On Sept. 9 California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1383, a new bill that aims to reduce the state of California’s emission of air pollutants by approximately 50 percent before 2030. The law, which restricts the release of short-lived climate pollutants is based on the research and suggestions of UC San Diego climate and atmospheric scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan.
Unlike carbon dioxide, which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, these pollutants can disappear in a few days or weeks. Many short-lived climate pollutants are also several times more potent than carbon dioxide.
“Short-lived climate pollutants like methane, black carbon and soot account for 40 percent of the global warming we see today,” Ramanathan told the UCSD Guardian. “Black carbon in the air, for example, has the same global warming effect as 2000 tons of carbon dioxide.”
Additionally, while carbon dioxide is very difficult to reduce and remove from the environment, Ramanathan claims California already possesses the technology to reduce the emission of black carbon.
“By using particulate filters, California can cut its black carbon emissions by 50 percent,” Ramanathan said. “Through the new law, methane emitted by livestock waste can also be removed from the atmosphere by turning manure into fuel, which prevents the gas from leaking into the air.”
In the future, Ramanathan and Brown hope to see more states and countries adopt plans to reduce short-lived climate pollutant emissions. Critics of the new programs have raised concerns that it is too difficult to remove these gases from the atmosphere and that the new programs are not economically feasible. These concerns can be alleviated by the fact that California has already been able to successfully implement many of these restrictions.
Ramanathan even emphasizes that investing in these programs provides a financial incentive.
“Each dollar spent on this returns $80 in benefits,” Ramanathan explained.
Ramanathan has worked with the United Nations as well as various foreign governments to establish and expand pollution restriction programs. In 2013, Ramanathan and Brown travelled to India to set up emissions control programs in rural areas by providing stoves that reduce the amount of black carbon gas released during cooking. Ramanathan currently works with his daughter to distribute the stoves and monitor the gases released.
Reducing the amount of short-lived gases in the atmosphere has a significant impact on the health of the planet and can save the lives of entire populations.
“Global pollution kills about 2.5 million people every year, and tens of thousands in the United States, so by reducing these gases, we can help the environment and save thousands of lives,” Ramanathan explained to the Guardian.