Focus on reducing short-lived methane to cool the planet faster - 16 Jun 2010  
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The US-based environmental group, Clean Air Task Force (CATF) has been researching ways to decrease both air pollution and global warming, by focusing primarily on the so-called “basket” of shorter-lived climate forcers.

According to CATF scientist Dr. Ellen Baum, reducing substances like black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane would be more effective in quickly cooling the planet than prioritizing carbon dioxide mitigation.

Dr. Ellen Baum – Researcher, Clean Air Task Force, USA; Vegetarian (F): You would get both the air quality benefit and you’d get a much faster climate response from reductions than you would get by being able to cut carbon dioxide. And we don’t seem to be cutting carbon dioxide either. 

VOICE: In particular, Dr. Baum explained why a focus on reducing human-caused methane is urgently needed. Whereas carbon dioxide can take hundreds or even thousands of years to stop heating the atmosphere, methane dissipates in a small fraction of that time.

Dr. Ellen Baum (F): Methane has a much shorter lifetime than CO2, and therefore it is something we think needs immediate attention. It’s also a precursor to tropospheric ozone, and probably one of the best ways to reduce the part of tropospheric ozone that has the most climate impact.

VOICE: Among all global human sources of methane, the livestock industry is by far the largest at 37%, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and even more in certain countries.
Dr. Baum, a vegetarian herself, explained the implications of removing this major source of planetary warming.

Dr. Ellen Baum (F): If we ate no meat, it would have a beneficial effect on the climate in all sorts of ways. You would have a much smaller population of ruminant livestock, so you wouldn’t have methane emissions.
You wouldn’t have to have the conversion of land to grazing land so that you would have beef operations. So, I don’t have any question if the whole population worldwide, 7 billion people stopped eating meat, it would make a difference.

VOICE: Dr. Baum and Clean Air Task Force, we appreciate your efforts in calling attention to these atmospheric agents that account significantly toward global warming. May we all do our part to curb such harmful effects through the simple and humane change to meat-free fare.

Supreme Master Ching Hai has frequently advocated a focus on eliminating short-lived greenhouse gases like methane, as during an interview published in the December 16, 2009 edition of The Irish Dog Journal.

Supreme Master Ching Hai: Methane, the potent, greenhouse gas whose largest human-created source is the livestock industry, traps a hundred times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Until now most studies used the fact that methane is 23 times more heat trapping than CO2, over 100 years, which gives a less accurate picture about methane in its actual life span.

Therefore, the powerful methane is actually a greater cause of the warming than previously estimated. The good news is that methane dissipates from the atmosphere in approximately 12 years, whereas it takes carbon dioxide thousands of years to disappear.

So, if we want to make a rapid, effective difference now, we must stop the methane generation at its largest, original source: that is, the livestock industry.