Time to warm up to this study, if we want to stay cooler

A study conducted by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) has some good news for India.

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A study conducted by NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) has some good news for India, particularly about how to improve crop production and reduce premature death caused due to black carbon and methane emission.

It prescribes 14 strategies to reduce black carbon and methane emission which are known to aggravate respiratory and cardio-vascular diseases and affect agriculture. The study,  “Simultaneously mitigating near-term climate change and improving human health and food security”, done by GISS’s Drew Shindell and featured on NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center’s website, observes that reducing black carbon and methane emissions would have a quicker impact as these two pollutants circulate out of the atmosphere more quickly.

The study, which appears in the journal Science, draws attention to benefits, especially to countries like India, where traditional agricultural practices and the burning of cow-dung and wood have caused health concerns as they emit black carbon and methane. Black carbon plays an active role in absorbing solar radiation causing global warming and shift in rainfall patterns.

GISS scientists say that strategies for reducing black carbon include keeping high-emission vehicles off the roads, employing cleaner burning stoves, banning agricultural burning, which farmers resort to in the belief that it enhances agricultural production, using more efficient kilns in brick production and upgrading coke ovens.

To reduce methane emissions, the study prescribes capturing gas from coal mines and oil and natural gas facilities, preventing emissions from city landfills, updating waste water treatment plants, increasing aeration of rice paddy fields and limiting emissions from manure on farms.

Noted environmentalist AN Yellappa Reddy, who led the Karnataka high court empowered committee to recommend improving the condition of lakes in Bangalore, suggests turning these strategies into guidelines for the benefit of Indians. “There should be something done to enforce these guidelines. Coal mining activities in India have been creating problems. The environment department should take up the responsibility for implementing them. These can easily be incorporated into the Environmental Protection Act,” he says.

The GISS study estimates that the strategies, if implemented, could slow down average global warming by at least 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 and increase crop yields by up to 135 million metric tonnes per season.

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