Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Only fast action can curb planetary heating in time

January 29, 2021

By Professor V. Ramanathan, Representative. Scott Peters (D-California) and Durwood Zaelke. 

Curbing CO2 emissions gets most of the attention and getting to net zero emissions by midcentury is essential in the long run to abate climate change. But that’s not enough. To bend the warming curve, we must drastically reduce the less appreciated short-lived “super-pollutants” — mostly methane, HFCs coolants, and black carbon soot. Together, these pollutants, along with the ozone in the lower atmosphere caused by them, are responsible for at least 40 percent of the warming that is happening right now. The need to get them under control is the more immediate and most urgent.

Methane, HFCs, black carbon soot, and lower atmosphere ozone are called super pollutants because they are such potent trappers of the earth’s heat. Per ton, methane and ozone have about 90 times the warming effect of CO2. And HFCs and black carbon soot have about 2,000 times the warming effect of CO2.

The good news is that their lifespans in the atmosphere are about 10 to 1000 times shorter than CO2. That means that the effect of reducing them is more immediate atmospheric cooling. The faster cooling of the atmosphere from reducing super pollutants is itself critical, and it has two important co-benefits…

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Originally published by The Hill, 27 January 2021.