Hearing held on Super Pollutants Act of 2014 – including Black Carbon

Source: Climate, Etc.

Super Pollutants Act of 2014

by Judith Curry
The Senate held an interesting and potentially important hearing on super pollutants.
The Super Pollutants Act of 2014 is legislation that has been introduced by Senators Murphy (D-Conn) and Collins (R-Maine), which is bipartisan legislation to address short-lived energy climate pollutants.  The text of the bill is found [here], and Senator Murphy has a June press release [here].  Excerpts from the press release:
U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today announced their plans to introduce legislation aimed at reducing emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). SLCPs, referred to as “super pollutants,” are non-carbon dioxide greenhouse pollutants that cause 40 percent of global warming. SLCPs range from methane that is leaked by landfills and oil and gas exploration, to refrigerants leaking from refrigerators and air conditioners, to soot from diesel engines and millions of traditional cookstoves all over the developing world. Studies show that fast action to reduce SLCPs in the atmosphere could cut the rate of sea level rise by 25 percent, almost halve the rate of temperature rise, prevent two million premature deaths each year, and avoid crop losses of over 30 million tons annually.
David Doniger, Director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at NRDC said, “We applaud Senators Murphy and Collins for adding legislative muscle to the fight to curb key pollutants that are driving dangerous changes in our climate. We have long known that heat-trapping pollutants besides carbon dioxide, such as methane and HFCs, also are worsening the climate. It’s time to start reducing these super pollutants because, if unchecked, they could make up more than 20 percent of our climate-changing pollution by midcentury.”
Dupont said, “DuPont applauds the bipartisan leadership of Senators Murphy and Collins in seeking sensible, cost effective reductions in the use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that exhibit high global warming potentials (GWP). The HFC policies contained in their Super Pollutants Act of 2014 reflect the kinds of common sense approaches that have widespread support in both the business and NGO communities.”
“The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy appreciates the bipartisan leadership of Senators Murphy and Collins in seeking sensible, cost-effective reductions in the use and emissions of HFCs that exhibit a high global warming potential,” said Kevin Fay, Executive Director of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a Hearing on the Super Pollutants Act of 2014 [link].  There is no link to the Majority or Minority Statements on the Hearing page (and I didn’t listen to the entire webcast).
The Witnesses called by the Democrats include:
Durwood Zaelke of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development [link].  Zaelke’s testimony focused on specific mitigation strategies for black carbon, methane, and CFCs.  The testimony is well written and very informative, with a comprehensive reference list.  This testimony provides a very good overview of the problem and solutions.
Kevin Fay of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy [link].  Fay’s testimony focuses specifically on HFCs.  The Alliance is an industry coalition organized to address the issue of stratospheric ozone. I found his statement on the underlying philosophy of the Alliance to be interesting:  Alliance members have deemed it far more effective to control our destiny and achieve these objectives through measures that allow for achievement of goals over the long-term while minimizing near-term economic disruption.
Drew Shindell of Duke University [link].  Shindell is arguably the scientific ‘father’ of the climate fast attack plan (link to previous CE post).  His testimony is short, focusing on societal benefits from reductions to emissions of black carbon and methane, and includes a recent article published in Nature: Clean Up Our Skies.
The witnesses called by the Republicans:
Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation [link].  Peiser’s testimony (which is receiving a lot of attention in the skeptical blogosphere) provides a remarkable account of the negative impacts of EU’s unilateral climate policies that focus on reducing CO2 emissions.
Steve Moore of the Heritage Foundation [link]. His testimony focused on the importance of fossil fuels industry to the U.S. economy and the importance of ensuring that government regulation does not impede future growth.
JC reflections
I am a big fan of the so-called climate fast attack plan; in fact this story got my vote for the climate story of the year in 2012 [link].  Politically, this proposal seems to have bipartisan support in Congress, and support from green NGOs as well some industry groups.
The beauty of the proposed bill is that it sold as mitigating super pollutants that have serious health impacts.  And by the way, they help reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gases and carbonaceous aerosols that warm the climate. The proposed reductions of black carbon, methane and CFC emissions have sufficient health and economic benefits that they make sense whether or not there is dangerous anthropogenic warming from human emitted greenhouse gases.
The climate fast attack plan has received opposition from some climate scientists and AGW advocates of the ‘urgent action needed to reduce CO2 emissions’ persuasion.  Their objection is that this proposal distracts from what they think should be the focus of climate policy –  drastically reducing CO2 emissions.  I spotted a paper somewhere in the last few months that claimed reducing emissions of super pollutants wouldn’t reduce greenhouse warming all that much (I can’t find it now).
This proposal to reduce super pollutants is a good example of a robust policy option – something that makes sense regardless of how climate change plays out.  Benny Peiser eloquently lays out the argument whereby aggressive unilateral emissions reductions have massive negative consequences – certainly not a robust policy option.
The witnesses selected by both the Democrats and Republicans are interesting in several contexts.  The three Democratic witnesses were all supportive of the bill – none of the sentiments were expressed about how this will distract from climate change mitigation efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.  The Republican witnesses provided general support for continued emissions of fossil fuels, without specifically criticizing elements of the proposed bill.
Zaelke’s testimony in particular provided pragmatic examples of specific efforts to reduce the super pollutants, that would seem to have relatively little economic impact on the fossil-fuel related industries.

This bill looks like as close to ‘win-win’ as we are going to see in the U.S. in terms of climate mitigation legislation, with even more important impacts on public health.