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Keeping the planet from being cooked
Wednesday 22 June 2011
Reducing black carbon could immediately slow global warming and save millions of lives, says a UC San Diego scientist. And simply providing cleaner-burning stoves in rural villages can help do the trick.
As governments around the world explore how to cut carbon dioxide emissions, climate science pioneer V. "Ram" Ramanathan says he has a practical solution to curb global warming right now.
Half of the global warming problem is caused by non-carbon dioxide gases and pollutants, including black carbon, and those can be cut down easily, he said at a recent lecture at the UC Office of the President in Oakland. (View the entire lecture.)
In rural villages around the world, some 3 billion people use firewood and cow dung to cook, creating destructive masses of soot and black carbon, said Ramanathan, an award-winning professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
They don’t want to destroy their environment, but they have no access to cleaner stoves or fuels. Ramanathan is showing a greener and healthier way with a research project that is replacing pollution-causing cookstoves with cleaner technology in rural India.
Cutting black carbon can have immediate climate, health and agricultural benefits, said Ramanathan. This is because, unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, black carbon for persists only for days or weeks.
Big cuts in emissions of black carbon also may improve respiratory health, he said. Close to 2.5 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution could, on average, be avoided annually worldwide by 2030. Big cuts in ground level ozone also could contribute to reducing crop damage equal to between 1 to 4 percent of the annual global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production. Read more about his research.
Ramanathan’s lecture is part of a series aimed at highlighting research conducted at UC and its contributions to solving some of the world's most pressing problems.
Others in the series, sponsored by the UC Office of Research and Graduate Studies, are below and can be viewed at www.ustream.tv/ucevents.
- UCLA professor Laurence C. Smith forecasts what our planet will be like in the year 2050.
- UCLA’s Lynn Zucker and Michael Darby on “Commercializing knowledge: UC's role in industry success.”
- UC Davis' Carolyn de la Pena discusses the fascinating history of artificial sweeteners and how this commonplace product has transformed our relationship with food.
- Eli Berman of UC San Diego talks about his book, “Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism.”
- UC Berkeley's Jay Keasling explains the emerging field of synthetic biology and research that is turning specialized molecules into life-saving drugs and clean fuels.