Quick climate fix : tackling black carbon

While browsing my tweets to prepare my selection of Twitter for June I found several articles pointing out to a quick climate fix : tackling black carbon (also known as soot) might prove to bring exceptional greenhouse gases emissions cuts.

The work was carried out jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and published in margin of the Bonn Climate Talks in June.

On top of slowing climate change, this would prove to have important health and agriculture benefits. Indeed up to 2.5 million lives could be saved each year. This is exactly a win-win-win situation.

As the Guardian noted :

Global warming could be slowed down if governments cleaned up what’s known as black carbon from industry and cooking fires, 50 of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists said on Tuesday.

Major air pollutants such as black carbon, methane and ground-level ozone mostly result from the soot and gases formed by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, wood and biomass. These pollutants only remain in the atmosphere for a few days or weeks, and are mostly seen by governments as important for health and air quality.

But the UN environment programme, working with the World Meteorological Organisation, said these “short-lived climate forcers” contribute as much as 25-30% to present-day climate change emissions, and if controlled would also provide dramatic health and farming benefits.

(…) Black carbon affects climate by intercepting and absorbing sunlight, darkening snow and ice when deposited, and helping to form clouds. It is most noticeable at the poles, on glaciers and in mountain regions – all environments which are showing the greatest impact of climate change.

The full impact of black carbon is still being assessed but it is linked to the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas, disruption of traditional rainfall patterns in India and Africa, and low yields of maize, rice, wheat and soya bean crops in Asia and elsewhere. It is also partly generated by wood-burning stoves and dirty diesel cars.

(…) According to the Unep report, launched on Tuesday in Bonn at the resumed UN climate talks, ground-level ozone and black carbon together could be reducing crop yields by as much as 50m tonnes a year and be leading to 2.5m premature human deaths a year from poor outdoor air quality. A preliminary version of the report was published in February.

See also the SEI press release for further details.

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