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Carbon dioxide is the main driver of global warming, but it doesn’t act alone. Pollutants such as methane and soot also play a part, although they have very different impacts from CO2.
While CO2 lingers in the atmosphere, the so-called short-lived pollutants mostly disappear within weeks — or a few years at most.
Targeting policies at phasing out short-lived pollutants such as methane or soot can improve human health in places where people still burn kerosene for cooking and lighting. But this risks diverting resources away from efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, which will irreparably damage the planet in the long term.
Which category should policymakers focus on mitigating first? In this audio piece, two experts with different points of view examine the dilemma.