Global warming debate hots up

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Cutting non-CO2 pollutants could buy the world a lot more time before global warming hits the critical two degrees celcius threshold, according to Nobel Laureate Dr Mario Molina.

Reducing other climate change agents such as black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), as well as expanding biochar production, could buy the world about 40 years, said the researchers.

The advice comes as the view starts gaining credence in the media that global warming may not be man-made, nor as severe as feared. The BBC's climate correspondent yesterday released a report suggesting that there could actually be 30 years of cooling to come.

Molina's team, whose paper appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), certainly has no doubts.

"By targeting these short-term climate forcers, we can make a down payment on climate and provide momentum going into the December negotiations in Copenhagen," said co-author Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. "The Obama administration and other key governments need to take up the fast-action climate agenda before it is too late."

HFC emissions could be cut right now under the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty, say the authors, and many alternatives exist.

Another fast-action strategy is reducing black carbon soot by expanding the use of diesel particulate filters for vehicles, and using clean-burning or solar cookstoves instead of burning dung and wood.

Ground level ozone is another major climate forcer, they say, and can be reduced by improving the efficiency of industrial combustion processes.

The team also recommends biochar, a stable form of carbon that can be plowed into soil where it remains for hundreds to thousands of years.

Carbon in stable form

The BBC is now being investigated by the UK's television watchdog over claims that it misrepresented the views of one of the climate change sceptics it interviewed.

Less voice is given to those who point out that all scientists can do is work their way gradually towards a more definitive answer on climate change.

"Some projections are well established, some have competing explanations, yet others are speculative," said Dr Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University Biology Professor and 2007 Collective IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

"Thus policy is a risk management judgment, just like most other complex socio-technical systems problems."