Earth’s climate is warming as a result of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel combustion. Anthropogenic emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrous oxide and ozone-depleting substances (largely from sources other than fossil fuels), also contribute significantly to warming. Some non-CO2 greenhouse gases have much shorter lifetimes than CO2, so reducing their emissions offers an additional opportunity to lessen future climate change. Although it is clear that sustainably reducing the warming influence of greenhouse gases will be possible only with substantial cuts in emissions of CO2, reducing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions would be a relatively quick way of contributing to this goal.
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We acknowledge discussions with P. Tans and J. Daniel, updates to data published in ref. 33 from J. Elkins, G. Dutton and T. Conway, and technical assistance from C. Siso and B. Miller. This work was supported in part by the Atmospheric Composition and Climate Program and the Carbon Cycle Program of NOAA’s Climate Program Office.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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