Integrated assessment of short-lived climate pollutants in Latin America and the Caribbean: summary for decision makers

Efforts to reduce dangerous air and climate pollutants by Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries could reap immediate and long-term benefits for health, food security and the climate according to the first ever Integrated Assessment of Short-lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) for the region. The assessment, released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), found poor air quality and global warming is already affecting vulnerable populations and ecosystems in the region resulting in premature deaths, crop yield losses, and ecosystem damage. In 2010 an estimated 64,000 people died prematurely in the LAC region from exposure to fine air polluting particulate matter (PM2.5) and ground level (tropospheric) ozone. Ozone was also responsible for an estimated 7.4 million tonnes in yield losses of soybean, maize, wheat, and rice. If no action is taken to improve air quality, by 2050 annual premature mortality from PM2.5 and ozone exposure is expected to almost double while annual crop losses could rise to about 9 million tonnes. The assessment focuses on four short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs): black carbon (soot), methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs, typically used in refrigeration and air conditioning). SLCPs are present in the atmosphere for a short period of time compared to carbon dioxide (CO2) – days to decades compared to hundreds of years – and are many times more potent at warming the atmosphere. Black carbon and tropospheric ozone, are also powerful air pollutants that harm human health and the environment.