Congressman Scott Peters (D-Calif.) has introduced the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction Act of 2013, or SUPER Act, to establish a U.S task force to reduce super climate pollutants under existing authorities. The super pollutants, also know as short-lived climate pollutants because they remain in the atmosphere for only short periods, include black carbon, a primary component of soot, tropospheric ozone, the principle component of urban smog, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), factory-made chemicals used in air conditioning, refrigeration, and insulating foams.
The bill designates these as “super pollutants” because they are hundreds to thousands of times more potent in their warming effects than carbon dioxide. Collectively, these super climate pollutants have contributed up to 45 percent of observed global warming to date.
Because of their powerful warming impacts and the short time they remain in the atmosphere, reducing these pollutants is essential for slowing the rate of climate change in the near term and reducing dangerous climate impacts over the next several decades. In addition, black carbon and tropospheric ozone are traditional air pollutants and reducing them will help to prevent many of the estimated 6 million deaths that occur every year from air pollution and will reduce the burden of disease for many more, while also improving food security.
“The combined benefits for improving public health and food security, as well as reducing near-term warming, should make reducing super pollutants a no brainer that is welcomed across party lines,” says Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
Reducing these super pollutants worldwide can cut the rate of global warming in half over the next 40 years, avoid more than 0.6 degree C in cumulative warming by 2050 and 1.1 degrees C or more warming by 2100. “Reducing the super pollutants is absolutely essential for staying below the 2 degrees C guardrail,” Zaelke says. “In addition to cutting the rate of global warming in half, fast action to reduce these pollutants can cut the rate of warming in the Arctic by two-thirds, and the rate of warming over the elevated regions of the Himalayas and Tibet by at least half.”
“The U.S. has shown leadership on short-lived climate pollutants at the international level by co-founding the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants,” said Zaelke. “But the U.S. is still among the largest emitters of HFCs in the world and per capita emitters of black carbon. Taking decisive domestic actions will deliver concrete benefits here at home, and help restore U.S. leadership on climate protection worldwide.”