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Forget About Carbon Dioxide!
Stop focusing exclusively on carbon dioxide and start focusing on other gases and pollutants to slow climate change. Thatís the surprising new recommendation from an increasing number of scientists and experts.

Whatís behind this new direction? First, scientists have recently determined that other agents, especially methane, are responsible for more global warming than they realized. The latest estimate is HFCs, soot (black carbon to scientists), ground-level ozone, and methane have caused roughly 50% of global warming to-date. Second, while carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, it is transparent. Other climate change drivers cause pollution as well as global warming, making them harmful to human health and the planet. For instance, ground-level ozone is a key component of smog, and black carbon leads to deadly respiratory diseases. Third, there is a growing belief that it will be easier and cheaper to reduce non-carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, there are already products and technologies available to address black carbon---they just need to be distributed and applied.

The potential to reduce non-carbon dioxide pollutants to address global warming is sparking lots of discussion, including a highly encouraging article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that predicts aggressively reducing emissions of these pollutants could hold off a climate change tipping point for several more decades.

We should think about...
  • Are we aware of our emissions of non-carbon dioxide climate change agents?
  • Should we expand our sustainability measurement and monitoring beyond tracking our carbon footprint?
Sources: Environmental Science and Technology 2009; Newsweek 2009; USA Today 2009
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