A recent NASA study completed in New York City at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) found that fourteen key air pollution control measures could not only help to curb climate change, but could improve agricultural yields and cut up to 4.7 million premature deaths worldwide if implemented. The fourteen measures were picked because of their ability to reduce either black carbon or methane globally. To further shed light on their findings, NASA has organized the data into an interactive online tool that visualizes the health, agriculture and climate stabilizing benefits.
The paper, authored by Drew Shindell of GISS, says that implementing these measures could slow the Earth’s mean global warming by .9 ºF by 2050, and increase crop yields by 135 million metric tons per season. Though black carbon and methane are not the main global warming molecule — of course carbon dioxide takes that prize — they are influential, and moreover, disappear from the atmosphere more quickly than CO2.The measures to be taken include capturing emissions from coal fired power plants as well as in gas, oil and landfill facilities, reducing leaks in long-distance pipelines, updating wastewater treatment plants, aerating rice paddies, filtering emissions from diesel vehicles, limiting high-emission vehicles, upgrading cooking stoves to burn cleaner fuel, and banning agricultural burning.
These methods and more would have a huge impact on lowering both black carbon and methane emissions worldwide. Because the two pollutants circulate out of the atmosphere quickly, implementing these controls would lead to immediate climate, health and agricultural gains. Black carbon is known to cause or worsen respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and is densest in the south Asian countries of India, Bangladesh and Nepal where most the premature deaths would be averted. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that leads to ground level ozone which causes smog and an increased thermal effect. Reducing methane, and therefore ozone, would have a huge positive agricultural effect on Iran, Pakistan and Jordan in the middle east.
In addition to the health and agricultural benefits, the south Asian region and the Sahel region in Africa would see beneficial changes to their precipitation patterns — possibly helping to eliminate disastrous droughts. Shindell also noted that added benefits like these, will make any measures taken more attractive to a wider audience.
“Protecting public health and food supplies may take precedence over avoiding climate change in most countries, but knowing that these measures also mitigate climate change may help motivate policies to put them into practice,” Shindell said.
To explore the multitude of benefits visit the online tool here.