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Why Passing Rep. Peters’ Bill Is A SUPER Strategy to Fight Climate Change

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"Why Passing Rep. Peters’ Bill Is A SUPER Strategy to Fight Climate Change"

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During the last four years, Congressional action on climate change has been minimal, at best. After the Senate thwarted the cornerstone of the climate change plan, a cap-and-trade bill, a horde of climate-deniers won seats in the 2010 Congressional elections. The government continues to subsidize fossil fuels for an amount larger than the GDP of one-fifth of the world’s countries.

Despite the disappointments of the last term, there are congressional members still willing to fight climate change. One of these members, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) is continuing this battle by introducing the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction (SUPER) Act of 2013.

The SUPER Act reinvigorates the conversation about climate change by addressing “short-lived climate pollutants,” a potent group of gases referred to as SLCPs or “super pollutants.” While carbon dioxide (CO2) is the best-known greenhouse gas, it is certainly not the only one. On the contrary, nearly half of global warming is caused by super pollutants such as methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon.

Super pollutants are far more potent than CO2, with between 25 and 4000 times more global warming potential over a 100-year period. Furthermore, these pollutants remain in the atmosphere for no more than 15 years. Some gases such as black carbon and tropospheric ozone last less than two weeks. CO2 has a much longer atmospheric lifetime. Quick action to reduce super pollutant emissions can have major short-term benefits, slowing down warming by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.

The SUPER Act would take immediate action by streamlining the enforcement of existing federal policies for reducing super pollutants and supporting similar policies, such as California’s extremely successful diesel truck regulations and recent attack on hydrofluorocarbons, at the state and local level.

While the scientific imperative to reduce super pollutant emissions is clear, the optimal policy for doing so is not. That’s why the SUPER Act would also create a task force to drive the policy discussion behind the SUPER Act. The task force, composed of representatives from academia, involved industries and all levels of government, would review existing policies and report a list of best practices for mitigating super pollutant emissions. Such a discussion will be crucial to informing future actions towards developing super pollutant legislation.

Why the SUPER Act is important

The United States has already displayed substantial leadership in the global campaign against super pollutants. The United States co-sponsored an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase out HFCs annually since 2009 with Canada and Mexico. In 2012, the United States founded the Clean Air and Climate Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC), an organization that fosters international cooperation on reducing super pollutant emissions and now has grown from an original six to than 30 state partners.

Unfortunately, these examples have not yet been enough to mobilize a true global movement to combat super pollutants. The Montreal Protocol amendment continues to be strongly opposed by developing countries such as India, China and Brazil. The fledgling CCAC is also far from a global movement, with limited membership and minimal support from the developing world.

The SUPER Act will help the United States strengthen its international efforts to mitigate super pollutants right here at home.

The stakes in the fight against climate change are high, and the United States must take immediate action. Aligning our domestic policies with our international aspirations is a crucial first step, and we should start down this path by addressing short-lived climate pollution through legislation like the SUPER Act.

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31 Responses to Why Passing Rep. Peters’ Bill Is A SUPER Strategy to Fight Climate Change

  1. fj says:

    An aggressive super act would identify and detail actions of sufficient scale to reduce emissions to net zero in 5 years.

    • fj says:

      Super pollutants is likely a miniscule part of suchandactuon.

      Net zero transit, net zero buildings, zero deforestation, zero waste, zero fossil fuel and poor people first are major.

      The president must be held accountable now.

    • fj says:

      The President must steo down if he is incapable of scale appropriate action in this extreme crisis of accelerating climate change.

  2. Conrad Dunkerson says:

    Actually, I question the wisdom of such an approach.

    If we succeed in eliminating most emissions of ‘high CO2 equivalence’ greenhouse gases we would see a short term decrease in global warming… which would then prolong the denial that there is a problem.

    Thus, to me, it would seem more effective to focus efforts on the primary problem (CO2 emissions) until the world finally gets serious about addressing climate change and THEN switch to fixing up all the short term issues once doing so won’t detract attention from the main problem.

    Put another way, if we fix the ‘super pollutants’ first then we will be stuck with whatever level of unstable climate is required for people to finally realize that AGW is a real problem that needs to be fixed. If we wait until the public gets to that point and THEN fix the ‘super pollutants’ we can roll back to a slightly less unstable climate.

    • Guest says:

      Conrad,

      The latest science also seems to support your view. CO2 determines where we end up because it accumulates in the atmophere. SLP’s can be delt with later and have the same effect then as they would now.

      The science and policy of short-lived climate polutants:
      http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/briefings/PolicyNote-SLCPs.pdf

      See here for more details:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMamjYPO0Lc

      • prokaryotes says:

        At around 31:30 min into the talk, he mentions “Peak warming”, though it is not very clear how robust these assumptions are and the reference could not be looked up with a search for “Bowerman et al 2013″.

    • BobbyL says:

      The science is already more than clear that action is needed now. Those people who are basing their decisions about acting on increasing global temperature or more frequent extreme weather events may never get it. By the time they come around we will be approaching 4C. Basically it is critical to keep the global temperature from rising too quickly to prevent tipping points from being passed. The slower the temperature increases the more time we have to make the transition away from fossil fuels. The leaders of the world already have more than enough information to act. I think the main reason we are not seeing action is this economic competition between the US and China which has been the problem since the Kyoto Protocol was signed. It is the same old thing, the US will not agree to a binding treaty unless China also has to reduce emissions and China will not agree to anything unless the US signs on to reduce emissions first. Until these two countries are on the same page nothing substantial can happen.

    • MieScatter says:

      I completely agree with Conrad Dunkerson.

      Long-lived gases like CO2 are the problem. If you cut short-lived gases you make short-term warming less severe. And you ensure that denial will survive for longer.

      Let the heat crank up so denial fades away and we can actually do the right thing in the long run.

      • BobbyL says:

        I don’t get your lack of concern about passing dangerous tipping points for positive feedbacks in the short term. It seems to me that the short term may be critical.

    • So the upshot of this comment is: we’ll make progress by doing nothing.

      Progressives outsmart themselves once again.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Acting against ‘super’ pollutants without acting against CO2 seems to me to me a cop-out, which will take some of the heat off the prime ecological criminals, the fossil fuel interests.

    • Superman1 says:

      It takes a SUPERman to eliminate SUPER pollutants. Only one candidate I know for that job!

      • Merrelyn Emery says:

        I want the real one back. What have you done with him? You are clearly an imposter, ME

        • Superman1 says:

          I follow the tradition of our ‘climate’ President!

        • Tom L says:

          His only super power seems to be utter contempt for any and all who dare challenge his awesome infallibility.

          • Superman1 says:

            Instead of the invective that seems to be the only specialty of you and Secular, let’s hear a proposal that will help us avoid the climate cliff.

          • Tom L says:

            And out comes the victim card right on cue.

          • Superman1 says:

            Followed as usual by the only asset that you and Secular possess, your invective.

          • Tom L says:

            If I called you a “Carnival Barker” which I am not, would that be “invective”?

          • Superman1 says:

            Depends on the context in which it’s used. If e.g. I were recommending conversion to renewables as a way to avoid serious climate change, and at the same time was promoting painless transition and no need for ‘draconian sacrifices’ in lifestyle, then I’m obviously selling Python Oil and deserve the criticism. If I were promoting the renewables and recommending harsh sacrifice in non-essential use of fossil fuels, then the critique would be undeserved, and could certainly be viewed as invective.

          • Tom L says:

            No it does not depend on context. The dictionary says nothing of context or justification. If you are going to simply make up your own definitions of words to suit your own purposes then there’s no point in trying to have a rational conversation with you.

          • Merrelyn Emery says:

            Tom, he has demonstrated my point many times over and your conclusion is correct, ME

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Lex Luthor, perhaps.

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        It’s going to your head, Super. A sabbatical as Clark Kent may be advisable.

  4. Ed Leaver says:

    OT, but The Economist has a modestly-deep article Dams in the Amazon:

    Brazil can satisfy demand only if it adds around 6,000MW each year for the next decade to its installed generating capacity of 121,000MW… Apart from huge deposits of offshore oil and gas, Brazil has the world’s third-biggest hydropower potential (behind China and Russia), and its potential for solar and wind energy is probably among the three biggest, too. The world’s largest sugarcane crop provides a fibrous residue which burns in high-pressure boilers. The country may also have shale gas…

    There’s much more, well worth the read.

  5. Raul M. says:

    Is wasting it into the atmosphere really the same as providing for others?
    Do you really think that saving it for yourself by not wasting it into the atmosphere reduces the amount already wasted into the atmosphere?
    Do you really think that nature forgives the physics of what has already been wasted into the atmosphere because you promise to stop wasting it or even when you do stop wasting it into the atmosphere?

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Pro. I smell a diversion, a concentration on these short-lived pollutants as an excuse not to do anything about the long-lived, primarily CO2. I’m a practised cynic of course, but it’s rarely proved incorrect to suspect everybody-even myself.

      • prokaryotes says:

        It possibly requires both – all approaches.

        But the thing is that we are hooked to these aerosols to some degree, see global dimming.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Yes-’All of the above’, but correctly prioritised. We’ve just got to live with a diminution in global dimming at some stage, which is why rapid and total de-carbonisation is so utterly crucial.