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Short Term Climate Forces: Black Carbon, Methane, and Tropospheric Ozone

by gmoke
Wed May 9th, 2012 at 10:43:01 PM EST

Went to a talk on March 19, 2012 by Dr Joel Schwarz about a recent UNEP report on Short Lived Climate Forcers:

Integrated Assessment of Black carbon and Tropospheric Ozone and Near Term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits

Summary for Decision Makers

The report focuses on three SCLF [short lived climate forcers] - black carbon, tropospheric ozone and methane [an ozone precursor*] - because reducing them will provide significant benefits through improved air quality and a slowing of near-term climate change.

Black carbon and tropospheric (10 - 20 km above ground) ozone are resident in the atmosphere for a few days to three weeks (3-8 days for carbon, up to 4-18 days for ozone).  Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of 12 years, ± 3 years.

"Full implementation" of all the identified measures could reduce future global warming by "0.5˚C (within a range of 0.2-0.7˚C)". If implemented by 2030, this tactic  might halve the potential increase in global temperature projected for 2050. "The rate of regional temperature increase would also be reduced" wherever they are put into practice.

These measures "could avoid 2.4 million premature deaths (within a range of 0.7-4.6 million) and the loss of 52 million tonnes (within a range of 30-140 million tonnes), 1-4 per cent, of the global production of maize, rice, soybean and wheat each year."  Benefits will be felt immediately "in or close to the regions" where black carbon, methane, and tropospheric ozone are reduced.  The potential for emissions reductions, climate, health, and economic benefits are highest in Asia but gains can also be realized in Africa, Latin America, and wherever these measures are put into practice.

A few emission reduction measures "targeting black carbon and ozone precursors could immediately begin to protect climate, public health, water and food security, and ecosystems. Measures include the recovery of methane from coal, oil and gas extraction and transport, methane capture in waste management, use of clean-burning stoves for residential cooking, diesel particulate filters for vehicles and the banning of field burning of agricultural waste."

All these benefits can be obtained with existing technology but require significant strategic investment and institutional arrangements to make them widespread, part of general and every day use.

*Ozone is not directly emitted. It is a secondary pollutant that is formed in the troposphere by sunlight-driven chemical reactions involving carbon monoxide (CO), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), methane (CH4), and nitrogen oxides (NO ).  Ozone in the troposphere is the third most human-emitted greenhouse gas, after CO2 and methane.  Ozone formation increases as temperature rises.

Table 3.2: Key black carbon abatement measures identified for this report (after UNEP/WMO, 2011)

Standards for the reduction of pollutants from vehicles (including diesel particle filters), equivalent to those included in Euro-6/VI standards, for road and off-road vehicles
Elimination of high-emitting vehicles in road and off-road transport

Replacing lump coal by coal briquettes in cooking and heating stoves
Pellet stoves and boilers, using fuel made from recycled wood waste or sawdust, to replace current wood burning technologies in the residential sector in industrialized countries
Introduction of clean-burning (fan-assisted) biomass stoves for cooking and heating in developing countries1, 2
Substitution of traditional biomass cookstoves with stoves using clean-burning fuels (liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or biogas)1, 2

Replacing traditional brick kilns with vertical shaft brick kilns3
Replacing traditional coke ovens with modern recovery ovens

Ban on open burning of agricultural waste1

1. Motivated in part by its effect on health and regional climate including its impact on areas of ice and snow
   2. For cookstoves, given their importance for black carbon emissions, two alternative measures are included
   3. Zig-zag brick kilns would achieve comparable emission reductions to vertical-shaft brick kilns

Table 3.1: Key methane abatement measures identified for this report (after UNEP/WMO, 2011)

Fossil fuel production and transport
Extended pre-mine degasification and recovery and oxidation of methane from ventilation air from coal mines
Extended recovery and utilization, rather than venting, of associated gas and improved control of unintended fugitive emissions from the production of oil and natural gas
Reduced gas leakage from long-distance transmission pipelines

Waste management
Separation and treatment of biodegradable municipal waste through recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion as well as landfill gas collection with combustion/utilization
Upgrading primary wastewater treatment to secondary/tertiary treatment with gas recovery and overflow control

Control of methane emissions from livestock, mainly through farm-scale anaerobic digestion of manure from cattle and pigs
Intermittent aeration of continuously flooded rice paddies

If you are interested in helping to reduce black carbon from inefficient cookstoves in Tanzania, Maasai Stoves and Solar could use some help:

Sidestepping the Impasse:  Zero Emissions to Ecological Design al-Design

Methane Cycle:  Gas Production and Gas Release

Methane Cycle:  Climate Change

Comprehensive Design for a Carbon-Neutral World

Towards Zero Emissions:  The Methane Cycle

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