Cutting Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Would Reduce Projected Global Warming by Half

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A new United Nations Environment Program report [PDF] focuses on measures that would dramatically the emissions of black carbon and methane gas by 2030. The report finds:

Full implementation of the identified measures would reduce future global warming by 0.5 ?C (within a range of 0.2–0.7 C, Figure 1). If the measures were to be implemented by 2030, they could halve the potential increase in global temperature projected for 2050 compared to the Assessment's reference scenario based on current policies and energy and fuel projections. The rate of regional temperature increase would also be reduced.

Smoking is bad for you and the planet

Black carbon is composed of particulates emitted by unfiltered diesel engines, biomass-fueled cookstoves, and open-air burning of agricultural wastes. Black carbon heats the atmosphere and when it settles on snow and ice in places like the Himalayas and the Arctic promotes faster melting. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas itself (about 25 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over 100 years) but also reacts with nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide to produce ground-level ozone which is itself a potent greenhouse gas. The key here is that ozone and black carbon get washed out of the atmosphere fairly quickly, so if emissions are cut they disappear soon.

The report identifies various measures for cutting future emissions and notes the considerable health benefits that would result from such reductions, e.g., fewer deaths from respiratory illnesses. So far so good. I was eager to compare the costs with the benefits listed. However, I found nothing on costs until reaching near the end of the report:

This Assessment did not assess the cost-effectiveness of different identified measures or policy options under different national circumstances. Doing so would help to inform national air quality and climate policy makers, and support implementation on a wider scale. Further study and analyses of the local application of BC and tropospheric O3 reduction technologies, costs and regulatory approaches could contribute to advancing adoption of effective action at multiple levels.

Well, yes.

The report did offer the intriguing observation that some regions of the globe are already projected to reduce some emissions:

The regional BC emission trends, therefore, vary significantly, with emissions expected to decrease in North America and Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and to increase in Africa and South, West and Central Asia.

Although contested, there is considerable evidence that pollution initially worsens but begins to decline as incomes pass various per capita income thresholds. This is the result of a combination of economic growth, technological progress, and increased regulation of the atmospheric commons.

Consider for example the trends for particulates (black carbon) and ozone in the United States. The Environmental Protection agency reports that ambient ozone is down by 30 percent since 1980 and particulates have been cut by 38 percent since 1990. Between 1980 and 2010, U.S. per capita real GDP grew from $25,000 to $42,000 per year.

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  1. I want more global warming-it was too cold this winter.

  2. “Black carbon is composed of particulates emitted by unfiltered diesel engines, biomass-fueld cookstoves, and open-air burning of agricultural waste.”

    So campfires (both recreational and thoss used in cultures too poor to use modern industrial fuels) are now what the enviromentalists are going to be going after?

    Good luck with that on both sides. First world outoorsmen will bitch, and the poor/traditional cultures really don’t have much of a choice.

  3. I’m sure that, however, rather than praising the EPA under George W. Bush for tightening the Particulate Matter standards in 2006, and the ozone standards in 2008, they’ll instead say that he did not do enough?

    The differences on pollutant regulations are pretty tiny between the major parties, though of course that doesn’t stop the sound and fury.

  4. And while you may think that considering costs versus benefits would be useful, Ronald, remember what the EPA says about the Clean Air Act:

    The Clean Air Act prohibits EPA from considering costs in setting or revising national ambient air quality standards. To inform the public, the Agency analyzes the benefits and costs of meeting the standards as required by Executive Order 12866 and guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

    Hence the howling when on ozone, the Bush Administration had the EPA propose a rule that decreased the ozone limits while maximizing benefits minus cost, instead of setting at a level that maximized benefits at a cost equal to those benefits.

  5. Black carbon

    Racists.Everyone knows it’s imperialist white carbon that’s destroying everything.

    1. Even more deadly, and more racist, than white phosphorus.

  6. “Cutting Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Would Reduce Projected Global Warming by Half”

    Zero divided by two is still zero.

    1. Whatever, Pip.

      Full implementation of the identified measures would reduce future global warming by 0.5 C

      Half a degree Celsius, dammit! That’s almost barely perceptible by naked skin if the wind isn’t blow at all and the sun isn’t shining directly on you.

  7. If the measures were to be implemented by 2030, they could halve the potential increase in global temperature projected for 2050

    By all means, let’s spend billions to reduce a negligible number. If only we could blame CO2 on Osama bin Laden.

    FYI- the temperature has zoomed all the way to 8 (F), here this morning.

  8. in other news, weather still isn’t climate

    1. Yes. It. Is.

      1. The best way I’ve heard to think of the relationship between weather and climate is through a boxing analogy.

        Weather is an undisciplined fighter, fast but not too good with his footwork, can’t optimize punches and hasn’t developed much muscle.

        Climate is his trainer, making him stronger, lighter on his feet and better able to land blows more solidly.

        The energy accumulating in the planet gives us stronger weather patterns and an intensification of the hydrological cycle. Sometimes the additional energy will disrupt a weather pattern, which is why climatologists project things like fewer hurricanes. More often that energy and increased humidity provide additional fuel, which is why climatologists project storms of increasing intensity.

        We’re altering our climate, and by doing so we are training the weather to throw harder punches at us. A long term increase of 0.5C is a tremendous amount of energy, dwarfing our civilization’s annual energy production.

        Having said that, the proposal Ronald has brought to our attention seems reasonable, a way to buy maybe a decade or two, but at some point must be complemented by significant reductions in CO2 emissions which will eventually overwhelm the short term benefits of reducing ozone and soot.

        Unfortunately the proposal will do nothing to halt the acidification threatening the ocean’s primary production, and the global food supply.

    2. But weather is an indicator of climate, a symptom, so the two aren’t mutually exclusive, like the “weather isn’t climate” sloganeers would have you believe.

    3. It is when it’s hot out or a violent storm or flood hits a populated area. It’s a prima facia case of climate change.

      Of course, when it’s extra cold and snowy, that has nothing do with anything.

  9. Black carbon is composed of particulates emitted by unfiltered diesel engines

    I am all in favor of pursuing the greatest marginal gains. Gasoline automobile engines are somewhere in the neighborhood of 95 or 97 per cent cleaner than they were prior to 1967; every additional reduction comes at great effort and expense. Diesel engines are probably where we should be looking for improvement.

    I’m not opposed to “clean diesel” and “clean coal” (or “clean air” for that matter); I just want to see some solutions which are not based on a thinly veiled anti-modernity agenda.

  10. Black carbon is composed of particulates emitted by unfiltered diesel engines [as it happens, those used by poor farmers], biomass-fueled cookstoves [as it happens, those used by poor farmers], and open-air burning of agricultural wastes [as it happens… you get it by now].

    Why does the UN (and Bailey) hate the poor farmers so much?

    Although contested, there is considerable evidence that pollution initially worsens but begins to decline as incomes pass various per capita income thresholds.

    Contested by those that believe unbridled capitalism would leave us under tons of… manure?

    http://www.thefreemanonline.or…..s-of-1894/

    Actually, the UN report gives further support to the notion that economic development and easy access to cleaner energy sources (coal, nat gas and oil) do MORE to help the environment than the contrary. Sooty engines, wood burning stoves and field burning are the everyday stamples of substinance farming in many poor countries. This means once people have access to more economic opportunities (meaning, you marxoids, FREER markets), their supposedly negative impact on the environment will lessen with time.

    Instead, the watermellons would like us to think that economic development is BAD for the environment. It is clear the CONTRARY is true.

  11. “weather still isn’t climate”

    That seems to be dependent on which side of the argument you’re on. I seem to recall a lot of hysteria about European heat waves a few years ago.

    The temps have been up and down this winter; it will warm up in a few days. In the meantime, I find it hard to get terribly worked up about something of unknown intensity which may or may not even happen.

  12. The Environmental Protection agency reports that ambient ozone is down by 30 percent since 1980 and particulates have been cut by 38 percent since 1990. Between 1980 and 2010, U.S. per capita real GDP grew from $25,000 to $42,000 per year.

    Isn’t the argument going to be that it’s as thus because we outsourced all of our manufacturing and heavy industry to China and India?

    1. Well, yes.

      We didn’t clean up the pollution so much as we outsourced it.

  13. ps- The people I know who have lived here twenty or more years, or their entire lives, are pretty much all effectively saying the weather has reverted to the mean.

    1. NPR’s gonna have trouble doing another year-long climate perspective story with farmers sayin’ folksy stuff like, “Yep, farmin’ ain’t what it used to be– can’t count on th’weather like my pappy did.”

  14. Bad headline Ron- Even Lindzen would wince at eliding two different intervals , to 2050, and to 2100.

    It understates the range of sensitivity estimates for projected warming from doubled CO2 , which is not .4 to 1.4, C, but ~ 1.5 to 4.5C.

    Since the last century saw ~.6 C of warming , PBrooks et seq are OTL in calling .5C “negliglible”

  15. So… can I get warming credits for holding in my farts? The question has to be asked.

  16. Cutting Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Would Reduce Projected Global Warming by Half

    Here’s an easier way: change the computer model used to make the projection to a computer model that’s half as inaccurate.

  17. What I want to know, Ron, is how a reasonably-intellegent person like yourself can still quote UN climate reports with a straight face. They are about as valid as an SEIU poll of Wisconsin voters – and as self-serving.

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