Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Control of fossil-fuel particulate black carbon and organic matter, possibly the most effective method of slowing global warming

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Abstract

[1] Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, no control of black carbon (BC) was considered. Here, it is found, through simulations in which 12 identifiable effects of aerosol particles on climate are treated, that any emission reduction of fossil-fuel (f.f.) particulate BC plus associated organic matter (OM) may slow global warming more than may any emission reduction of CO2 or CH4 for a specific period. When all f.f. BC + OM and anthropogenic CO2 and CH4 emissions are eliminated together, the period is 25–100 years. It is also estimated that historical net global warming can be attributed roughly to greenhouse gas plus f.f. BC + OM warming minus substantial cooling by other particles. Eliminating all f.f. BC + OM could eliminate 20–45% of net warming (8–18% of total warming before cooling is subtracted out) within 3–5 years if no other change occurred. Reducing CO2 emissions by a third would have the same effect, but after 50–200 years. Finally, diesel cars emitting continuously under the most recent U.S. and E.U. particulate standards (0.08 g/mi; 0.05 g/km) may warm climate per distance driven over the next 100+ years more than equivalent gasoline cars. Thus, fuel and carbon tax laws that favor diesel appear to promote global warming. Toughening vehicle particulate emission standards by a factor of 8 (0.01 g/mi; 0.006 g/km) does not change this conclusion, although it shortens the period over which diesel cars warm to 13–54 years. Although control of BC + OM can slow warming, control of greenhouse gases is necessary to stop warming. Reducing BC + OM will not only slow global warming but also improve human health.

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