WASHINGTON — An international team of scientists say they have figured out how to slow global warming in the short run and prevent millions of deaths from dirty air: Stop focusing so much on carbon dioxide.
They say the key is to reduce emissions of two powerful and fast-acting causes of global warming: methane and soot.
Scientists say carbon dioxide from fossil fuels such as coal and oil is a bigger overall cause of global warming, but reducing methane and soot offers quicker fixes.
Soot also is a big health problem, so dramatically cutting it with existing technology would save between 700,000 and 4.7 million lives each year, according to the team's research published online Thursday in the journal Science. Since soot causes rainfall patterns to shift, reducing it would cut down on droughts in southern Europe and parts of Africa and ease monsoon problems in Asia, the study says.
Two dozen scientists from around the world ran computer models of 400 different pollution-control measures and came up with 14 methods that attack methane and soot.
All 14 methods — capturing methane from landfills and coal mines, cleaning up cook stoves and diesel engines, and changing agriculture techniques for rice paddies and manure collection — are being used efficiently in many places, but aren't universally adopted, said the study's lead author, Drew Shindell of NASA.
If adopted more widely, the scientists calculate that would reduce projected global warming by 0.9 degrees by 2050.