays out several solutions.

They include introducing cleaner cook stoves and vehicles and capturing methane at rubbish dumps. Together, these steps could halve the potential increase in global temperatures projected for 2050.

According to Swedish Environment Minister, Andreas Carlgren, these actions should go hand-in-hand with measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

This will in no sense be an excuse to delay action on climate change or carbon. It’s just the possibility of adding quicker action by also acting on these short-lived climate forcers.

Researchers say implementing the proposed solutions could save 2.4 million lives.

Bryan Coll, UN Radio

duration: 2’00″

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