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Little-Known Treaty Could Delay Catastrophic Climate Warming


Beginning in 2019, a new global pact takes effect that could stave off some of the worst impact of climate warming predicted by the IPCC.

The little known treaty, the Kigali amendment, was agreed on October 15, 2016 and comes into force on January 1, 2019. The Kigali amendment will drastically reduce hydroflurocarbons (HFCs), which are heat-trapping gases that are the byproduct of industrial processes such as refrigeration and their generation can be eliminated through re-engineering.

Contribution of HFCs to the Green House Effect

If the global use of HFCs continues to grow at the current rate, their contribution to the greenhouse effect will increase up to 10 percent of that of CO2 in 2050. Prior to the Kigali amendment, HFC emissions were expected to increase especially in emerging economies such as China, India, and other Asian countries. Without limiting HFC use, about 50 percent of their emissions will be due to refrigerators and about 30 percent due to air conditioners in 2050.

Effects of These Chemicals on Climate Warming

HFCs are examples of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), a range of chimcals emitted into the atmosphere by human activities and contribute to global warming. It is expected that cutting down on SLCPs could reduce global warming by 0.5C, enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. But, if we continue to burn fossil fuels, it could buy humanity some much-needed time while carbon emissions are brought under better control.

Unlike carbon dioxide which can stick around for a century, SLCPs break down relatively quickly in the atmosphere. However, when they are present, they have a global warming potential more than 11,000 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

The Kigali amendment will avoid 90 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050 and could perhaps be the most significant contribution to keeping warming well below 2C.

Other Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

Another SLCP is methane, produced when vegetation rots and from animals, and in the form of natural gas from fossil fuel exploration. Methane is more than 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, but there have been few attempts to stop it reaching the atmosphere, even from easily containable sources such as sewage plants, intensive livestock farms, and industrial sources such as fracking wells and oil and gas production.

[via the Guardian]

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