Jim Tankersley writes for the Los Angeles Times,
Reporting from Copenhagen – International negotiators are quietly making progress here on steps to reduce “stealth” pollutants that contribute to climate change, including soot, refrigerants and methane gas, which together account for nearly as much greenhouse gas pollution as carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide, of course, is the poster gas for global warming. Disagreements over how to reduce its emission from cars, factories and power plants have dominated the Copenhagen climate talks so far.
But carbon dioxide accounts for only half the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. And while top leaders postured and negotiated over a host of issues related to carbon emissions in the first week of the summit here, behind the scenes diplomats have worked toward compromises on a few simple strategies to reduce the other pollutants that cause global warming.
Those sources include so-called black carbon, soot from incompletely burned fossil fuels and biomass, including that produced by ships and cooking stoves that collects in the atmosphere and on ice and prevents sunlight from being reflected back into space; hydrofluorocarbon chemicals, known as HFCs, used in refrigerators and air conditioners worldwide; and methane, which emanates from coal mines and landfills.
Many scientists and environmentalists say reducing the “forgotten 50%” of pollutants will be faster, easier and substantially cheaper than cutting carbon dioxide, and could buy the world time in its climate clock race.
“We can eliminate — not just cut — one of the six greenhouse gases this week,” said Durwood Zaelke, a longtime environmental lawyer who is president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. “This can buy us more than a decade of delay” against the worst effects of climate change, he said.