Carbon dioxide is the belle of the climate ball. And rightly so; it’s Earth’s most important greenhouse gas and the main cause of the climate crisis. Humanity emits tens of billions of CO2 every year and has cumulatively emitted nearly two trillion tons of carbon dioxide since 1750. Even though carbon dioxide still only occupies about 0.4% of the atmosphere, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen by about 50% thanks to human activity.
Carbon dioxide might be the most famous compound in the climate crisis, but if we want to quickly reduce the greenhouse effect that principally warms our planet, there are other manmade agents of destruction that we cannot forget.
Carbon dioxide is a long-lived climate pollutant (LLCP). These pollutants usually remain in the atmosphere for 100 years or longer. Given their longer lifespan, they have more time to warm our planet. Carbon dioxide drives just over half of today’s global warming, but that leaves a lot unaccounted for.
Much of the remainder comes from short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), which usually leave the atmosphere within 20 years. These pollutants don’t last as long, but they make a statement while they’re around. As society’s addiction to fossil fuels collides with the planet’s natural processes and its ability to correct humanity’s negligence, SLCPs cannot be forgotten.