Nasa scientists have told government’s that a simple cut in worldwide emissions of soot could lead to a dramatic reduction in the effects of global warming, as well as preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths from air pollution.
Soot contains black carbon, thought to be the second largest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide. Whilst airborne, it it spread around the globe by wind, heating the atmosphere by absorbing and releasing warmth from the sun’s rays. When it falls to the surface it also darkens snow and ice in polar regions or high mountain ranges, further reducing the Earth’s ability to reflect solar radiation.
Cutting soot emissions has a virtually instantaneous effect since it disappears rapidly from the earth’s atmosphere, unlike CO2, which can linger for hundreds of years.
The NASA study, carried out by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. It predicts that slashing soot emissions would provide ”substantial benefits for air quality while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation” and ”may present a unique opportunity to engage parties and nations not yet fully committed to climate change mitigation for its own sake”.
As actions to tackle climate change reach a critical stage this year, with tough negotiations planned on the next phase of the Kyoto protocol, the NASA strategy could emerge as a welcome option for many government’s, wary of reducing emissions in other ways for fear of damaging economic growth or recovery.
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