12 years. That’s the time the world may have left to get climate change under control, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report released earlier this month. The report, which has drawn widespread attention, reveals that limiting global warming to 1.5oC requires rapid and unprecedented action by all countries, including scaling existing technology for clean and efficient cooking.

It’s not just CO2 warming the planet

Reducing CO2 alone is not enough. For the first time, the IPCC has acknowledged the importance of simultaneously reducing short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs), including black carbon and methane. "Though CO2 dominates long-term warming, the reduction of warming Short-Lived Climate Forcers…can in the short term contribute significantly to limiting warming to 1.5OC,” the report notes.

Globally, up to 25% of black carbon emissions come from residential cooking, heating, and lighting. In many Asian and African countries, residential use can account for as much as 60-80% of black carbon emissions. The report finds with high confidence that “reductions of black carbon and methane would have substantial co-benefits, including improved health due to reduced air pollution.”

Clean cooking must play a critical role

One of the few pieces of good news from the report is that limiting warming to 1.5OC “is possible…but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” says Jim Skea, Co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. The likelihood of reaching that target is greatly reduced without also reducing emissions of SLCFs. All countries and all people would need to take immediate and far-reaching action across all sectors, including household energy. 

Many of the solutions and innovative technologies to combat climate change already exist (Table 4.5), deploying “clean cook stoves, gas-based or electric cooking.” However, many of these solutions are not being deployed at scale, nor receiving the requisite financial investment or political support. Citing Marc Jeuland’s 2015 research on the economics of household air pollution in India, the authors argue that switching from biomass cookstoves to “cleaner gas stoves or to electric cooking stoves is technically and economically feasible in most areas, but faces barriers in user preferences, costs, and the organization of supply chains.” 

The authors call for the integration of SLCFs into emissions accounting and international reporting mechanisms to enable a better understanding of the links between black carbon, air pollution, climate change, and agricultural productivity.  

 

1 degree—not looking good, 1.5—bad, and 2—much, much worse

The report comes two months before the world’s leaders and scientists convene in Poland for the Katowice Climate Change Conference to review the progress (or lack thereof) since the Paris Agreement. The report’s 91 authors and review editors were tasked with estimating how much climate change impacts could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5OC above pre-industrial levels compared to 2OC.  The report highlights that we are already seeing the consequences of having warmed the planet by 1OC. Examples include extreme weather, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Florence; rising sea levels that have already worsened the impact of tsunamis like the September 2018 tsunami that wrecked Indonesia; and diminishing Arctic sea ice. These impacts will only worsen with each year and each rise in temperature. Even with the commitments of the Paris Agreement, the world is on track to surpass 2OC. 

Even the most optimistic scenario isn’t a good one, but the hope is that this report motivates governments, the private sector, and individuals to take aggressive action now - including increased investment, innovation, and enabling policies for the clean cooking sector -  to limit warming to 1.5OC

 

SLCF

Compound

Atmospheric Lifetime 

Annual Global 

Emission

Main Anthropogenic

Emission Sources

Examples of Options to Reduce Emissions Consistent with 1.5OC Examples of Co-Benefits on (Haines, et al., 2017) unless specified otherwise 
Methane On the order of 10 years 0.3 GtCH4 (2010) (Pierrehumbert, 2014)

Fossil fuel extraction and transportation

Land-use change

Livestock and rice cultivation

Waste and wastewater  

Managing manure from livestock 

Intermittent irrigation of rice 

Capture and usage of fugitive methane 

Dietary change

For more: see Sections 4.3.2 and 4.3.3

Reduction of tropospheric ozone (Shindell et al., 2017a)

Health benefits of dietary changes 

Increased crop yields 

Improved access to drinking water 

HCFs Months to decades, depending on the gas 0.35 GtCo2-eq (2010) (Velders etal., 2015)

Air conditioning

Refrigeration 

Construction material 

Alternatives to HFCs in air-conditioning and refrigeration applications Greater energy efficiency (Mota-Babiloni et al., 2017)
Black Carbon Days ~7 Mt (2010) (Klimont et al., 2017)

Incomplete combustion of fossil fuels or biomass in vehicles (esp. diesel), cook stoves or kerosene lamps

Field and biomass burning 

Fewer and cleaner vehcles 

Reducing agricultural biomass burning

Cleaner cook stoves, gas-based or electric cooking 

Replacing brick and coke ovens 

Solar lamps 

For more see Section 4.3.4

Health benefits of better air quality 

Increased education opportunities

Reduced coal consumption for modern brick kilns 

Reduced deforestation