These Are the Toughest Emissions to Cut, and a Big Chunk of the Climate Problem

By Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News

Without improvements in shipping, cement and steel, major sources of greenhouse gas pollution will be locked in for generations, new research shows.

Ocean shipping accounts for about 3 percent of global CO2 emissions. Nations and the industry have started discussing how to reduce these emissions, but the steps so far are modest. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Efforts to tackle climate change typically focus on boosting renewable energy or using cleaner, more efficient cars, but there’s an entire realm of the economy they’re largely ignoring — one that accounts for about a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions.

These other sources of climate pollution include industrial processes and long-haul shipping, and cutting their emissions will prove particularly difficult.

Taken together, these hard-to-cut sources accounted for 27 percent of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industrial sources, according to a paper written by more than 30 leading climate scientists and published Thursday in the journal Science. What’s more, as global trade and construction continue to grow, the scientists warn that absolute emissions from these sources could eventually equal the current total level of global emissions.

“If we want to get to a net zero energy system this century, we really need to be scaling up alternatives now,” said Steven J. Davis, an earth systems scientist at the University of California, Davis and the study’s lead author…

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Dr. Thomas H. Bradley, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University, is an author on the article published in the journal Science.