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Climate Effects of Emission Standards: The Case for Gasoline and Diesel Cars

Katsumasa Tanaka, Terje K. Berntsen, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Kristin Rypdal

Passenger transport affects climate through various mechanisms involving both long-lived and short-lived climate forcers. Because diesel cars generally emit less CO2 than gasoline cars, CO2 emission taxes for vehicle registrations and fuels enhance the consumer preference for diesel cars over gasoline cars. However, with the non-CO2 components, which have been changed and will be changed under the previous and upcoming vehicle emission standards, what does the shift from gasoline to diesel cars mean for the climate mitigation? By using a simple climate model, we demonstrate that, under the earlier emissions standards (EURO 3 and 4), a diesel car causes a larger warming up to a decade after the emissions than a similar gasoline car due to the higher emissions of black carbon and NOX (enhancing the O3 production). Beyond a decade, the warming caused by a diesel car becomes, however, weaker because of the lower CO2 emissions. As the latter emissions standards (EURO 5 and 6) are phased in, the short-term warming due to a diesel car becomes smaller primarily due to the lower black carbon emissions. Thus, although results are subject to restrictive assumptions and uncertainties, the switch from gasoline to diesel cars encouraged by CO2 taxes does not contradict with the climate mitigation focusing on long-term consequences.

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