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article imageSoot could be important in climate change

By Tim Sandle     Jan 19, 2013 in Environment
New research suggests that soot is the second most important factor in climate change, with carbon dioxide remaining the primary factor.
The importance of soot is based on a four year assessment published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres Tuesday. In this study the impact of soot is assessed as being much greater than in any previous assessment. Soot is impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons.
The research was conducted by the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, in the U.S., and University of Leeds, in the U.K.
The research concluded that soot, which is also called black carbon, is the second largest manmade contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide. One of the researchers, Piers Forster, was quoted by the BBC as saying: "If we did everything, we could to reduce these emissions. We could buy ourselves up to half a degree (Celsius) less warming—or a couple of decades of respite.”
In a separate interview in the Independent, Professor Forster went on to say:
“Mitigation is a complex issue because soot is typically emitted with other particles and gases that probably cool the climate. For instance, organic matter in the atmosphere produced by open vegetation burning likely has a cooling effect. Therefore the net effect of eliminating that source might not give us the desired cooling. One great candidate is soot from diesel engines. It may also be possible to look at wood and coal burning in some kinds of industry and in small household burners. In these cases, soot makes up a large fraction of their emissions, so removing these sources would likely cool the climate.”
According to Nature, diesel emissions and agricultural waste fires are the major sources of black carbon in industrialized countries; whereas in other parts of the world, the soot comes from sources such as burning of biomass for cooking and heat.
Although the U.S., Canada and Europe have strict controls on the level of soot emissions, levels have been increasing in many parts of the world. Recently the Digital Journal focused on the levels of air pollution in Beijing as an example of the risks associated with industrial pollution.
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