California Just Passed the Most Stringent Pollutant Laws in the Nation

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On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the most stringent law in the country to combat “super pollutants” — a class of particularly hazardous contaminates like black carbon, fluorinated gases, and methane — that can be tens of thousands of times more powerful than greenhouse emissions like carbon dioxide.

By 2030, SB 1383 requires the state to reduce black carbon (produced by diesel engines, mostly) levels by 50 percent, and methane (from dairy operations) and hydrofluorocarbons (used in appliances like air conditioners) by 40 percent from 2013 levels.

Super pollutants — or short-lived climate pollutants — don’t stay in the atmosphere for as long as carbon dioxide. But they’re much more destructive. Black carbon spends just several days or weeks in the atmosphere, and yet it is thousands of times stronger than carbon dioxide. To put it further into perspective: Just one ton of diesel black carbon is equal to as many as 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution, according to the governor’s office.

“The policies that California is implementing, if achieved worldwide, would cut the expected rate of global warming in half by 2050, save millions of lives, avoid millions of tons of crop losses per year and slow dangerous climate feedbacks such as melting ice caps and rising sea levels,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, the San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography distinguished professor, said in a statement on Monday. “The benefits of such a policy can far exceed the cost of enacting it.”

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