Washington, D.C., April 2, 2012 — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a report to Congress released that targeted strategies to reduce black carbon “can be expected to provide climate benefits within the next several decades,” based on black carbon’s strong warming potential and its short atmospheric lifetime of days to weeks.
EPA said black carbon is likely cause more warming than any climate pollutant other than carbon dioxide, although there was remaining uncertainty about the effects of black carbon on clouds, which still need to be resolved.
The EPA report found that “currently available scientific and technical information provides a strong foundation for making mitigation decisions to achieve lasting benefits for public health, the environment, and climate.”
It highlights that cutting “Black carbon emissions can halt the effects of black carbon on temperature, snow and ice, and precipitation almost immediately.” Reducing black carbon will also provide significant public health and environmental benefits that “often exceed the costs of control.”
“Cutting black carbon is a triple win,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington, D.C. “Cutting black carbon reduces climate change, cleans the air, and saves lives.” “And we can make cuts to black carbon quickly, using existing technologies, and existing laws at the national and regional level in most cases.”
In the U.S. and other developed countries, most black carbon is from diesel use in the transport sector. For these sources, black carbon emissions can be reduced with ultra-low sulfur diesel, along with new engine standards and retrofits of existing engines.
In developing countries, black carbon emissions are from residential cookstoves, as three billion people worldwide still cook with biomass or coal in rudimentary stoves or open fires. This source of black carbon pollution not only causes regional warming, it also causes more than two million deaths a year, mostly women and children.
Black carbon is one of three short-lived climate pollutants targeted by the new Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. The others are hydrofluorocarbons, methane and ground-level ozone. The coalition was set up by six countries, including the US, and the United Nations Environment Programme, which will host the secretariat.