Short-lived climate pollutants, super pollutants, climate forcers—whichever you want to call them—seem to have gotten lost in the quest to curb climate change by reducing CO2. But unless we reduce these super pollutants we will not be able to avoid the frightening increases in temperatures that are being experiencing around the world. (The ports of LA and Long Beach, below, are a major source of super pollutants.)
Super pollutants are probably the most under-appreciated and dangerous contributors to climate change, perhaps because they lose their warming power quickly: CO2 causes increased temperatures for 50-100 years, with 20% remaining in the atmosphere for thousands of years, while short-lived climate pollutants do their damage over much shorter periods and then disappear.
Black carbon's lifetime in the atmosphere is days or weeks in length; methane lasts up to 12 years; HFCs, or hydrofluorcarbons, last 15 years on average. But the problem is that we keep on replacing them with new emissions—from landfills, wastewater treatment, dairies and livestock, diesel-powered vehicles and wildfires—and their global warming potential is far greater than that of CO2.
Methane, the most abundant short-lived climate pollutant, is about 75 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2; black carbon is hundreds to thousands of time more potent; and HFCs are tens of thousands of times more potent.
The IPCC’s “Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius” in 2018 stated that emissions of methane and black carbon need to be reduced by 35% or more by 2050. Drew Shindell, Professor of Climate Sciences at Duke University and a lead author of the IPCC report, says no scenario exists where the world can get to 1.5 degrees without reducing these super pollutants alongside CO2.
Our speakers on this important topic include:
- Professor Ram Veerabhadran, UC San Diego
- Dan Jacobsen, Environment California
- Julia Levin, California Bioenergy Association
- Coby Skye, LA Department of Solid Waste
- Sydney Chamberlin, Nature Conservancy
- Phoebe Seaton, Leadership Counsel (invited)
- Miya Yoshitani, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (invited)
- Kip Lipper, Senate Pro Tem staff
- Eduardo Garcia, Assemblymember and CARB Board Member
- Jared Blumenfeld, Cal EPA (invited)