Limiting Greenhouse Gases Beyond CO2 May Help Stop Climate Change

Limiting carbon dioxide emissions may not be the only way to fight climate change, according to the results of a new study.

In a paper published this week in Nature, scientists from NOAA found that in addition to carbon dioxide, “other greenhouse gases measurably contribute to the problem,” reports Science Daily. According to NOAA scientists Stephen Montzka, Ed Dlugokencky and James Butler, cutting emissions of these other gases could help to reduce atmospheric warming in the short term.

Gases like methane trap heat just like carbon dioxide, but don't remain in the atmosphere for as long, LiveScience explains.

The study reports that by limiting emissions of methane, along with nitrous oxide and ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons, humans may be able to make a difference relatively quickly. If methane emissions were cut immediately, results could be seen within a decade, Butler says.

There may be a chance for improvement by limiting these other greenhouse gases, but it is not a total solution. Even if these other greenhouse gases were totally eliminated, “it would not be enough to stabilize the warming influence from all greenhouse gases over the next 40 years.” That is, of course, unless carbon dioxide pollution was drastically reduced as well.

Carbon dioxide is a major contributor to climate change and it is quite persistent in the atmosphere, in some cases lingering for several thousand years. According to the researchers, it would take a reduction of 80 percent of man-made carbon dioxide emissions to diminish its “climate warming effect substantially within a couple of decades.”

Efforts to diminish carbon dioxide emissions are important for the U.S., as energy debates grow increasingly heated. Carbon dioxide emissions from power plants rose in 2010 by over 5%, the biggest annual increase since records began, and coal-fired boilers were responsible for 81% of CO2 emissions from electricity generation, according to The Environmental Integrity Project.

HuffPost blogger Erik Rasmussen says there is an “enormous reality gap between science and the public.” 97 percent of scientists believe climate change is manmade, but public opinion polls show that nearly half of Americans believe it is a natural planetary trend.

Perhaps before we can look beyond carbon dioxide emissions, the public needs to accept the general scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change.