Cairo is behind that smog... photo: Nina Hale via flickr
TreeHugger has written about the growing acknowledgement that soot pollution is a major component of global warming--contributing a shocking amount to melting of glaciers in the Himalayas is just one example. Now, a group of researchers from Princeton University warn us that failure to aggressively address soot means we're only going to have to make stronger reductions in greenhouse gases.
Their best estimate indicates that eliminating soot pollution from "contained combustion" sources such as diesel engines and poorly-controlled coal sources would provide the world with an additional eight years (with an uncertainty range of about one to 15 years) to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Conversely, if these sources of carbonaceous aerosols continued at levels seen in the 1990s, more aggressive reductions in carbon dioxide emissions than previously recognized would need to occur for the world to meet the goal of avoiding "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system." (Science Daily)
Denise Mauzerall, associate professor of environmental engineering and international affairs notes, "Unfortunately, most climate change mitigation scenarios used in policy contexts have focused exclusively on heat-trapping gases. This means those eight years aren't actually eight years we can gain by cutting soot emissions; rather, our results suggest that we need to accelerate carbon dioxide emissions by about eight years relative to these scenarios if we don't also act to reduce soot emissions."
The good news about soot is that, compared to other factors contributing to climate change the bad effects cease relatively quickly once the source of pollution is removed. Take away the sources of black carbon falling on glaciers (and influencing weather patterns in parts of South Asia) and you can have a marked effect quickly.
More on Particulate Pollution & Climate Change:
Black Soot Coating Himalayan Glaciers is Accelerating Melting
Black Carbon Identified as Key Element in Himalayan Glacier Melting
Black Carbon May Be Planet's Second Most Potent GHG
90% of Himalayan Glacier Melting Caused by Aerosols & Black Carbon