Black carbon takes center stage at AsPac environment conference
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Black carbon takes center stage at AsPac environment conference

I recently posted (and have been posting for years) about black carbon, a serious health problem and potent short-lived climate forcer.

Regarding human health, black carbon, commonly known as soot, contributes to cardio-pulmonary diseases and low birth weight. According to UN data, soot from indoor cooking fires causes 1.9 million deaths per year. Environmentally speaking, black carbon has a more immediate and short term impact on the climate, meaning that reducing it could buy significant time in terms of getting our act together vis-à-vis CO2. Other short-lived climate pollutants include ground level ozone and methane.

At a UN Environment Program-hosted meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, 19 Asia-Pacific countries, headed by officials from Bangladesh and Japan, met on Monday to discuss the climate and health benefits of mitigating short-lived climate forcers.

From the Climate and Clean Air Coalition website:

A UNEP study in 2011 found that aggressive action to reduce SLCPs by 2030 could avoid over 2 million premature deaths and annual crop losses of over 30 million tonnes each year, as well as to halve the pace of global warming by 2050 and deliver significant regional climate benefits. Cost-effective technologies to deliver the necessary emission reductions are already available internationally.

Sounds like enough reasons to get on the anti-black carbon bandwagon, doesn’t it?

Levels of smog in Beijing and New Delhi have been grabbing headlines recently, mostly due to health concerns and poor visibility. Climate change may still seem like a future problem and a less tangible one to many, but government warnings to stay indoors due to health risks from polluted air and cancelled flights because of poor visibility caused by smog are obviously more immediate worries.

A study last month by the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Project determined black carbon to be the second most significant cause of anthropogenic global warming, while indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease Report (also issued last month), is the 3rd largest risk factor for death in South Asia (ambient air pollution is the 6th).

From the Christian Science Monitor:

The findings are especially relevant for India and China, which are among the biggest emitters of black carbon, largely from the use of coal and wood for cooking and heating, and from the rising number of vehicles on the road.

For more on short-live climate forcers or short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) and the meeting in Bangkok, see the following articles.

The Nation (Thailand) – Region ‘must tackle pollution urgently’

Environment News Service – Asian Countries to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants


Cooking fire in India, pic: Karan Singh Rathore /