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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

PNAS, Assessing the climatic benefits of black carbon mitigation, R. E. Kopp & D. L. Mauzerall

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107, No. 26, pp. 11703-11708 (June 29, 2010); doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909605107

Assessing the climatic benefits of black carbon mitigation

Robert E. Kopp and Denise L. Mauzerall


To limit mean global warming to 2 °C, a goal supported by more than 100 countries, it will likely be necessary to reduce emissions not only of greenhouse gases but also of air pollutants with high radiative forcing (RF), particularly black carbon (BC). Although several recent research papers have attempted to quantify the effects of BC on climate, not all these analyses have incorporated all the mechanisms that contribute to its RF (including the effects of BC on cloud albedo, cloud coverage, and snow and ice albedo, and the optical consequences of aerosol mixing) and have reported their results in different units and with different ranges of uncertainty. Here we attempt to reconcile their results and present them in uniform units that include the same forcing factors. We use the best estimate of effective RF obtained from these results to analyze the benefits of mitigating BC emissions for achieving a specific equilibrium temperature target. For a 500 ppm CO2e (3.1 W m-2) effective RF target in 2100, which would offer about a 50% chance of limiting equilibrium warming to 2.5 °C above preindustrial temperatures, we estimate that failing to reduce carbonaceous aerosol emissions from contained combustion would require CO2 emission cuts about 8 years (range of 1–15 years) earlier than would be necessary with full mitigation of these emissions. 

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