Multiple Benefits of Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Controls

Multiple benefits of measures to control emissions of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs)

Dr. Shindell has been a leader in promoting actions that simultaneously reduce near-term climate change and improve air quality and ways to quantify these. Many years of research by Dr. Shndell and others have led to a broader appreciation of the benefits of pursuing such actions alongside efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, opening what the New York Times referred to as “A Second Front in the Climate War”.

One of the main SLCPs is methane. Dr. Shindell chaired the Global Methane Assessment released in 2021 by the UN Environment Programme and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which emphasized the multiple benefits of methane abatement (see also “Bringing Climate Science to Society” page). That report, available here, showed that there were readily available, cost-effective solutions to reduce methane emissions and that doing so would lead to enormous climate and air quality benefits. The Assessment helped catalyze strong worldwide interest in reducing methane, and was featured in many news stories including one from the New York Times. Dr. Shindell wrote an article in the Conversation and co-wrote an article in The Hill with Inger Andersen (executive director of the UN Environment Programme) on the benefits of methane reductions. Along with the efforts of others in government and civil society, this lead to the Global Methane Pledge sponsored by the US and EU, with more than 100 countries joining by the Nov. 2021 COP 26 meeting in Glasgow in an ambitious Pledge to reduce their methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 (relative to 2020). Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry and EPA Administrator Michael Regan both cited the Global Methane Assessment in their remarks at the COP26.

An article prepared for the 2015 Paris Climate negotitations (COP21) and released as part of the Climate Change The New Economy publication is available here.

A video showing Dr. Shindell’s discussion on SLCPs at the Paris COP is below.

The SLCP (Short-Lived Climate Pollutants) approach is a new framing focusing on improving human health and crop yields and mitigating climate change over the next few decades. As climate change is already occurring, and the rate of change over the next few decades will have a large effect on the ability of human and natural systems to adapt, slowing the near-term rate of warming should be an important societal goal along with limiting the long-term peak warming. This page discusses research quantifying the benefits of specific actions designed to reduce SLCPs thereby mitigating near-term climate change and improve air quality. More general, complementary research designed to quantify the economic value of environmental benefits can be found on the “Economic Valuation of Benefits” page.

Quantifying the Climate, Health and Agricultural Benefits of Targeted Reductions in Methane and Black Carbon

Science Paper: One of the key papers describing the benefits of emissions controls is “Simultaneously Mitigating Near-Term Climate Change and Improving Human Health and Food Security”, Shindell et al., Science, 2012, which can be freely accessed without a subscription courtesy of Science (click for a reprint or the full text). Additional technical information is available in the UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone (see Bringing Climate Science to Society page).

Interactive Graphics: A web-based set of interactive graphics showing the climate, health and agricultural impacts of the measures is available here. A NASA Feature story showing a gallery of images associated with these pollution control measures is available here.

Presentation: Dr. Shindell delivered the honorary Charney Lecture on this topic at the Dec. 2012 meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Video of that presentation can be viewed here. The presentation itself can be downloaded as powerpoint or pdf.

Policy Response: In Feb. 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced an international initiative to reduce methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons called the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants. Transcript and video of the announcement are available from the US State Dept here. As of Nov. 2021 the Coaltion had expanded from the original 7 partners to 73 nations along with numerous intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, development banks and research organizations.

The SLCP approach has been adopted at various levels. Norway has developed a national action plan for SLCPs. Mexico included targets for black carbon, an SLCP, in its 2015 Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. California released a Concept Paper on its SLCP Reduction Strategy in 2015.