New report identifies cost-effective measures to tackle climate change

November 30, 2011

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A Murdoch University Professor is the only lead Australian author of a new report that identifies 16 measures that could save 2.4 million lives a year; avoid losses of four major crops amounting to 32 million tonnes annually and deliver near-term climate protection of about half a degree Celsius by 2040.

A range of compelling, and in many cases highly cost-effective options for fast action on several air pollutants, black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone are outlined in the report: Near-term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits: Actions for Controlling Short-Lived Climate Forcers.

The research was convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and involved scientists from across the globe, including Associate Professor Frank Murray from Murdoch University who outlined the sustainable development opportunities for acting on air emissions.

“Our report focuses on three emissions – black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane – because reducing them will provide significant benefits through improved air quality and a slowing of near-term climate change,” Professor Murray said.

“If we take fast action we will not only avoid 2.4 million premature deaths from outdoor pollution annually by 2030 but we could assist in avoiding annual losses of wheat, rice, maize and soybean of about 32 million tones a year.

“Early and sustained action on short-lived climate forcers could also slow the increase in near-term global warming by around 0.4°C by 2050, assisting the international community in meeting a target of keeping a temperature rise to 2°C or less during the 21st century.”

Professor Murray said Australia should concentrate on reducing burning of crop residues, woodlands and forests, and reducing emissions of methane from gas and coal production, gas pipelines and landfill.

“In many cases, taking action to reduce methane production saves, rather than costs money,” he said.

Professor Murray has outlined some key measures that could be suitable for inclusion in an Australian action plan:

  • strengthening national regulations for coal, oil and gas industries to implement methane mitigation measures;
  • strengthening support measures for recovery of methane from coal mining operations;
  • strengthening support measures for recovery of methane from landfill, including separation of waste streams;
  • creating and enforcing regulations to ban the open burning of agricultural wastes;
  • and strengthening support measures for alternative uses for agricultural wastes.

Background information

–        The report was produced in close cooperation with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), who coordinated an international team of about 30 authors. The report was also reviewed by about 50 international experts.

–        The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP's mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

Media contact: Hayley Mayne
Tel: (08) 9360 2491  |  Mobile: 0400 297 221  |  Email: h.mayne@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: General, Research
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