A study suggests that instead of focusing on carbon dioxide, the main culprit in climate change, measures should be taken, using proven existing technologies, to cut methane and soot from industrial and farming processes, a release from Columbia University said Thursday.
Researchers estimate this would shave nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit off warming projected to occur by mid-century and would also avert premature deaths from air pollution and boost yields of crops.
Carbon dioxide, a product of human fossil-fuel burning, is the major long-term driver of global warming but the political, economic and technological challenges to reducing emissions are huge, researchers said.
Methane and soot also contribute to warming but in contrast to CO2, which remains in the atmosphere for centuries, they naturally cycle out of the air much faster -- and there are already ways immediately available to deal with them, the scientists say.
"Ultimately, we have to deal with CO2, but in the short term, dealing with these pollutants is more doable, and it brings fast benefits," said lead author Drew Shindell, a researcher at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Earth Institute.
Shindell and colleagues from North America, Europe, Africa, the Mideast and Asia looked at about 400 possible existing pollution control measures that might cut global warming, and found solutions that would have the most immediate effects all turned out to involve cuts in methane or soot.