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First aid for the planet: Five measures that reduce CO2 emissions quickly


The world has little time for climate change in the big transformation. There are measures that bring a lot quickly: Five ideas for the fight against global warming.

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Reporting on climate change is one of the major journalistic challenges of our time. The climate crisis is also one of the most important issues of humanity for SPIEGEL. For this reason, we support an international initiative that seeks to take a look this week: "Covering Climate Now" has been initiated by the Columbia Journalism Review and the Canadian newspaper "The Nation", with more than 200 media companies worldwide including the Guardian, El PaĆ­s, La Repubblica, The Times of India, Bloomberg or Vanity Fair. SPIEGEL is dedicating the cover story of the current issue to the climate crisis this week and every day pays special attention to

The most effective way to protect the climate is the end of coal power plants. Everything else that the Grand Coalition is currently debating costs a lot of time and money: conversion to e-cars, better insulation in buildings, less meat consumption, the reforestation of forests. But to reach the global climate goals, according to the UN Climate Council, global emissions must fall by 45 percent between 2010 and 2030.

Climate protection must therefore be quick, scientists warn. In fact, there are ideas on how emissions could decline relatively quickly and, first of all, with simple measures.

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1. Reduction of methane emissions from the gas and oil industry:

Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes about 80 times more to global warming than CO2 in the short term. A quarter of the current warming is due to methane emissions caused by humans. The industry could save "half of these emissions without higher costs," says Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency (EIA). In the long term, that would be as good for the climate as "freeing exhaust gases from half of all cars currently driving around the world."

2. Combat soot and other pollutants:

  • The replacement of wood and coal stoves, especially in developing countries, in favor of efficient wood pellet, biomass or coal-brick pellets would clean the air, reduce disease and slow down warming. The "Clean Air Coalition" of states and companies in conjunction with the UN Environment Agency Unep promotes "16 cost-effective measures" to combat "short-lived climate polluters" (SLCP). These include, among other things, more efficient industrial furnaces, filters for diesel vehicles, less methane from agriculture, such as rice fields and fertilizers, or better waste and wastewater regulations. The full implementation could "prevent warming up to 0.5 degrees by 2030", the initiative explains.
  • 3. Better coolant against heating :
  • Fluorocarbons (HFCs) have long been considered a substitute for the ozone killers CFCs, which were banned in the 1987 Montreal Protocol. HFCs protect the ozone layer, but heat up the atmosphere. In early 2019, the "Kigali Amendment" to the Montreal Protocol came into force, with which also HFCs over the next 30 years to 80 percent will be replaced. If this succeeds, the atmosphere will be spared warming by 0.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.
  • 4. Better wet than hot:
  • Large peatlands worldwide store huge amounts of carbon. Peat soils cover only three percent of the land area, but store twice as much carbon as all forests that cover 30 percent of the area. The largest wetlands are in Indonesia, the Congo Basin, but also in the permafrost of Russia and in Europe. If they are drained or even ignited, a lot of climate gas escapes. According to the Global Peatland Initiative, led by the UN, these emissions can account for up to five percent of global CO2 emissions. When the moors get wet again, the threat to the global climate ends.

5. Less state aid for fossils:

The biggest contributors to climate change could be the nations of the world - simply by spending less. For governments worldwide are providing $ 5.2 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels annually, the World Monetary Fund has calculated. Eighty-five percent of government aid goes to the oil and coal industries. If these tax dollars were not spent to ruin the climate, global CO2 emissions would be 28 percent lower, states would have 3.8 percent more money, and there would be much less lost years due to air pollution, the IMF notes.

However, all these ideas for a "quick fix" should not tempt one to hold back on reducing CO2 emissions, warns the "Clean Air Coalition": "The implementation of measures to control short-lived climate polluters does not buy us Time to fight CO2 emissions, "they warn.

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Scientists, too, see the danger that focusing on fast-acting measures could divert attention away from the major changes that would be needed for real climate protection. "Action against short-term climate pollution must complement and not be a substitute for early and determined CO2 reduction," wrote a group of climate science scientists. "Early action on SLCPs does not allow more time to reduce emissions."

Source: spiegel

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