U.S. Launches Effort to Cut Short-Lived Pollutants
The U.S. launched an international initiative aimed at reducing emissions of so-called short-lived global warming agents, such as soot and methane, in order to make near-term gains in fighting global warming and improving public health. The program, which includes participation by Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, and Sweden, will provide funding for developing countries to reduce emissions, and will be administered by the United Nations Environment Program.
The U.S. will contribute $12 million over two years to launch the initiative, known as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, with a goal of raising additional public and private funding. The targeted emissions include black carbon, which is more commonly known as soot, ground-level ozone and its precursor methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are used as refrigerants. Studies show these gases — all of which remain in the air for a far shorter time period than carbon dioxide (CO2), the main cause of long-term manmade global warming — may have contributed up to 40 percent of global warming to date.
The new initiative does not set targets for pollution reductions. Instead, the money will go toward education projects and other emissions reduction efforts. Some ways to reduce soot emissions include installing special filters on diesel tailpipes and switching to cleaner-burning cookstoves, rather than biomass.
Many of the steps to reduce soot and ozone emissions would also have public health benefits, because these emissions cause respiratory ailments and contribute to millions of premature deaths annually, mainly in developing countries.
Since they are relatively short-lived, reducing emissions of these substances offers the potential to cut the rate of global warming in the near-term, while arduous international negotiations to address CO2 emissions continue.
“This may be the only way to reduce climate impacts in the near term, and is a critical complement to the primary battle to reduce emissions of CO2,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development and a longtime advocate for tackling non-CO2 warming agents.
A study published in January in the journal Science found that by addressing non-CO2 global warming agents, the rate of global warming could be slashed nearly in half during the next several decades, while saving as many as 4.7 million lives a year and boosting crop yields.