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Unpicking Kyoto (6) : Black Carbon

Unpicking Kyoto
Jo Abbess
20 June 2010



Linking Climate Change to Health

During the first few years of my childhood education, I used to walk to and from the school alongside the road that was originally the main highway between London and Cambridge, England.

At that time, the density of cars in that part of town rose dramatically, as did the number of vehicles idling in long traffic jams, and I remember just how much of an impact it had on the air quality, particularly in summer.

This was despite the fact that the road was flanked by a large number of trees, areas of grass and bushes, and even ponds.

My recollection is that what had originally been a pleasant walking route became unbearable and toxic.

One day, I hope that the internal combustion engine is virtually outlawed, so that urban people can start to get some clean air.

At a recent UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) conference, the Claverton Energy Research Group invited Dr Mark A. Delucchi of the University of California at Davis to speak on the “Transportation in a World Based 100% on Wind, Water and Solar Power”, a piece of work that he did in collaboration with Professor Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University :-

This chart from the presentation gives a comparison between BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) with the electricity coming from a variety of sources; against internal combustion engine vehicles, either running on two kinds of BioEthanol (E85) or standard Gasoline.

It shows that air pollution deaths would not be reduced by converting internal combustion engine vehicles to using 85% BioEthanol (E85), because even though a good BioFuel may reduce net Carbon Dioxide emissions, it would not stop local environmental problems from airborne particulates, among them “Black Carbon”, or soot :-

Professor Jacobson has now published a report with colleagues with the conclusion that reducing Black Carbon would help slow down the melting of the Arctic sea ice, through reducing local heating effects; and also slow down Global Warming.

The two main sources of Black Carbon are burning Fossil Fuels, and burning BioMass for heat and energy. The burning of BioMass mostly takes place amongst communities of the world’s poor.

Organisations such as HEDON (ignore the fact that they are sponsored by the Shell Foundation for the time being) are involved in the valuable work of protecting the world’s poor from Black Carbon and other particulates, and noxious heating and cooking gases :-

Combining BioMass burning efficiency in the poorest countries, with action to tackle Black Carbon emissions from power stations and cars in industrialised countries, could have a significant impact on Global Warming.

A lot of research on this subject has been published in the last few months. Here is a selection, with the Mark Jacobson paper first :-

Zhang Y., Liu P., Liu X.-H., Jacobson M. Z., McMurry P. H., Yu F., Yu S., and Schere K. L., 2010. “A Comparative Study of Homogeneous Nucleation Parameterizations, Part II. 3-D Model Application and Evaluation”. Journal of Geophysical Research. doi:10.1029/2010JD014151

Jackson S. C., 2009. “Parallel Pursuit of Near-Term and Long-Term Climate Mitigation”. Science, 23 October 2009, Vol. 326. no. 5952, pp. 526 – 527, DOI: 10.1126/science.1177042

Kopp R. E. and Mauzerall D. L., 2010. “Assessing the climatic benefits of black carbon mitigation”. PNAS Vol. 17, No. 26, 29 June 2010, pp. 11703–11708.

Fischer-Bruns I., Feichter J., Kloster S. and Schneidereit A., 2010. “How present aerosol pollution from North America impacts North Atlantic climate”. Tellus A, Vol. 62, Issue 4, 19 March 2010, pp. 579 – 589, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0870.2010.00446.x

Lubin D. and Vogelmann A. M., 2010. “Observational quantification of a total aerosol indirect effect in the Arctic”. Tellus B, Vol. 62, Issue 3, 23 April 2010, pp. 181 – 189 doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0889.2010.00460.x

Garrett T. J., Chuanfeng Z. and Novelli P., 2010. “Assessing the relative contributions of transport efficiency and scavenging to seasonal variability in Arctic aerosol”. Tellus B, Vol. 62, Issue 3, 18 March 2010, pp. 190-196, doi:10.1111/j.1600-0889.2010.00453.x

Ramana M. V., Ramanathan V., Feng Y., Yoon S.-C., Kim S.-W., Carmichael G. R. and Schauer J. J., 2010. “Warming influenced by the ratio of black carbon to sulphate and the black-carbon source”. Nature GeoScience 3, pp. 542-545, 25 July 2010, doi:10.1038/ngeo918.

Andrews T., Forster P. M., Boucher O., Bellouin N., and Jones A., 2010. “Precipitation, radiative forcing and global temperature change”. Geophysical Researc Letters, 37, L14701, doi:10.1029/2010GL043991.
“European Commission, DG Environment News Alert Service, Science for Environment Policy, 18 March 2010 : Fine particles trap more heat than previously thought : Fine particles in the air produced by road transport trap more radiation in the earth’s atmosphere than previously estimated, and therefore may contribute more to global warming than realised, according to new research. In contrast, the impact of particles from shipping appears to reflect more radiation than previously thought, whilst the effect of particles from aviation is comparatively small…”

“Black carbon ‘must not distract from cutting CO2’ : ENDS Europe : Tuesday 22 June 2010 : Reducing emissions of black carbon, or soot, should be pursued as a ‘no-regret’ policy benefiting climate and health but it must not distract from cutting CO2, a senior EU official told a seminar at the European Parliament on Tuesday…”

We could tackle a serious component of short-term Global Warming by cutting down on Black Carbon. A number of safeguards to health could also be guaranteed. Double joy.

It’s not going to cost the Earth to make these changes, and it’s going to improve all of our health if we do make these changes.

It does mean that we have to stop most Coal-burning to generate electricity, and we probably need to drop a large number of the internal comubustion engine vehicles that are permitted to drive on the roads; plus make most residential urban areas car-free (and care-free).

Are we ready for these changes ?

It’s “Carbon Change” to help stop “Climate Change”.

The reasons for acting on Black Carbon are likely to be much more understandable and palatable to policymakers and companies, than blanket restrictions on Carbon Dioxide emissions at this stage.

Action on Black Carbon could be one of the “baby steps” that the new United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres is talking about :-

“New UN climate change chief rallies governments to step up action : 2 August 2010 – With the future of humanity at stake, governments must continue building common ground to further progress on climate change, the new United Nations chief on the issue said in the latest round of international negotiations which kicked off in Bonn today…”Time is not on our side,” Ms. Figueres stated. “Decisions need to be taken, perhaps in an incremental manner, but most certainly with firm steps and unwavering resolve.”…”

One reply on “Unpicking Kyoto (6) : Black Carbon”

i think that global warming could slow down in the future due to the steps that we are doing`;”

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