What Are The Best Ways To Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Emissions?

Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons, and black carbon are significant drivers of climate change, with many times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In addition, they also have a huge influence on food, water, and economic security for vast populations all over the globe, directly and indirectly, through their adverse effects on public health, ecosystems, and agriculture.

Fortunately, the relatively short atmospheric lifespan of SLCPs, coupled with their high warming potential, means that reducing them may bring benefits to various areas, from the climate to the global food system. This roundup will explore how we can reduce each of the major SLCPs.

1
Following the Experts

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have developed a set of control methods for SLCPs that they believe can reach 90% of total possible emissions reductions for methane, HFCs, and black carbon. Many of these methods make use of existing, low-cost technology and techniques.

2
The Benefits

According to the UNEP and WMO research, if we employ these methods, we could reduce the amount of warming over the next few decades by as much as 0.6°C while averting 2.4 million annual premature deaths from outdoor air pollution and avoiding 52 million tons of agricultural waste.

3
Methane

According to UNEP and WMO, we can expect a 40% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 if we follow their guidelines for reducing methane across three sectors – agriculture, waste management, and fossil fuel production.

For agriculture, they recommend – 

  • Improved animal feed quality
  • Better manure management
  • Modernized nutrition and feed management strategies
  • Selective breeding
  • Large-scale anaerobic digestion of animal waste
  • Follow guidelines for a healthy diet low in animal products

The fossil fuel industry can reduce methane emissions by – 

  • Removing and oxidizing methane from mines in the pre-mining stage
  • Reducing leaks along transport pipelines
  • Recovering and using methane emissions from all points in fossil fuel production

Waste management can improve methane emissions by – 

  • Composting municipal waste or using it for biofuel
  • Improving gas recovery systems in waste treatment facilities 
  • Improving anaerobic digestion in the food industry
  • Capturing and using landfill gas
4
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

Many HFCs have varying global warming potentials and a wide range of atmospheric lifespans. However, most of these gases find employment in refrigeration, and any technological improvements in that industry are likely to reduce HFC emissions.  

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol adds HFCs to the roster of gases to be reduced. The general guidelines of the amendment suggest that industries and governments should replace HFCs with non-global warming alternatives while pushing for energy efficiency. In addition, pursuing improvements in insulation will mitigate the need (real or perceived) for air conditioning and other forms of climate control. 

5
Black Carbon

Although it's not a GHG, black carbon has a massive global warming potential. Fortunately, several policies could add up to a 70% reduction in black carbon emissions by 2030. Many developed nations have employed these measures already, but many developing countries are still working to establish the necessary infrastructure.

For example, modern heating, lighting, and cooking appliances emit little black carbon. Therefore, replacing wood stoves with pellet stoves, lump coal with briquettes, and eventually fossil fuel cooking or heating with biofuel appliances can help eliminate black carbon from a household.

The same principle applies to industrial and commercial ovens – modernize the fuel source or employ recovery technology to collect the emissions. In addition, the agriculture, fossil fuel production, and transportation sectors can all lower black carbon by eliminating as much burning as possible – whether it’s natural gas, diesel, or waste products.

6
7
8
9
10
Key Takeaways
  • Put Out the Fire – Incomplete burning of fossil fuels leads to black carbon. Where possible, use modern, clean-burning appliances and heating systems at home. Better yet, go electric and high efficiency!
  • Ditch the AC – It can feel great on a hot summer day, but it comes at a cost to you and the planet. Focusing on better insulation and foregoing the AC can lower HFC emissions and lower your bills.
  • Change Your Diet – It doesn’t have to be vegan or vegetarian (though those could help), but try reducing the amount of animal product you use in the kitchen. Fewer belches, less waste, and lower methane emissions are better for everyone.