Rio+20 earth summit should look to reduce black carbon through carbon trading
Delegates at the Rio+20 earth summit must look beyond CO2 to black carbon. Reducing black carbon (soot) is easier than reducing other kinds of greenhouse gas emissions. And a market-based international system to reduce carbon emissions is already in place.
As delegates in Rio de Janeiro meet today for the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio summit on sustainability, there is much to talk about. One of the main items to be discussed at the Rio+20 summit is the status of carbon emissions mitigation, particularly CO2. While initiatives have targeted CO2 emissions with some success, much remains to be done, and countries must now look at other forms of carbon emissions to break the deadlock.Skip to next paragraph
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One of those emissions is black carbon, commonly known as soot – a recognized public health hazard and contributor to global warming. Fortunately, reducing black carbon is much easier than reducing other kinds of emissions like CO2. And a market-based international system incentivizing reduction of carbon emissions is already in place.
Anyone who has been outside in a major city for a while, especially in Asia, will notice the amount of black carbon in the air. If you stay in the streets long enough, it gets in your eyes, your hair, and even your lungs. Needless to say, this is a recognized public health hazard. Although anti-smog laws in countries like the United States and Japan have helped to mitigate black carbon emissions to some extent, poor countries have had much difficulty doing the same, despite having laws to produce the same results.
But because scientists have discovered that black carbon is also a powerful climate change causing substance, there may be a way to use climate change funds to help pay to fix the problem. In this way, both the climate impact and the public health impact can be solved together.
As anybody who has touched a dark colored car on a hot summer’s day can attest, dark substances like black carbon do not reflect light and instead emit heat to their surroundings. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), cutting back on "short-lived" climate pollutants like black carbon may reduce global warming expected by 2050 by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius (32.9 degrees Fahrenheit).
The nice thing about addressing this problem is that the impact is immediate. Black carbon does not linger in the air for long; any improvement will be seen in a few weeks time. Curbing black carbon emissions will also help eliminate a major cause of Arctic ice melting. Black carbon, carried by winds, lessens ice reflectivity and increases melting, which affects the Earth’s ability to reflect sunlight back to space.