Journal article Open Access

Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions

Shindell, Drew T.; Faluvegi, Greg; Koch, Dorothy M.; Schmidt, Gavin A.; Unger, Nadine; Bauer, Susanne E.

Evaluating multicomponent climate change mitigation strategies requires knowledge of the diverse direct and indirect effects of emissions. Methane, ozone, and aerosols are linked through atmospheric chemistry so that emissions of a single pollutant can affect several species. We calculated atmospheric composition changes, historical radiative forcing, and forcing per unit of emission due to aerosol and tropospheric ozone precursor emissions in a coupled composition-climate model. We found that gas-aerosol interactions substantially alter the relative importance of the various emissions. In particular, methane emissions have a larger impact than that used in current carbon-trading schemes or in the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, assessments of multigas mitigation policies, as well as any separate efforts to mitigate warming from short-lived pollutants, should include gas-aerosol interactions. Chemical interactions between atmospheric gases and aerosols modify the global warming impacts of emissions. Chemical interactions between atmospheric gases and aerosols modify the global warming impacts of emissions.

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