The adverse effects of black carbon (BC) emissions from diverse sources are significant in human and economic terms (Shindell et al., 2012; United Nations Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization, 2012; US Environmental Protection Agency, 2012). The health effects include annual premature deaths on the order of millions of people from lung cancer and cardiovascular problems, as well as lost work and health care costs from asthma and other disorders (World Health Organization, 2012). BC also has detrimental effects on food supplies, with the production of rice and others crops reduced by millions of tonnes per year. In addition, BC has significant climate change consequences: Its global warming impact is about 55 percent that of carbon dioxide and thus greater than other greenhouse gases (Bond et al., 2013). BC’s Global Warming Potential per tonne is thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide’s over a 20-year period (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, 2013). BC aerosols plus BC depositions on snow and ice in the Arctic contribute to glacial melting and thus global sea level rise, and to other climate change impacts (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, 2015).
Black carbon emissions are underestimated in the transportation sector as a result of a combination of intentional under-reporting for motor vehicles and inadequate measurement methods in aviation; nevertheless, the transportation sector is estimated to be the largest source of BC emissions in developed countries and an increasing proportion in developing countries. Globally, diesel engines contribute about 90 percent of transportation’s BC emissions (Sims, Gorsevski and Anenberg, 2015). Levels of BC emissions in shipping and aviation are expected to increase for the foreseeable future as a result of increases in traffic volumes. (Although diesel fuel is not used in airplanes, there are nevertheless BC emissions from their engines as well as ground support vehicles. Yet, the aviation industry has not recognized BC emissions as a pressing issue on the ICAO agenda.)
There are cost-effective technologies that can mitigate transportation sector BC emissions. Diesel particulate filter (DPF) technology has been used in motor vehicles for years and can be used in ships as well. However, the rate of technology uptake has not been sufficient to reduce the sector’s BC emissions to levels consistent with global temperature targets agreed in the Paris Accord.
Governmental policies therefore need to focus on how to incentivize the uptake of mitigating technologies. The paper accordingly concludes with a wide range of policy recommendations:
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Further Reading: CEEPR WP 2017-012
About the Author:
|Thomas Brewer is Senior Fellow at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) in Geneva, as well as Visiting Scholar at CEEPR. He has been Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University, and Associate Fellow of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels. He was a Lead Author of the 2014 IPCC report, Mitigation of Climate Change, and convener of the E15 group on Measures to Address Climate Change and the Trade System, which was sponsored by ICTSD and the World Economic Forum.|