To control climate change, the world needs to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions and control lesser-known pollutants, such as nitrous oxide, which plays a key role in global warming, new research suggests.
For decades, global climate has been the focus of discussion on CO2 emissions, the highest in the atmosphere. The general goal of reaching “net-zero” emissions often refers to CO2 emissions alone.
Over the past year, more than 100 countries have pledged to reduce emissions from methane by 30% by 2030, another carbon-based greenhouse gas that is much more powerful at trapping heat than CO2. Most of the countries have not yet said how they will meet this deadline.
In the meantime, very little attention has been paid to other heat pollutants, including black carbon, also called glass, which absorb radiating heat, as well as hydrofluorocarbons and nitrous oxides found in refrigerants. However, these contaminants, along with methane, are responsible for almost half of the warming seen today, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal.
“When we’re worried about the near future …
This is especially important because countries are trying to reduce CO2 by reducing their fossil fuel consumption, which is still considered a major contributor to global warming. Using less fossil fuels will result in less air pollution, which includes airborne sulfates that actually reflect solar radiation away from the Earth and prevent some climate change.
Scientists say these sulfates mask a temperature of about 0.5 degrees Celsius that can be seen without them, which means that aggressive climate action temperatures can temporarily jump higher – unless even less pollutants are dealt with.
The only way to decarbonize is that by 2045 the planet will violate pre-industrial temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius, the study found.
Conversely, if all climate pollutants were curbed together, the Earth could begin to avoid some warming by early 2030 and halve the warming rate between 2030 and 2050, the results show.
“This groundbreaking paper should lead to a major rethink of global goals,” said Yuan Nisbet, a climate scientist at Royal Hallway University of London, who was not involved in the study. “If we don’t reduce the non-CO2 temperature, we cook.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)