Black carbon and its climate impact: What else we know

In “Black carbon and its climate impact: What we know,” presented were a few black-carbon basics and how, when present in the atmosphere, is a climate-forcing agent.

For example, from that post, I wrote: “So, beginning at the beginning, black carbon is created as a result of incomplete combustion when it comes to the burning of fossil and other fuels. As such, that which occupies air, doesn’t just block sunlight, it traps it and then because of its chemical makeup, converts that light to heat.”

But, I also observed:

“Okay, so in understanding BC’s implications on climate and warming, as well as knowing its place in the hierarchy of substances in their ability to move the global warming needle to a significant degree, why does it seem that BC doesn’t get nearly the attention regarding the role it plays in contributing to climate change as do carbon dioxide and methane, especially since minimizing BC’s climate’s impact seems a rather straightforward proposition? …”

Today, I present my findings that help answer that question. I open first with a quote originally published in an oped piece written in the University of Illinois’ magazine publication titled, simply: Q Magazine, followed by another in the “Black Carbon and Climate Change: Considerations for International Development Agencies,” report authored by Michael Levitsky, and then two more from the same Q Magazine Dec. 12, 2019 oped article in question written by Charlee Thompson called: “The Price of Black Carbon.”

In no uncertain terms Thompson wrote:

“One would think that, as a critical factor in global warming, black carbon would be a major topic of conversation in mitigative international climate policy. But this is not the case. Regulating black carbon emissions is rarely discussed among the policy makers and scientists who are under pressure to create policies that will alleviate global warming and meet standards for human health, while maintaining a thriving economy. Even the policies that do exist don’t directly address black carbon, providing opportunities for loopholes in meeting carbon emissions standards.”

Is Thompson correct?

The answer may not be a simple one.

Here is what “Black Carbon and Climate Change: Considerations for International Development Agencies,” report author Michael Levitsky, had to say on the matter back in Dec. 2011: “Despite the additional scientific research over the past decade, uncertainty remains about the scale of the contribution of BC to climate change. There is no doubt that BC contributes to climate change, the debate is about the size of its contribution. This uncertainty is due primarily to limited information about BC’s activity in the atmosphere and on the Earth’s surface, questions about how BC interacts with other aerosols and clouds, and uncertainties about the global quantity and distribution of BC.” (pp. 14, 15).*

Oh, and about uncertainty? On that Thompson elucidated, “Uncertainty is a part of science; it sparks curiosity and pushes innovation. But it is also a barrier that takes advantage of a widespread lack of education.

“As we move forward, we cannot rely solely on new technology to solve the challenges that black carbon and climate change will pose. We must also educate those affected so that they will willingly change their habits, and empower them to demand better climate policies from their leaders.”

So, this begs the questions: Since the time of these two contributions’ dates of publication, have things in this regard changed any and, if so, in what way(s)? If not, why not? And, what can we expect in this regard in going forward?

For the time being, with all of the climate-change uncertainty swirling about, of which there is much, I can at least take heart in knowing that regarding the “Black carbon and its climate impact: What we know” post I wrote where: “BC … is considered to be a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) because it only remains in the atmosphere briefly – for a couple of weeks at most – but it can have a significant effect on climate, which, incidentally, is much, much stronger than carbon dioxide’s which is why more attention should be paid to black carbon in terms of not only its climate-impact potential, but also on its mitigation and on finding ways to reduce the opportunity for BC to be created in the first place,” what I, on the other hand, am certain of, is this one I’ve got pegged!!

* Levitsky, Michael. 2011. Black Carbon and Climate Change : Considerations for International Development Agencies. Environment department papers;no. 112. Climate change series. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License BY CC 3.0 IGO

Last updated on Mar. 6, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

⁃ Alan Kandel

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