Quote by U.S. President George W. Bush on black carbon

On May 18, 2001, the Office of the President of the United States requested and received a draft copy of the paper, "Control of fossil-fuel particulate black carbon and organic matter, possibly the most effective method of slowing global warming," first drafted in August, 2000.

One finding of the paper was that controlling fossil-fuel black carbon (BC) plus organic matter (OM) was an effective method of slowing global warming over the next several decades in terms of the speed and magnitude of its climate impact upon removing its emission. The paper also cited health and mortality problems associated with aerosol particles. The conclusion of the paper stated,

(1) "Reductions in BC+OM emissions from fossil-fuel sources will not only slow global warming, but also improve health."

The conclusion also stated that

(2) "Control of BC+OM alone will not reverse global warming. Reversal requires long-term reduction in CO2 and other greenhouse gases as well."

Finally, the paper showed that CO2 caused more global warming than BC+OM, again suggesting that control of CO2 was necessary for reducing global warming.

On June 11, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush presented a speech in which he explained why the United States would not take part in the Kyoto Protocol. Instead of suggesting that the Kyoto Protocol be augmented to include BC+OM, as implied by the paper, President Bush used finding #1 above of the paper as a reason for the U.S. to pull out of the Protocol. He stated, in part,

"The Kyoto Protocol was fatally flawed in fundamental ways."

"Kyoto also failed to address two major pollutants that have an impact on warming, black soot and tropospheric ozone. Both are proven health hazards. Reducing both would not only address climate change, but also dramatically improve people's health."

Whereas control of black carbon is an effective method per unit mass emission of slowing global warming, control of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide is necessary for reversing warming, as stated in the above-mentioned paper. As such, the President was incorrect to suggest that the omission of black carbon (or ozone) had bearing on the remaining goals of the Protocol, which were to reduce major greenhouse gases. In other words, the Protocol would be strengthened by including black carbon, but it is not flawed in the absence of its inclusion.

A second argument used by the President to avoid the Protocol was that it would "have a negative economic impact, with layoffs of workers and price increases for consumers." This argument does not appear to follow from the historical record.

For example, the U.S. Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 required 90 percent reductions in three types of pollutants from automobiles by 1976. Ninety percent reductions in three pollutants compares with the 7 percent reduction from 1990 levels of greenhouse gases called for under the Kyoto Protocol. Despite opposition to the 1970 Amendments, a technology that allowed the regulations to be met, the catalytic converter, was invented by 1975. The invention not only decreased pollution but also gave U.S. industry patents. Neither the economy nor the automobile industry suffered due to the 1970 regulations. Since 1970, the number of vehicles in the U.S. has doubled, while the population has increased by only one-third. Between 1970 and 2000, emissions of sulfur dioxide, organic gases, and carbon monoxide each decreased by one-third, yet the U.S. Gross Domestic Product in fixed dollars doubled and the unemployment rate decreased from 4.9 to 4.0 percent. Regulations not only led to U.S. patents on pollution control technologies, engine technologies, fuel technologies, and alternative energy technologies, they also expanded industries, such as the clean-fuel, control-device, measurement-device, remediation, pollution software, pollution consulting, and satellite industries. Regulations further employed public- and educational-sector regulators, policy analysts, scientists, and engineers. Regulations also led to improvements in air quality, decreasing health and mortality costs.

In a second example, Thomas Midgley, the inventor of leaded gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons stated, in April, 1925, that the use of lead was "...of vital importance to the continued economic use by the general public of all automotive equipment, and unless a grave and inescapable hazard exists in the manufacture of tetraethyl lead, its abandonment cannot be justified." Yet, when regulations are put in place, technological development follow. Midgley himself developed antiknock alternatives to leaded gasoline, but he never needed to exploit these technologies, because lead was never regulated during his lifetime. When lead was first regulated in the U.S. in 1976, non-lead antiknock technologies were improved. Cars were immediately affordable while running without knock or lead, proving Midgley incorrect.

In sum, the Kyoto Protocol is a necessary first step in controlling global warming. The argument that the Protocol is flawed, in part because it omitted black carbon, is incorrect. The argument that emission regulations harm the economy is contradicted by the historical record.

For some further information on these and related issues, please see


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