From The Economist: 21 February 2011 – THE planet-wide industrial exhalation of previously fossilised carbon is not the only way that humans are changing the Earth’s climate. There are other greenhouse gases, other atmospheric pollutants, the effects of cutting down forests, and more: together these things may contribute almost as much as carbon emissions to global warming. In the face of an international inability to put the sort of price on carbon use that would drive its emission down, an increasing number of policy wonks, and the politicians they advise, are taking a more serious look at these other factors as possible ways of controlling climate change.

Three things make these alternative approaches attractive by comparison. The first is that the emission of carbon dioxide is a fundamental part of today’s industrial infrastructure. The same is not true for, say, HFC-134a, a gas with various industrial uses that delivers more than 1,000 times more warming than carbon dioxide, mass for mass. Something peripheral for which alternatives can be readily found is easier and cheaper to do without than something at the heart of industrial life.

Second, the benefits of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions can seem abstract and far-off. In contrast, reducing emissions of the sooty particles known as black carbon, which are given off by inefficient combustion in cooking fires and brick kilns, and by dodgy diesel engines, offers rapid, huge and tangible public-health benefits (see article).  Controlling black carbon by giving poor people cleaner ways to burn various fuels could not only forestall a decade or two of global warming, it would also save hundreds of thousands of lives currently blighted by smoke and disease. Read more

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