2010 March 18: U.S. House: It’s official: black carbon declared gaseosa non-grata

2010 March 18: U.S. House: It’s official: black carbon declared gaseosa non-grata

March 18, 2010     ShareThis

It seems like black carbon (BC) (aka soot or particulate matter), is finally being recognized as one of the top worst greenhouse gas offenders.
Regardless of whether you think it contributes 20 or 50 percent of climate warming “radiative forcing,”  Congressional hearings held earlier this week in Washington have ensured that this byproduct of biomass and fossil fuel combustion will forever live in infamy.
This erstwhile symbol of the industrial revolution has been definitely declared gaseosa non-grata.
Black Carbon can refocus attention where it’s most needed
BC’s  new-found notoriety, may be one of the best things to happen to the biomass & bioenergy community.
That’s because international public opinion — especially those on the forefront of the fight against climate change — will hopefully now turn their attention on this villain — along with their principal emitters: the energy poor who depend on biomass as their primary source of energy.

BC & Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs) can decrease rainfalls. Slide from Prof. V. Ramanathan’s testimony. Click on image to enlarge.

By focusing on BC’s impact on climate change, the bioenergy and biomass community stands a good chance of drawing much needed attention — and funding — to make progress in alleviating energy poverty and tackling IAP. [Defining the issue so narrowly is part of the problem we need to overcome, however.]
The challenge now is to produce a coordinated message with clear goals and strategies. This means enjoining all stakeholders to work together. It means good marketing and communications. It means a strong advocacy effort. None of this will be easy when you’re working across the globe with an array of stakeholders. But the climate change community did manage to bring many together and I’m certain the bioenergy – biomass – poverty alleviation – indoor air pollution – carbon market – climate change – environmental community can, too. It’s time to get busy, team!

BC for dummies (And as a newcomer to the energy poverty alleviation issue, I count myself among these.)
For those of readers who have not followed the recent hubbub surrounding BC, you should know:
1. BC is what gives the darker colors to smoke from diesel vehicles or fires
2. BC is generated through cooking with solid fuels, by biomass burning, and fossil fuel combustion.
BC warms the planet by absorbing heat in the atmosphere and by reducing albedo effect, which is the ability to reflect sunlight when deposited on snow and ice.
In Tuesday’s hearings on The Hill, Prof. V Ramanathan (Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. We’ve blogged about his work here with Project Surya), declared he estimates BC to be responsible for about 60% of current C02 greenhouse warming effect, so far. He did acknowledge that most model based estimates of BC warming effect are smaller and are in the range of 20% to 50%. Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of his testimony.

Any resemblence to Al Gore is purely coincidental. Photo: US Congress

In his testimony, Prof Ramanathan compellingly explained the rationale for mitigating BC emissions this way:
” BC offers an opportunity to reduce the projected global warming trends in the short term. The life time of BC in the air is of the order of days to several weeks. The BC concentration and its solar warming effect will decrease almost immediately after reduction of its emission. Policy makers will have a unique opportunity to witness the success of their mitigation efforts during their tenure. Reductions of BC emissions are also warranted from considerations of public health, air quality and regional climate change. “
I’ll conclude by quoting from Rep. Ed Markey’s opening remarks at the hearing:
Cutting emissions of black carbon could yield rapid benefits for our health and climate. Black carbon only stays in the atmosphere for a few days to weeks before settling out. That means that a global effort to reduce these emissions would act fast to prevent respiratory disease and aid in the fight against global warming pollution. And we already have the technologies needed to achieve deep reductions including particle filters, improved diesel engines, and efficient cook stoves. Developing and installing these technologies would create jobs and move us forward in the clean energy economy.
Now if that’s not a rallying cry from a Massachussetts!

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