The role of short-lived climate pollutants in meeting temperature goals

21 November 2013

Niel H. A. Bowerman, David J. Frame, Chris Huntingford, Jason A. Lowe, Stephen M. Smith & Myles R. Allen

Nature Climate Change 3, 1021–1024 (2013) doi:10.1038/nclimate2034 Received 24 August 2012 |Accepted 24 September 2013 | Published online 21 November 2013

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Some recent high-profile publications have suggested that immediately reducing emissions of methane, black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) may contribute substantially towards the goal of limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Although this literature acknowledges that action on long-lived climate pollutants (LLCPs) such as CO2 is also required, it is not always appreciated that SLCP emissions in any given decade only have a significant impact on peak temperature under circumstances in which CO2 emissions are falling. Immediate action on SLCPs might potentially 'buy time' for adaptation by reducing near-term warming; however early SLCP reductions, compared with reductions in a future decade, do not buy time to delay reductions in CO2.