Default image for pages

Climate change poses an existential threat to humankind. The intertwined nature of climate change and human rights becomes apparent as we witness the adverse effects on various dimensions of human life. To address the climate emergency, we must slow down the rate of warming as much as possible as quickly as possible. Only a dual strategy to reduce both non-carbon dioxide super climate pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) can keep global temperatures within safe limits and protect human rights for present and future generations. This Brief outlines how the climate emergency is a challenge of temperature, tipping points, and time.

Also available in Spanish and Portuguese.

By phasing out production and consumption of most ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol) has avoided consequences of increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation and will restore stratospheric ozone to pre-1980 conditions by mid-century, assuming compliance with the phaseout. However, several studies have documented an unexpected increase in emissions and suggested unreported production of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) and potentially other ODSs after 2012 despite production phaseouts under the Montreal Protocol. Furthermore, because most ODSs are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs), there are significant climate protection benefits in collecting and destroying the substantial quantities of historically allowed production of chemicals under the Montreal Protocol that are contained in existing equipment and products and referred to as ODS “banks”. This technical note presents a framework for considering offsets to ozone depletion, climate forcing, and other environmental impacts arising from occurrences of unexpected emissions and unreported production of Montreal Protocol controlled substances, as recently experienced and likely to be experienced again. We also show how this methodology could be applied to the destruction of banks of controlled ODSs and GHGs or to halon or other production allowed under a Montreal Protocol Essential Use Exemption or Critical Use Exemption. Further, we roughly estimate the magnitude of offset each type of action could provide for ozone depletion, climate, and other environmental impacts that Montreal Protocol Parties agree warrant remedial action.

Fast action to mitigate non-CO2 climate pollutants, such as methane, including through implementing methane intensity requirements (such as via procurement specifications) for domestic and imported oil and gas, can have a significant role in reducing the likelihood of triggering catastrophic climate impacts as countries pursue carbon-neutrality goals. Without robust monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) of methane emissions, we will not be able to know the efficacy of methane mitigation policies and programs or whether we are meeting methane mitigation targets. Acting quickly to ensure that new investments in oil and gas infrastructure are built with enhanced MRV systems and methane intensity requirements in mind is essential to limiting risks of stranded assets and aligning with carbon-neutrality goals.

This IGSD Background Note summarizes the science supporting the need for fast climate mitigation to slow warming in the near term (2022–2041). It also describes the importance of cutting short-lived climate pollutants and protecting sinks in order to slow self-reinforcing feedbacks and avoid tipping points. It explains why winning a fast mitigation sprint to 2030 is critical for addressing the climate emergency and how the sprint complements the marathon to decarbonize the economy and achieve net-zero emissions.

The ongoing and projected impacts from human-induced climate change highlight the need for mitigation approaches to limit warming in both the near term (<2050) and the long term (>2050). We clarify the role of non-CO2 greenhouse gases and aerosols in the context of near-term and long-term climate mitigation, as well as the net effect of decarbonization strategies targeting fossil fuel (FF) phaseout by 2050. Relying on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change radiative forcing, we show that the net historical (2019 to 1750) radiative forcing effect of CO2 and non-CO2 climate forcers emitted by FF sources plus the CO2 emitted by land-use changes is comparable to the net from non-CO2 climate forcers emitted by non-FF sources. We find that mitigation measures that target only decarbonization are essential for strong long-term cooling but can result in weak near-term warming (due to unmasking the cooling effect of coemitted aerosols) and lead to temperatures exceeding 2 °C before 2050. In contrast, pairing decarbonization with additional mitigation measures targeting short-lived climate pollutants and N2O, slows the rate of warming a decade or two earlier than decarbonization alone and avoids the 2 °C threshold altogether. These non-CO2 targeted measures when combined with decarbonization can provide net cooling by 2030 and reduce the rate of warming from 2030 to 2050 by about 50%, roughly half of which comes from methane, significantly larger than decarbonization alone over this time frame. Our analysis demonstrates the need for a comprehensive CO2 and targeted non-CO2 mitigation approach to address both the near-term and long-term impacts of climate disruption.

Scientific studies show that fast actions to reduce near-term warming are essential to slowing self-reinforcing climate feedbacks and avoiding irreversible tipping points. Yet cutting CO2 emissions only marginally impacts near-term warming. This study identifies two of the most effective mitigation strategies to limit near-term warming beyond CO2 mitigation, namely reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and promoting targeted nature-based solutions (NbS), and comprehensively reviews the latest scientific progress in these fields. Studies show that quickly reducing SLCP emissions, particularly hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), methane, and black carbon, from all relevant sectors can avoid up to 0.6 °C of warming by 2050. Additionally, promoting targeted NbS that protect and enhance natural carbon sinks, including in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands, can avoid emissions of 23.8 Gt of CO2e per year in 2030, without jeopardizing food security and biodiversity. Based on the scientific evidence, the paper provided a series of policy recommendations on SLCPs and NbS.

Chapter 25 in Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility: Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health (Al-Delaimy, W. K., Ramanathan, & V., Sorondo, M. S. eds). Springer, Cham. Pages 321-331.

Climate change is becoming an existential threat with warming in excess of 2 °C within the next three decades and 4–6 °C within the next several decades. Warming of such magnitudes will expose as many as 75% of the world’s population to deadly heat stress in addition to disrupting the climate and weather worldwide. Climate change is an urgent problem requiring urgent solutions. This chapter lays out urgent and practical solutions that are ready for implementation now, will deliver benefits in the next few critical decades, and place the world on a path to achieving the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement. The approach consists of four building blocks and three levers to implement ten scalable solutions described in this chapter. These solutions will enable society to decarbonize the global energy system by 2050 through efficiency and renewables, drastically reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and stabilize the warming well below 2 °C both in the near term (before 2050) and in the long term (after 2050). The solutions include an atmospheric carbon extraction lever to remove CO2 from the air. The amount of CO2 that must be removed ranges from negligible (if the emissions of CO2 from the energy system and short-lived climate pollutants have started to decrease by 2020 and carbon neutrality is achieved by 2050) to a staggering one trillion tons (if the carbon lever is not pulled and emissions of climate pollutants continue to increase until 2030).

Chapter 15: Technologies for Super Pollutant Mitigation 

The chapter explore a complementary climate solution to CO2 reductions: reducing a key group of warming agents knows as super pollutants or short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) to bend the warming curve quickly (over a few decades) while we pursue CO2 mitigation to bend the curve in the long term (over several decades to centuries). Combined, these efforts, if enacted by 2020, give us a significant chance (about 90% probability) of keeping warming well below 2°C (aiming for 1.5°C) in this century and beyond. Mitigation of SLCPs, if completed by 2030, can bend the warming curve by up to 0.6°C by 2050 (about 0.4°C from methane mitigation, 0.1°C from black carbon, and 0.1°C from HFCs), cutting the rate of projected warming by about half compared with “business as usual” and reducing the projected sea level rise between 2020 and 2050 by 20%.

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol phases down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbon greenhouse gases that were once necessary to rapidly phase out ozone-depleting substances but are no longer needed. The Kigali Amendment complements the emission controls of the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol and contributes to satisfying the “nationally determined contributions” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions pledged under the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. In 2016, the International Institute of Refrigeration proposed using Life-Cycle Climate Performance metric for air-conditioning systems while summing up carbon-equivalent direct refrigerant emissions, indirect power plant greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon equivalent embodied emissions. This paper describes an Enhanced and Localized Life Cycle Climate Performance metric developed by a team of international experts to reflect real-life air conditioning system operations.

Climate change is an urgent problem requiring urgent solutions. This report lays out urgent and practical solutions that are ready for implementation now, will deliver benefits in the next few critical decades, and places the world on a path to achieving the longterm targets of the Paris Agreement and near-term sustainable development goals. The solutions consist of four building blocks and 3 levers to implement ten scalable solutions described in this report by a team of climate scientists, policy makers, social and behavioral scientists, political scientists, legal experts, diplomats and military experts from around the world.