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The Climate Institute is working to increase global awareness of the warming influence of gases and aerosols with short atmospheric lifetimes, including black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone.  Specifically, the Climate Institute seeks to highlight the opportunity to limit near-term climate change by aggressively targeting short-lived gases and aerosols.  As part of this effort, the Climate Institute is analyzing various technologies and policies that can effectively reduce short-lived warming agents in different parts of the world.  Information is disseminated through stakeholder meetings, publications, editorials, briefings, and the Tickell Interactive Network.  Through these efforts, the Climate Institute hopes to make individuals at all levels more knowledgeable about the important contribution to globalwarming due to short-lived gases and aerosols, and about the methods available to reduce emissions of these species in order to reduce the increasing pace of near-term climate change.

Comparing Atmospheric Pollutants

To most effectively limit near- and long-term climate change, national and international climate mitigation strategies must target the full range of greenhouse gases and warming particles. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the 21st century are projected to be responsible for roughly half of the warming influence from greenhouse gas emissions during the 21st century. Therefore, mitigation efforts solely focused on CO2 will be inadequate to reverse or even substantially slow the global warming trend within this century. Because unabated warming over this century will likely send the Earth’s climate past several impact thresholds, it is thus vital to also be controlling emissions of the non-CO2 greenhouse gases, and particularly those with short lifetimes. Because of the multi-century lifetime of CO2, however, its mitigation also remains absolutely critical to slowing climate change and averting worst case climate scenarios.

To complement the CO2 effort that will limit long-term warming, emissions of species with shorter atmospheric lifetimes than CO2 must be reduced to suppress near-term warming. Short-lived warming agents are responsible for most of the warming caused by non-CO2emissions. Substantially reducing these emissions will lower their atmospheric concentrations over periods of months to decades and will relatively rapidly limit the warming influences that are causing the ongoing rising of the global average temperature. The rate of relief that can be achieved varies between species. The methane perturbation caused by emissions lasts on average for roughly a decade. Black carbon (often referred to as soot) and tropospheric ozone (formed in the atmosphere from carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds) persist in the atmosphere for only a few weeks. Black carbon reductions will also curb the soot deposits on snow and ice that greatly increase rates of melting. Targeting black carbon is also a public health measure; breathing in the particulate matter is known to cause several million deaths each year from indoor and outdoor exposure.


For more information about black carbon and other short-lived climate forcers, please see the information below.


World Bank and International Cryosphere Initiative: Measures to Reduce Black Carbon and Other Pollutants Can Save Glaciers and Lives. See Executive Summaryand Full Report.
Black Carbon Reduction PPT Targeting Black Carbon and Short-Lived GHGs to Reduce Global Warming, Improve Public Health & Increase Crop Yields (PPT Presentation)
COP-16 Side Event: Cancun Symposium on Black Carbon and and Short-Lived GHG Mitigation
Sept 1 2011: Report suggests black carbon control as a climate quick-fix.
Black Carbon How Does Black Carbon Change the Climate Debate? Autumn 2009 Climate Alert [PDF ]
erice Moderating Climate Change by Limiting Emissions of Both Short- and Long-Lived Greenhouse Gases (PDF)
Crispin Black Carbon: An Emerging Climate Change Culprit by Sir Crispin Tickell
blackcarbon The Achievable Path to Climate Protection by Michael C. MacCracken
Smokestack Opportunities to Reduce Black Carbon Emissionsby John-Michael Cross
map Michael MacCracken and Frances Moore Propose ‘Lifetime Leveraging – An approach to reconciling the responsibilities of the developed and developing nations for reducing their emissions’
soot Michael MacCracken Proposes Aggressive and Equitable Framework for Reciprocal North-South Action to Phase Out Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2100


Cutting Climate Change’s Gordian Knot: A new way to improve health and lower the risk of future climate change by John C. Topping, Jr.(YaleGlobal, 2 April 2010. Also published inJakarta Globe and Khaleej Times Online.)
Ice Reducing soot: common ground for climate negotiations by John C. Topping, Jr. (Cleantech Asia Online, 1 August 2009.  Also published inBusinessWorld.)