Action to Curb 'Soot' and 'Smog' Pollution Could Help Limit Global Temperature Rise
Multiple Benefits Include Improved Air Quality and Human Health, Higher Crop Yields, Reduced Rate of Climate Change in the Near-Term and a Chance to Slow Serious Melting of the Arctic
New UNEP-WMO Assessment Complements Urgent Action Needed to Cut CO2 Emissions Under UN Climate Treaty
Bonn, 14 June 2011 - Fast action on pollutants such as black carbon, ground level ozone and methane may help limit near term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and perhaps even 1.5 degrees, a new assessment says.
Protecting the near-term climate is central to significantly cutting the risk of "amplified global climate change" linked with rapid and extensive loss of Arctic ice on both the land and at sea.
Fast action might also reduce losses of mountain glaciers linked in part with black carbon deposits while reducing projected warming in the Arctic over the coming decades by two thirds.
The scientists behind the assessment, coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), also point to numerous public health and food security opportunities above and beyond those linked with tackling climate change.
Big cuts in emissions of black carbon will improve respiratory health; reduce hospital admissions and days lost at work due to sickness, says the assessment whose Secretariat is provided by the Stockholm Environment Institute. Indeed close to 2.5 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution could on average be avoided annually world-wide by 2030 with many of those lives saved being in Asia, it is estimated.
Big cuts in ground level ozone could also contribute to reduced crop damage equal to between one to four per cent of the annual global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production.
Cutting these so-called 'short-lived climate forcers' can have immediate climate, health and agricultural benefits, the report concludes. This is because, unlike carbon dioxide (CO2) which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries black carbon for example only persists for days or weeks.
The researchers however also underline the fact that while fast action on black carbon and ground level ozone could play a key role in limiting near-term climate, immediate and sustained action to cut back CO2 is crucial if temperature rises are to be limited over the long-term.