Separate Climate Treaty Needed to Address Short-Term Components of Global Warming

train diesel fumes photo

Though short-lived in the atmosphere, soot from diesel engines and cooking fires can be strong contributors to global warming. Photo: Matt Buck via flickr.

As if getting one global climate treaty isn't hard enough: University of California at Berkeley researcher Stacy Jackson says we need to start planning for a future summit to specifically address short- and medium-term acting components of global warming such as soot, ozone, and methane:Half of Warming Caused by Short-Lived Components
Since these substances causes up to half of warming observed in the time-frame which they remain in the atmosphere (from just weeks in the case of soot, to a few decades for methane), it would be prudent to take strong action to mitigate their effects, Jackson says.

We know we have a long-term problem and that we need to reduce CO2 aggressively, but scientists are becoming concerned about whether there are going to be more climate changes in the near terms than we previously believed.

Because we know these other pollutants play a big role, it would be to our benefit to set up the institutional framework now so that we can act quickly to mitigate the changes happening in the near term.

Black Carbon Plays Bigger Role Than Previously Thought
There's a growing body of research that shows the role of particulate pollution such as black carbon in global warming to be greater than previously acknowledged. Most recently, black carbon was found to be accelerating melting of glaciers in the Himalayas. However, other aerosols, such as sulfates from burning coal, actually have a slight cooling effect -- even though they also cause acid rain.

Second Treaty More Location-Specific
Making this aspect of a separate treaty on short-to-mid term global warming components more complex is that, as UC Berkeley professor of energy and resources John Harte points out, "while long-lived pollutants like CO2 will mix well around the planet during their lifetime in the atmosphere, short-lived pollutants, like particulates and aerosols, aren't going to mix because they can't travel far enough in the weeks or months they're airborne." Meaning that an additional geographic component needs to be considered.

Jackson's research appears in the Oct 23rd issue of Science magazine.

More: UC Berkeley
Global Warming Causes
Aerosols More Important to Global Warming Than Acknowledged
Black Soot Coating Himalayan Glaciers is Accelerating Melting
Black Carbon May Be Planet's Second Most Potent GHG

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