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What is Black Carbon?

Focus: GS III- Environment

Why in news?

In Lok Sabha, the Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change outlined the various measures taken to counter black carbon.

What is Black Carbon?

  • Black carbon is a potent climate-warming component of particulate matter formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other fuels.
  • Complete combustion would turn all carbon in the fuel into carbon dioxide (CO2), but combustion is never complete and CO2, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and organic carbon and black carbon particles are all formed in the process.
  • The complex mixture of particulate matter resulting from incomplete combustion is often referred to as soot.
  • BC is a short-lived pollutant that is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet behind carbon dioxide (CO2). Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
  • Deposits of BC act in two ways hastening the pace of glacier melt: by decreasing surface reflectance of sunlight and by raising air temperature.

Adverse Effects of Black Carbon

  • Black carbon is a short-lived climate pollutant with a lifetime of only days to weeks after release in the atmosphere.
  • During this short period of time, black carbon can have significant direct and indirect impacts on the climate, glacial regions, agriculture and human health.
  • Several studies have demonstrated that measures to prevent black carbon emissions can reduce near-term warming of the climate, increase crop yields and prevent premature deaths.
  • Black carbon absorbs solar energy and warms the atmosphere.
  • When it falls to earth with precipitation, it darkens the surface of snow and ice, reducing their albedo (the reflecting power of a surface), warming the snow, and hastening melting.

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