Domestic Mitigation of Black Carbon From Diesel Emissions

Date01 February 2011
AuthorHannah Chang
Mitigation of
Black Carbon
From Diesel
by Hannah Chang
Hannah Chang wrote this Article while a Fellow at
Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law.
Black carbon, a component of soot and particulate
matter, competes closely with methane as the larg-
est anthropogenic contributor to global warming
after carbon dioxide. Regulation of black carbon ha s
been identied as an aordable, politically feasible,
fast-action means to mitigate the warming tempera-
tures caused by climate change. With an emphasis on
domestic mitigation, this Article examines how emis-
sions are controlled under the CAA and what EPA,
states, and municipalities can do to mitigate black car-
bon emissions further.
Black carbon (BC), a component of soot and particu-
late matter (PM), competes closely with methane
as the largest anthropogenic contributor to global
warming after carbon dioxide (CO2).1 Both domestically
and internationally, BC can be mitigated by aordable tech-
nologies that already exist. Moreover, such mitigation has
nearly immediate eects, as BC remains in the atmosphere
for mere days or weeks, in contrast to CO2, which remains
in the atmosphere for a century or more.2 BC is linked to
cardiovascular symptoms and decrea sed lung fu nction, so
mitigation also produces tremendous public health ben-
ets. As a result, BC’s prole as the “lowest hanging of the
low-hanging fruit”—an aordable, politically feasible, fast-
action means to mitigate the warming temperatures caused
by climate change3—has risen in recent years, especially in
the arena of international mitigation.4
BC emissions from dierent sources have dierent
warming eects, however. Whereas fossil fuel soot is clearly
warming, biomass soot has a lesser warming eect on the
climate and may even have a net cooling eect. Conse-
quently, one of the key conclusions drawn at an April 2010
Yale Climate and Energy Institute workshop on BC was
that diesel emissions, a prime source of fossil fuel soot,
should be the target of mitigation eorts, rather than emis-
sions f rom biofuel-burning cookstoves, which have been
the center of attention to date.5
Although the United States is a relatively small contrib-
utor to worldwide BC emissions, it has per capita emissions
comparable to t hose in developing regions where the vast
majority of BC is emitted.6 Moreover, diesel emissions—
the sort of emissions that have an undeniable warming
1. Jessica Seddon Wallack & Veerabhadran Ramanathan,  
, 88 F A. 105,
106 (2009).
2. Id. at 107.
3. Andrew Childers, Environmental Groups Discuss Ways to Reduce Impact of
Black Carbon, BNA Daily Env’t Rep. A-1 (Mar. 6, 2009).
4. e United Nation Environment Programme’s Integrated Assessment on
Black Carbon and Ozone, a report that aims to dene the climate, air pol-
lution, health, and agriculture impacts of BC and ozone and examines the
temperature impacts of feasible mitigation measures, is expected to be re-
leased in February 2011.
5. Bidisha Banerjee, -
(July 2010), available at http://www.yaleclimatemediafo-, and http://www.yaleclimate-  , Flavia
Krause-Jackson & Peter S. Green,  
Clean Energy Cookstoves, Bloomberg, Sept. 20, 2010, http://www.bloom- n-to-back-100-million-plan-for-clea n-
6.     
and Global Warming, 111th Cong. 5 (2010) (statement of V. Ramanathan,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography); John-Michael Cross, 
to Reduce Black Carbon Emissions (Climate Inst. 2009), available at http://
Copyright © 2011 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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