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Fast action on black carbon, ozone and methane could help limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees C

Global benefits from full implementation of the identified measures in 2030 compared to the reference scenario. The climate change benefit is estimated for a given year (2050) and human health and crop benefits are for 2030 and beyond. Source: UNEP. Click to enlarge.

Fast action on pollutants such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane may help limit near term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 2 °C (3.6 °F)—and perhaps even 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), according to a new assessment released today in Bonn, Germany, during a meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The researchers however also emphasize that while fast action on black carbon and ground-level ozone could play a key role in limiting near-term climate, immediate and sustained action to cut back CO2 is crucial if temperature rises are to be limited over the long-term. It is the combination of action on short-lived climate forcers and long-lived greenhouse gases which improves the chances of keeping below the 2-degree target throughout the 21st Century.

Protecting the near-term climate is central to significantly cutting the risk of amplified global climate change linked with rapid and extensive loss of Arctic ice on both the land and at sea, said assessment authors including Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate and atmospheric scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Fast action might also reduce losses of mountain glaciers linked in part with black carbon deposits while reducing projected warming by two thirds in the Arctic over the coming decades by two thirds.

The proposed measures for reducing black carbon, methane and ozone levels in the atmosphere significantly increase our chances to keep global warming below dangerous levels during this century. Some of the measures, such as improved cookstove technologies and cutting down diesel emissions of black carbon also have the fantastic co-benefit of reducing one million or more fatalities every year among women and children.

—Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a vice chair of the assessment team

The findings were compiled by an international team of more than 50 researchers chaired by Drew Shindell of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The scientists behind the assessment, coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), whose Secretariat is provided by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), also point to numerous public health and food security opportunities above and beyond those linked with tackling climate change.

Measures that improve climate change mitigation and air quality and have a large emission reduction potential
Extended pre-mine degasification and recovery and oxidation of CH4 from ventilation air from coal mines Extraction and transport of fossil fuel
Extended recovery and utilization, rather than venting, of associated gas and improved control of unintended fugitive emissions from the production of oil and natural gas
Reduced gas leakage from long-distance transmission pipeline
Separation and treatment of biodegradable municipal waste through recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion as well as landfill gas collection with combustion/utilization Waste management
Upgrading primary wastewater treatment to secondary/tertiary treatment with gas recovery and overflow control
Control of CH4 emissions from livestock, mainly through farm-scale anaerobic digestion of manure from cattle and pigs Agriculture
Intermittent aeration of continuously flooded rice paddies
BC measures (affecting BC and other co-emitted compounds)
Diesel particle filters for road and off-road vehicles Transport
Elimination of high-emitting vehicles in road and off-road transport
Replacing coal by coal briquettes in cooking and heating stoves Residential
Pellet stoves and boilers, using fuel made from recycled wood waste or sawdust, to replace current wood-burning technologies in the residential sector in industrialized countries
Introduction of clean-burning biomass stoves for cooking and heating in developing countries
Substitution of clean-burning cookstoves using modern fuels for traditional biomass cookstoves in developing countries
Replacing traditional brick kilns with vertical shaft kilns and Hoffman kilns Industry
Replacing traditional coke ovens with modern recovery ovens, including the Industry improvement of end-of-pipe abatement measures in developing countries
Ban of open field burning of agricultural waste Agriculture

Big cuts in emissions of black carbon will improve respiratory health; reduce hospital admissions and days lost at work due to sickness. Close to 2.5 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution could on average be avoided annually worldwide by 2030 with many of those lives saved being in Asia, it is estimated. Big cuts in ground level ozone could also contribute to reduced crop damage equal to between one to four percent of the annual global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production.

Cutting these short-lived climate forcers can have immediate climate, health and agricultural benefits, the report concludes. This is because, unlike carbon dioxide (CO2) which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, black carbon, for example, persists only for days or weeks.

The UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone suggests that action could be catalyzed through not only the UN climate convention process but also via, for example, strengthening existing national and regional air quality agreements.

This report has brought clarity to the complexity of the heating and cooling effects of a range of pollutants and uses the science to show that there are clear and concrete measures that can be undertaken to help protect the global climate in the short to medium term. Perhaps the most intriguing link is between emissions of methane and the formation of tropospheric ozone. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas in its own right, but it has emerged that it is also triggering a great deal more global warming by contributing to the formation of significant levels of ground level ozone-indeed more than was previously supposed. The win-win here for limiting climate change and improving air quality is self-evident and the ways to achieve it have become far clearer as a result of this assessment.

—Drew Shindell, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies

The Government of Sweden announced support for a comprehensive and forward-looking policy assessment to assist governments on the next steps towards fast action on short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs). This is in line with Sweden’s strategy on SLCFs and its policy to integrate climate change and air pollution policies. The work, to be coordinated by UNEP, is expected to be ready in advance of the next Climate Convention meeting scheduled later in the year in Durban, South Africa.



Account Deleted

The battle to prevent a 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase from increasing greenhouse gases is as good as lost. The latest annual World Energy Review from BP shows that China in 2010 became the world’s largest consumer of energy (see page 40 link below) by consuming 2432 million tons of oil equivalents compared to 2286 for the second largest consumer, namely, the USA. And China’s energy consumption expanded at a rate of no less than 11.2% from 2009 to 2010. By 2018 it is conceivable that China will double their energy consumption to 5000 million tons of oil equivalents or over two times what USA is consuming today. To make things worse China mostly relies on coal for their energy consumption and that creates the highest CO2 emission among the available fossil fuels. China will also need to double their oil consumption from 9 million barrels per day in 2010 to about 18 million barrels per day in 2018. That is a lot of new oil demand and China is not alone to demand more oil. Other developing countries are also increasing their demand for energy and oil. Massive new deepwater and arctic drilling is inevitable which will benefit mostly Western and Russian oil and gas companies as they are the only one who has the technology for that kind of drilling and also have access to these areas.

In other words, the world is changing and it is changing faster than ever before in history and global warming is also going to accelerate as a result. Hopefully, we will be able to adapt to these changes in due time because our planet will have gotten a radically new and much hotter climate by the turn of the next century.

BP report

Account Deleted

Hopefully this link will work

BP report

Henry Gibson

The massive amounts of hydrocarbon fuels in the US has allowed it to set a bad example to the world and there is no reason to blame China for continuing to set a bad example.

Germany considers itself to be so wealthy that it has and will also continue to set a bad example to the world. All of its programs have not reduced Germany's net CO2 release at all, but it continues on its program of eliminating the option of the lowest CO2 producing electrical generation systems whilst farms in the country have killed and sickened more people than Chernobyl ever did; to say nothing about its continued sales of tobacco products in the country.

The figures that show a few percent of contribution of renewable energy to the world energy supply are always biased high by long existing hydro electric projects which not only allow the greater production of methane from organic materials carried into the waters, but also have eliminated vast areas of tree and plant growth that could remove CO2 from the air. These projects have certainly destroyed the natural environment.

The expansion of cities in the US and elsewhere have destroyed large tracts of croplands and increased the demand of energy with the desire for very large air-conditioned houses for fewer people and the need for more travel to work, schools and recreations.

Perhaps ways can be developed to trigger volcanic explosions which always reduce the earth's temperatures.

The nearly forgotten remedy for global warming, the nuclear winter, is always available and may be the first practical use of fusion energy. (Much of the energy of thermonuclear (hydrogen) bombs comes from fission.) ..HG..


CH4 measures

Methane is 22 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2, better control on this can really pay off.


Yes Henrik you are right, things don't look good at all, last data show that we might be on the worse case scenario and it is scary. But reducing black soot and CH4 might be something more negotiable than reducing CO2 especially with emerging countries


Henrik is totally right. It's gone. the article hints at the effects of black carbon and the rise of methane but all that soot and carbon on ice changes the albedo and increases melt. China's thirst for coal is going to be the topper no matter the rest of everything that's gone before. Our greed to have cheaper manufactured wholesale prices sold at not so cheap prices to make the top 2% richer has put the nail in the already built coffin. The fact that these same 2% control our respective gov't's with donations and "expertice" means that nothing is going to happen to change that. The methane produced by melting permafrost around the world is going to put us over the edge and it is going to happen, like everything else, faster than we had predicted. Time to look to your own survival and that of your family and your future grandchildren because no one is going to be able to or be able to help you. The ball is rolling and it's a large one with to much inertia to stop. Over the cliff like fossil fueled lemmings.


The high cost of cheap prices.

Stan Peterson

Baloney repeated is still Bologna.

We now know the coefficient of temperature change per CO2 doubling, is down in the hundreths or at most tenths of a single degree. It is no where near the 7-10 degree change the world's Cassandras posit for their greedy exploitations.

There simply is no augmented "Water Catastrophe" induced and catylized, by trace CO2 gas increases.

Increased CO2 is greening the World as we repair the real bio-catastrophe that the Flora Kingdom had succeeded in inducing, by eating almost all the CO2 out of the atmosphere; and consequently stunting and starving themselves.


The 3 bad boys are still Canada-USA-Australia with about the top per capita pollution emission of the world. Those 3 do not have the intention to change and may even pollute more by 2020. At almost 25 tonnes p.c. we are the world's worse examples.

We cannot reduce our very high emissions by transferring more and more manufacturing facilities to Asia because our un-employment rate would rise above 10% and may even reach 20%.

We have to learn to do differently.

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