This article discusses a virtually unknown treaty, called the Gothenburg Protocal, that limits pollutants that increase global warming or hurt human health. Its latest update—which adds black carbon—could be ratified this year.
This treaty has been called an “unsung hero” in the fight against air pollution and climate change. It may be unknown in the United States, but it is a landmark international agreement, setting limits on how much black carbon and other pollutants countries can emit.
Black carbon, or soot, is seen as a unique danger to the climate because its ability to accelerate warming in the atmosphere is many times stronger than carbon dioxide. It also speeds up the melting of sea ice. This double-whammy is responsible for a half a degree Celsius of warming in the Arctic so far.
“The science had evolved to a certain degree that it was possible for countries, governments to get involved,” said Svante Bodin, the European director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, a network of policy experts and researchers working to preserve the ice-covered portions of the Earth. “It had become clear that this could have a strong climate impact.”