A question of perspective | ETH Zurich

Methane and black carbon make the biggest contribution to this substantial increase when seen from the GWP 20 perspective. Methane emissions from agriculture and animal husbandry play a particularly prominent role. In addition, methane and black carbon from fossil fuel extraction and from traffic add substantially to global warming in the short term. This means that there is huge potential to reduce short-lived emissions (often cost-effectively), particularly in countries with a large energy and agricultural sector.

A chance for the Paris “rulebook”

In the negotiations about the Paris Agreement, the long-term (100-year) perspective seems to dominate. In our opinion, it would be a wasted opportunity if the short-term view continues to be ignored and the conflict of objectives is not discussed. After all, short-lived climate pollutants can partly be reduced more easily than CO2. Our specific suggestions for the Paris “rulebook” are:

  • Short-lived climate pollutants should be explicitly included in the national agreements on objectives as well as long-lived ones.
  • When discussing emission rights under Article 6 of the Agreement (particularly urged by Switzerland), greater consideration should be given to the reduction potential of short-lived climate pollutants.
  • International organisations and ambitious groups of states can drive forward the reduction of short-lived climate pollutants, such as by promoting technological innovations.

We firmly believe that the choice of a long- or short-term climate protection perspective is anything but purely scientific: it is in fact deeply political. Instead of “hiding” this debate behind technical, seemingly objective conversion factors, we should conduct the discussion openly.

If the world ends its one-sided long-term climate protection perspective, it could also help to reduce the psychological distance and subjective non-involvement – both of which are some of the biggest hurdles for effective climate protection.

Lukas Fesenfeld wrote this article together with Tobias Schmidt.

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Author: Shirley