Short-lived climate pollutants - including black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, and tropospheric ozone – are powerful climate forcers with global warming potentials many times that of carbon dioxide. They also significantly impact food, water and economic security for large populations throughout the world, both directly through their negative effects on public health, agriculture and ecosystems, and indirectly through their impact on the climate.
The effects of short-lived climate pollutants represent a major development issue that calls for quick and significant global action.
Measures to reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions are often accessible and cost-effective, and if quickly implemented can bring immediate benefits for the climate as well as the health and livelihoods of millions.
It is not enough to act. We have to act now.
Delayed efforts to mitigate either carbon dioxide or short-lived climate pollutant emissions will have negative, and potentially irreversible, consequences for global warming, rising sea levels, agricultural yields, and public health.
Due to their relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere, ranging from a few days to a few decades, short-lived climate pollutants respond very quickly to reduction efforts. If fast and widespread action is taken to reduce these pollutants, it is likely that we could cut methane emissions by 25% and black carbon by 75%, and eliminate high-global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons altogether in the next 25 years.
The practices and technologies needed to reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions are accessible today and if quickly implemented can:
- Avoid an estimated 2.4 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution annually by 2030
- Prevent as much as 52 million tonnes of crop losses per year
- Slow the increase in near-term global warming by as much as 0.6°C by 2050
- Prevent climate tipping points that can exacerbate long-term climate impacts and make adapting to climate change harder, especially for the poor and most vulnerable
A global effort to reduce both near- and long-term climate change, starting now, can rapidly bend the global warming curve and keep warming below 2°C.
Short-lived climate pollutants are powerful climate forcers that remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter period of time than carbon dioxide (CO2), yet their potential to warm the atmosphere can be tens, hundreds, or even thousands of times greater.
The short-lived climate pollutants, black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons, are the most important contributors to global warming after carbon dioxide, responsible for 30-40% of the global warming experienced to date. If no action is taken to reduce emissions of these pollutants, in the coming decades they are expected to account for as much as half of warming caused by human activity.
Widespread actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions have the potential to cut the amount of warming that would occur over the next few decades by as much as 0.6°C. When combined with significant measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions, short-lived climate pollutants play an important role in slowing the rate of global warming and achieving the 2°C target set by the Paris Agreement.
Short-lived climate pollutants can be dangerous air pollutants with harmful effects for public health, ecosystems, and agricultural productivity. Acting now to reduce these pollutants contributes to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals related to air quality, health, and food security.