A study by scientists at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration found that cutting emissions of other gases, including methane and nitrous oxide, could slow anticipated changes in climate.
"We know that recent climate change is primarily driven by carbon dioxide emitted during fossil-fuel combustion, and we know that this problem is going to be with us a long time because carbon dioxide is so persistent in the atmosphere," NOAA scientist Stephen Montzka said. "But lowering emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide could lead to some rapid changes for the better."
Some of the other chemicals have shorter lifetimes than CO2 in the atmosphere so reducing their emissions would quickly reduce their warming influence, the researchers said in a NOAA release Wednesday.
Cutting all long-lived non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent could reduce their climate warming effect substantially within a couple of decades, they said.
"The long-term necessity of cutting carbon dioxide emissions shouldn't diminish the effectiveness of short-term action. This paper shows there are other opportunities to influence the trajectory of climate change," NOAA researcher James Butler said. "Managing emissions of non-carbon dioxide gases is clearly an opportunity to make additional contributions."