Experts raise awareness of black carbon danger

Leading experts have raised the issue of black carbon in our atmosphere and examined its effect upon the Earth’s climate. Professor Jefferson Simoes, director of the Brazilian National Institute for […]

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By Tom Gibson

Leading experts have raised the issue of black carbon in our atmosphere and examined its effect upon the Earth’s climate.

Professor Jefferson Simoes, director of the Brazilian National Institute for Cryospheric Sciences, said: “It is the second most important contributor to global warming.”

Black carbon results from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass and can warm the earth from the absorption of heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo, the ability to reflect sunlight, when deposited on snow and ice. Reducing this effect could potentially reduce the melting of ice caps and glaciers.

John Topping, President of the Climate Institute, said: “Black carbon is where we can make the biggest difference – it is essentially soot. It has a warming effect that is roughly 55% of CO2 and that doesn’t even include the calculation of the albedo effect.”

Black carbon belongs to the ‘short-lived pollutants’ group, which are retained in the atmosphere for some days before deposition.

Mr Topping said: “We have a chance of avoiding absolutely catastrophic climate change. The most important thing we can do is act on black carbon.”

Speaking of how to deal with the problem, Mr Topping added: “There is currently a zero evaluation right now under the Kyoto protocol for black carbon reductions. It’s important industrial countries have to move aggressively on it as well, otherwise there’s the perception that we are simply passing off action on CO2 and telling developing countries to do all the work.”