Global Warming Poetential

Global warming potential (GWP) is a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming. It is a relative scale which compares the gas in question to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is by definition 1). A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval and the value of this must be stated whenever a GWP is quoted or else the value is meaningless.

Calculation

Just as radiative forcing provides a simplified means of comparing the various factors that are believed to influence the climate system to one another, Global Warming Potentials (GWPs) are one type of simplified index based upon radiative properties that can be used to estimate the potential future impacts of emissions of different gases upon the climate system in a relative sense.

GWP is based on a number of factors, including the radiative efficiency (heat-absorbing ability) of each gas relative to that of carbon dioxide, as well as the decay rate of each gas (the amount removed from the atmosphere over a given number of years) relative to that of carbon dioxide .

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the generally accepted values for GWP, which changed slightly between 1996 and 2001. An exact definition of how GWP is calculated is to be found in the IPCC's 2001 Third Assessment Report. The GWP is defined as the ratio of the time-integrated radiative forcing from the instantaneous release of 1 kg of a trace substance relative to that of 1 kg of a reference gas:

where: TH is the time horizon over which the calculation is considered; ax is the radiative efficiency due to a unit increase in atmospheric abundance of the substance (i.e., Wm-2 kg-1) and [x(t)] is the time-dependent decay in abundance of the substance following an instantaneous release of it at time t=0. The denominator contains the corresponding quantities for the reference gas (i.e. CO2). The radiative efficiencies ax and ar are not necessarily constant over time. While the absorption of infrared radiation by many greenhouse gases varies linearly with their abundance, a few important ones display non-linear behaviour for current and likely future abundances (e.g., CO2, CH4, and N2O). For those gases, the relative radiative forcing will depend upon abundance and hence upon the future scenario adopted.

Since all GWP calculations are a comparison to CO2 which is non-linear, all GWP values are affected. Assuming otherwise as is done above will lead to lower GWPs for other gases than a more detailed approach would.

Use in Kyoto Protocol

Under the Kyoto protocol,, the Conference of the Parties decided (decision 2/CP.3) that the values of GWP calculated for the IPCC Second Assessment Report are to be used for converting the various greenhouse gas emissions into comparable COne;text-underline:none CO2 equivalents when computing overall sources and sinks.

 

   








 
 
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