A group of scientists have recently published a paper that outlines 14 ways to clean our air quickly. Want to know the best part? They claim the methods would pay for themselves in the long run by reducing global warming, increasing crop yields, and saving lives.
While it is common knowledge that stopping emissions of short-lived pollutants like soot and methane is the best way to drastically reduce their concentration, what has not been agreed upon is how to control those emissions without losing money.
Together, a group of 24 scientists decided to use technology to come up with the best possible answer. They used a simple model to screen around 400 known pollution control methods. After ranking the methods by how much they reduced global warming, the researchers examined the “good” the control methods would do if implemented around the world from 2010 to 2030.
Two scenarios were selected and explored with different combinations of methane and soot controls. By calculating the chemical compositions of the atmosphere, as well as the effect on the climate, the scientists were able to use these results to estimate potential impacts to health and agriculture.
The researchers were pleased to find that the benefits of controlling both methane and soot emissions turned out to be wide spread. By reducing methane emissions, global warming would be reduced by half of a degree by the year 2050, keeping temperatures below the danger level for the next 60 years, and the ozone low enough to avoid annual crop losses.
In addition, reducing soot emissions to clean up air pollution would save 700,000 to 4.7 million people from premature deaths each year.
While lead author Drew Shindell of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies admits that “fully implementing these controls in the next 20 years may be ambitious,” the researchers remain hopeful about their plans and potential resulting benefits to the planet.
The next big step, however, will be convincing governments to agree.