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

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 20 December 2013


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.

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Figure 1: Impact of SLCP reductions at different times under various scenarios.
Figure 2: Impact on peak warming of early implementation of SLCP measures versus simultaneous rate of reduction of CO2 emissions.


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We thank D. Shindell, J. Blackstock and R. Pierrehumbert for discussions and feedback during the progress of this research. N.H.A.B. was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council CASE studentship with the Met Office. C.H. was supported by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology science budget fund. J.A.L. was supported by the AVOID programme (DECC and Defra) under contract GA0215. S.M.S. was supported by the UK Committee on Climate Change. M.R.A. received additional support from the US NOAA and DoE through IDAG, from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment and the Oxford Martin Programme on Resource Stewardship. N.H.A.B, C.H., J.A.L and M.R.A. acknowledge the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) project TRN 307/11/2011 “Assessing the options for greenhouse gas metrics”. The views expressed herein represent those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their employers, funders, or the UK Climate Change Committee.

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M.R.A. and N.H.A.B. designed the experiments. N.H.A.B. carried out the modelling. M.R.A., D.J.F. and N.H.A.B developed the model. All authors contributed to writing the text.

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Correspondence to Myles R. Allen.

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Bowerman, N., Frame, D., Huntingford, C. et al. The role of short-lived climate pollutants in meeting temperature goals. Nature Clim Change 3, 1021–1024 (2013).

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