Report urges fast action on ‘short-lived climate forcers’

According to a new study, taking fast action on pollutants such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane may help limit near-term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rises below 2°C.

Cutting these so-called ’short-lived climate forcers’ can have immediate climate, health and agricultural benefits. This is because, unlike carbon dioxide (CO2), which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, black carbon, for example, only persists for days or weeks.

The findings, released today in Bonn, Germany, during a meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), were compiled by an international team of more than 50 researchers chaired by Drew Shindell of NASA.

The study concluded that protecting the near-term climate is central to significantly cutting the risk of so-called ’amplified global climate change’ linked with rapid and extensive loss of Arctic ice on both the land and at sea.

The report cites several measures that could be taken to reduce black carbon levels, including deploying diesel particle filters on vehicles, replacing wood-burning stoves in developed countries with pellet stoves and boilers and banning the open burning of agricultural wastes.

To reduce ground-level ozone, the report says that more composting could curb organic wastes going to landfill, water treatment works could be upgraded to support gas recovery and anaerobic digestion could be used to treat manure from cattle and pigs.

The researchers, however, also underline the fact that while fast action on black carbon and ground-level ozone could play a key role in limiting near-term climate change, immediate and sustained action to cut back CO2 is crucial if temperature rises are to be limited over the long term.

They conclude that it is the combination of action on short-lived climate forcers and long-lived greenhouse gases that will improve the chances of keeping temperature rises below the 2°C target throughout the 21st century.