Black Carbon

in Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States (eds. Michael Gerrard & John C. Dernbach) (2019)

34 Pages Posted: 22 May 2019

Date Written: October 2018


Black carbon (or soot) is a potent climate forcer that may rank second only to CO2 in warming the planet. Reducing black carbon emissions could avoid as much as .5°C (or nearly 1° Fahrenheit) of warming. In the United States, the major sources of black carbon emissions are diesel combustion from the transportation sector, diesel combustion from stationary sources, coal combustion, and biomass combustion. This chapter discusses key strategies and obstacles to reducing black carbon emissions, with a particular focus on reducing diesel fuel use. The chapter explains how several Clean Air Act (CAA) programs that regulate emissions of fine particulate matter, including the mobile source standards program, several stationary source programs, national ambient air quality standards, and state implementation plans, could help reduce or eliminate black carbon emissions. The chapter also examines programs that state and local governments could use independent of the CAA to reduce black carbon emissions. Finally, the chapter identifies obstacles to successful regulation, proposes strategies to overcome obstacles, identifies areas of uncertainty, and briefly identifies measures discussed in other chapters in the book that would complement or accelerate the black carbon reduction strategies identified here.

Keywords: black carbon, climate change, deep decarbonization, diesel, short-lived climate forcer, Clean Air Act

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Powers, Melissa, Black Carbon (October 2018). in Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States (eds. Michael Gerrard & John C. Dernbach) (2019), Available at SSRN:

Melissa Powers (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )

10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States

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