photo: World Resources Institute
Though CO2 gets all the press and is the number one greenhouse gas, causing 40% of warming, black carbon comes in at number two. It's responsible for 16-18% of warming, depending on who's doing the calculations, and thankfully dissipates in the atmosphere pretty quickly, in a matter of weeks if the sources are removed. Which is why more efficient biomass cook stoves, such as used in many places in developing nations, could have a big climate change impact and be comparatively inexpensive and quick to implement:Though logistically getting more efficient cookstoves to the millions of people who would need them (unless you want to just buy up millions of them and donate them, educating people why they should switch), it still might well buy some time until coal power plants can be shut down and other major carbon dioxide sources are reined in.
Soot Particles Can Travel Long Distances
The New York Times describes the effect of soot as compared to carbon dioxide,
Like tiny heat-absorbing black sweaters, soot particles warm the air and melt the ice by absorbing the sun’s heat when they settle on glaciers. One recent study estimated that black carbon might account for as much as half of Arctic warming. While the particles tend to settle over time and do not have the global reach of greenhouse gases, they do travel, scientists now realize. Soot from India has been found in the Maldive Islands and on the Tibetan Plateau; from the United States, it travels to the Arctic. The environmental and geopolitical implications of soot emissions are enormous.
Indoor Air Quality Would Also Improve
Not only would a switch to more efficient cookstoves—either ones which use existing biomass sources more efficiently or solar ones—have a large impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions quickly, the impact on decreased deforestation could also have a significant climate as well. Not only that, but indoor air pollution, which kills an estimated 1.6 million people annually, could be reduced as well.
More: New York Times
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