, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 445-457

Global Warming Potentials: 1. Climatic Implications of Emissions Reductions

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The use of Global Warming Potentials (GWPs) to calculate ‘equivalent’ carbon dioxide emissions reductions in the climate change context is examined. We find that GWPs are accurate only for short time horizons. Over long time horizons their use implicitly leads to tradeoffs between near-term and long-term climate change. For one of the most policy-relevant cases, comparing reductions in methane and carbon dioxide, the long-term effect on climate of reducing methane emissions is relatively small, at variance with the common perception based on published GWP values.