SuperPollutants

Cut Global Warming in Half & Save our Planet
by Stopping Greenhouse Super-pollutants

 The best and quickest way to slow the global temperature rise over the next 20 years and meet the target set at Paris is to reduce emissions of four short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP, also called “super greenhouse pollutants”) that warm way above their weight, but rapidly disappear from the atmosphere if we stop emitting them. The four SLCP are:

·      Methane, which traps 86 times as much heat in the first 20 years after emission as the same weight of CO2, but most of it decomposes into other substances within those 20 years.

·       Black carbon, which remains in the air for only a few weeks, but still causes thousands of times more global warming in the 20 years after emission as the same weight of CO2  

·      Ground-level ozone, which forms in the air from nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, methane, and other volatile organic compounds and causes almost as much warming as methane 

·      Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, which are now being phased out.

How much warming is from super-pollutants?

The warming of different substances is measured in watts per square metre (W/m2). CO2 causes the most warming, 1.68 W/m2, but as shown by the diagram (left) from the US EPA report: Methane and Black carbon, impacts on the Arctic [1] methane (0.97 W/m2, including the warming of ground-level ozone formed from CH4) and black carbon (0.88 W/m2) are causing more warming than CO2.

Simple, low-cost action could slash SLCP emissions and drastically reduce the rate of warming in the critical period from now to 2050, and at the same time prevent several hundred thousand premature deaths from the air pollution that accompany methane and black carbon emissions.

  Rapidly increasing temperatures threaten to devastate our coral reefs.  The Arctic and Antarctic are warming faster than the global average rate.  When polar ice melts, it absorbs radiation instead of reflecting it back into space.  Methane is released when permafrost and undersea ice melt, and this adds to future warming.

Three experts warn "Unless we rapidly slow down these self-amplifying feedback mechanisms (by reducing super-pollutant emissions), we could lose the first major battle of climate change and face worse problems in the future" Mario Molina (Nobel prizewinner), V. Ramanathan (renowned climate scientist) and Durwood Zaelke (President, Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development).  "Mitigation of super pollutants is the only way to keep it (global warming) below 2 degrees by 2050, while we are waiting for the CO2 measures to kick in." 

We can help achieve this by:

·      switching from wood and gas heating to an efficient, affordable reverse cycle air conditioner (also called a heat pump)

·      opposing activities such as ‘fracking’, unnecessary burning of vegetation, including agricultural or forestry waste that produces methane and black carbon

·      lobbying governments for better monitoring of methane emissions from mines and pipelines, for program help helping developing countries replace cooking fires with clean stoves, and an effective overall strategy to avoid SLCP emissions (good examples are California's SLCP strategy and SF Bay's Spare the Air Cool the Climate

·      not letting refrigerants escape

·      composting food waste & supporting City to Soil programs

·      letting other people know the critical importance of tackling super-pollutant emissions if we want to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees

·      keeping an eye on research to reduce methane emissions and improve feed efficiency of cattle and sheep

Many of us have reduced CO2 emissions by lowering use of gas and non-renewable electricity, e.g. by installing efficient appliances, insulation and rooftop solar and not leaving things on ‘standby’. Some have reduced CO2 emissions from their petrol, diesel or gas use. 

However, methane, ground-level ozone and black carbon cause as much warming as CO2.  As shown in the graph (right hand column) there’s no hope of achieving the target set at Paris by just reducing CO2 emissions.  But we can achieve the target by slashing super pollutant emissions, and so halving the rate of warming over the next 20 years, reducing the stress on our Barrier Reef and buying time to replace fossil fuel power with cheaper, renewable energy and transition to clean transport.

It is time to act now, if we want to avoid climate destabilization.
 
Increasing evidence of a climate crisis
September 2019. IPCC report paints catastrophic picture of melting ice and rising sea levels – and reality may be even worse  "Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110 cm by 2100."
September 2019. Climate change 'hitting harder and sooner' than forecast, warn scientists ahead of UN meeting. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), says climate change is accelerating, with sea levels rising, carbon dioxide levels increasing and ice sheets melting faster than ever before.
September 2019. I never thought I'd see the Australian rainforest burning. What will it take for us to wake up to the climate crisis?This is playing out much faster than many of us scientists ever imagined
June 2019. The poisons released by melting Arctic ice.  Pollution, anthrax - even nuclear waste - could be released by global warming.
June 2019. Scientists shocked by Arctic permafrost thawing 70 years sooner than predicted.  Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared ... “What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years ... “Thawing permafrost is one of the tipping points for climate breakdown and it’s happening before our very eyes,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. “This premature thawing is another clear signal that we must decarbonise our economies, and immediately.”
  Scientists amazed as Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years early “What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters by telephone. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years.”

Additional Information

The UN Environment Program and World Meteorological Organization (UNEP/WMO) formed a committee of 50 experts to investigate the best ways to protect our climate. They considered a package of measures to reduce CO
2 emissions and a package of 16 measures to reduce methane (CH4) and black carbon (BC) emissions. The projected temperatures (above) show there’s no hope of achieving the Paris target by just reducing CO2 emissions (red line). However, by also reducing BC and CH4 emissions, global temperatures are about half a degree cooler in 2040, allowing time to complete the transition to renewable energy and transport.

Renewable energy is now much cheaper than fossil fuel electricity.  Large-scale solar is being built in Queensland for less than $70/MWh
much less than the average wholesale price of coal-fired power.  The 530 MW Stockyard Hill wind farm in Victoria will generate power for just $55/MWh. The transition to cheap renewable energy now seems inevitable, but we need time to build new solar and wind farms together with battery, pumped hydro or molten salt storage.  

Melting Siberian Permafrost is producing methane blow-holes
Methane and black carbon rapidly disappear from the atmosphere if we stop emitting them, dramatically reducing the rate of current warming and so preventing future warming.   Rapidly increasing temperatures threaten to devastate our coral reefs.  The Arctic and Antarctic at are warming twice the global average rate.  When polar ice melts, it absorbs radiation instead of reflecting it back into space.  Methane is released when permafrost and undersea ice melt, and this adds to future warming. 

Prof Carlos Duarte, Director of the University of WA’s Oceans Institute also warned about the devastating consequences if current warming causes substantial quantities of methane to be released from the Arctic: “The amount of greenhouse gas stored in methane hydrates in the Arctic is several times the total CO₂ release since the industrial revolution”. 


As well as being our only hope of keeping the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees, the package of 16 measures, which includes preventing methane leaks from mines and pipelines, banning the open burning of agricultural and forestry waste, clean cookstoves in developing countries, clean diesels, and phasing out domestic log-burning heater will improve our health and prevent several hundred thousand premature deaths from air pollution.

Many people are confused about the term “carbon pollution”. Please help spread the word that the best and most cost-effective way to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees is a two-pronged strategy implementing the UNEP/WMO package of 16 measures to reduce CH4 + BC while at the same time doing all we can to replace fossil fuels with renewables.

See also: Inside Climate News: These Climate Pollutants Don't Last Long, But They’re Wreaking Havoc on the Arctic. If we can cut back on methane, black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants, it could buy time to solve the trickier problem of CO2.  By Sabrina Shankman, MAR 19, 2018

'We Are Climbing Rapidly Out of Humankind's Safe Zone': Dire Climate Warnings Not Dire Enough, according to August 2018 report.
"The bulk of climate research has tended to underplay the risks, and exhibited a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence. With potential climatic "tipping points," the passing of critical thresholds which result in step changes in the climate system, under-reporting these issues is contributing to the "failure of imagination" in our understanding of, and response to, climate change."

New Scientist: Earth's methane emissions are rising and we don't know why  
Researchers warned earlier this year that if methane levels keep increasing at current rates then the Paris climate deal’s goals – of limiting global warming to 2°C and pursuing efforts to keep below 1.5°C – would be very difficult to meet ... One possibility is that a warmer world is causing more methane to be released from wetlands in the tropics, fuelling even more warming. That would suggest a feedback loop is underway. “I’m not sure but it looks as if the warming is feeding the warming.” ... The methane surge gains added significance from the fact researchers have been discovering in recent years that the gas has a more powerful warming effect than previously thought.

 In August 2018, Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in the US, commented the study, saying: “There are other strategies for managing short-lived climate pollutants we should start with [including] cutting black carbon [soot, from fossil fuel burning], methane and HFC refrigerants. We need to think of climate change mitigation like a staggered race, where short-lived pollutants get a fast start and CO2 reductions eventually catch up and provide more and more cooling.” If these measures were taken, it could reduce temperature rises by up to 0.6C by 2050 and by 1.2C by the end of this century."

Arctic melt goes into overdrive  Earlier this year, we saw the unprecedented disappearance of sea ice from the Bering Sea during a time of year when it should be gaining ice. This trend toward plummeting sea ice in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic continues, this time centered in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
Why it matters: Sea ice loss is disrupting the balance of heat in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is reverberating throughout ecosystems, causing everything from plankton blooms near the Arctic Ocean surface to mass haul-outs of walruses in Russia and Alaska. It may also be disrupting weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere.
The big picture: Across the entire Arctic, sea ice extent is at a record low for this point in the year, and depending on weather conditions during the summer, it's possible that 2019 could set a new record low ice extent


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