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World Bank study: Policies on black carbon

Context:

The World Bank (WB) said in its research report titled “Glaciers of the Himalayas, Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience” that glaciers are melting faster than the global average ice mass in the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Conservation of Environment and Ecology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Black Carbon?
  2. Adverse Effects of Black Carbon
  3. Highlights of the research by World Bank (WB) on Black carbon (BC)

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.

India and Black Carbon Emission

  • India is the second largest emitter of black carbon in the world, with emissions expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades.
  • Indo Gangetic plains are found to be the largest contributor.
  • Industry [primarily brick kilns] and residential burning of solid fuel together account for 45–66% of regional anthropogenic [man-made] BC deposition, followed by on-road diesel fuels (7–18%) and open burning (less than 3% in all seasons) in Himalayan region.

Highlights of the research by World Bank (WB) on Black carbon (BC)

  • Black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity which accelerate the pace of glacier and snow melt in the Himalayan region can be sharply reduced through new, currently feasible policies by an additional 50% from current levels, new research by World Bank (WB) specialists has said.
  • The research report from the WB covers the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges, where, it says, glaciers are melting faster than the global average ice mass.
  • The rate of retreat of HKHK glaciers is estimated to be 0.3 metres per year in the west to 1.0 metres per year in the east. BC adds to the impact of climate change.
  • Full implementation of current policies to mitigate BC can achieve a 23% reduction but enacting new policies and incorporating them through regional cooperation among countries can achieve enhanced benefits.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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