Black carbon accelerated the melting of snow and ice in critical regions: new report

Black carbon is a fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) component of the polluted air, a leading cause of poor health and premature deaths
"Black carbon is killing earth"
"Black carbon is killing earth"File

New Delhi: Black carbon accelerated the melting of snow and ice in critical regions such as the Himalayas, the Arctic and the Andes and disrupted monsoon patterns in India and West Africa while exacerbating the effects of hazardous heatwaves, said a new report launched here on Friday.

Black carbon is a fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) component of the polluted air, a leading cause of poor health and premature deaths.

Titled The Case for Action on Black Carbon', the report underscored the urgency of reducing black carbon alongside deep decarbonization efforts to mitigate climate tipping points, enhance resilience, and ensure clean air.

The report highlighted a significant gap between the increasing evidence of black carbon's regional climate impacts and its notable absence from global climate strategies.

Launched at a side event at the UN climate summit, the COP28, the comprehensive report emphasises the critical need for countries to address black carbon emissions.

The report is prepared by Clean Air Fund, a charity, think tank Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, an independent health and climate monitoring organisation, and consultancy firm Orbis Air.

Among the crucial climate impacts outlined in the report is how black carbon accelerates the melting of snow and ice in critical regions such as the Arctic, the Himalayas, and the Andes.

"Black carbon also disrupts monsoon patterns in West Africa and India while exacerbating the effects of hazardous heat waves," it said.

The report stresses that reducing black carbon emissions is not only vital for climate mitigation but also essential for climate adaptation, playing a key role in building resilience and mitigating risks associated with extreme rainfall events.

The Case for Action on Black Carbon' consolidates the latest scientific findings on black carbon, a sooty material resulting from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biomass, and waste.

Beyond its climate implications, the report also sheds light on the myriad health impacts of black carbon, particularly affecting marginalized and indigenous communities.

The substance is strongly linked to increased blood pressure levels, a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Exposure during pregnancy has also been associated with adverse birth outcomes, including low birth weight, it said.

Speaking at the launch, Dr. R Subramanian, sector head, Air Quality, CSTEP, said black carbon, emitted by fossil fuel and biofuel burning, is a significant contributor to outdoor and household air pollution and melts the snow and ice in the Arctic and the Himalayas.

"Our new report shows that solutions can be implemented now to reduce or even eliminate black carbon and associated air pollutant emissions. The time to act is now. We can't wait," he said.

Sean Maguire, Clean Air Fund's Director of Strategic Partnerships, said black carbon poses the double threat of being harmful to our health and the planet.

"By reducing black carbon emissions, we can stop these effects. Funding, particularly from national governments, multilateral development banks, development agencies, and philanthropy, is greatly needed to support further research into and drive greater action on black carbon, both at COP28 and beyond," he said.

The report also included case studies from around the world, demonstrating cost-effective and practical solutions to reduce black carbon emissions.

These include transitioning to cleaner technologies in the Arctic and Africa, introducing zigzag' technology for firing brick kilns in Asia and controlling wildfires through community engagement in forest management.

In addition to outlining the climate and health impacts, the report recommended integrating black carbon reduction strategies into national climate policies.

The speakers suggested including black carbon targets in revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for 2025 and promoting measures such as deep decarbonization of black carbon-rich sources through policies, regulations, and monitoring.

They also called for increased grant and concessional funding to support countries in reducing emissions from black carbon-rich sectors and emphasized the need for more research on the measurement and modelling of black carbon and its co-pollutants to better understand its precise impact.

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