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Black Carbon and Climate Change: Exploring the Policy Options for Reducing Emissions from Diesel Fuel Consumption in the United States

Liz Carver
September 2011

Energy, Climate, and Innovation Discussion Paper


carverWhy should regulatory agencies and lawmakers pay attention to black carbon today if it has been largely ignored so far in climate-mitigating strategies?


How can the United States address black carbon emissions as part of its climate change policies and regulations?


While there’s long-standing scientific consensus on the climate impacts of black carbon, global, regional and national bodies have yet to include the agent as part of climate change mitigating policies and regulations. This paper argues that the reduction of black carbon emissions should be a priority because it leads to near-immediate impacts on atmospheric concentrations, counteracts the erosion of cooling aerosols, offers health and air quality co-benefits, and uses technology that is already widely available.  Carver’s research aims to contribute to U.S. climate change mitigation efforts by identifying policies and strategies that can help reduce the climate impacts of domestic black carbon emissions from on-road and nonroad diesel sources. Through a review of the scientific, public health and environmental literature and interviews with regulators, scientists and practitioners, the paper finds that the U.S. has a number of national and sub-national policy mechanisms that could facilitate accelerated black carbon emissions reductions, but no coordinated national strategy. After acknowledging various barriers to reducing black carbon emissions, Carver recommends sets of specific actions for the EPA, Congress and regional, state and local governments to take full advantage of the near-term opportunity that reducing black carbon emissions offers in slowing the rate of climate change. 

Read the complete paper here.

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