Can reducing black carbon emissions counteract global warming?

Tami C. Bond, Kaolin Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Field measurements and model results have recently shown that aerosols may have important climatic impacts. One line of inquiry has investigated whether reducing climate-warming soot or black carbon aerosol emissions can form a viable component of mitigating global warming. We review and acknowledge scientific arguments against considering aerosols and greenhouse gases in a common framework, including the differences in the physical mechanisms of climate change and relevant time scales. We argue that such a joint consideration is consistent with the language of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We synthesize results from published climate-modelin g studies to obtain a global warming potential for black carbon relative to that of CO2 (680 on a 100 year basis). This calculation enables a discussion of cost-effectiveness for mitigating the largest sources of black carbon. We find that many emission reductions are either expensive or difficult to enact when compared with greenhouse gases, particularly in Annex I countries. Finally, we propose a role for black carbon in climate mitigation strategies that is consistent with the apparently conflicting arguments raised during our discussion. Addressing these emissions is a promising way to reduce climatic interference primarily for nations that have not yet agreed to address greenhouse gas emissions and provides the potential for a parallel climate agreement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5921-5926
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume39
Issue number16
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 15 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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