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Science

Cut Soot and Save the Arctic

A new study says that cutting soot emissions is the best way to save the rapidly melting Arctic.

Soot emissions are a result of burning fossil fuel, wood, and dung, amongst other things, and according to a new study by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, if we were to cut soot emissions we could drastically halt the melting ice in the Arctic.

“Controlling soot may be the only method of significantly slowing Arctic warming within the next two decades,” said Jacobson, director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program. “We have to start taking its effects into account in planning our mitigation efforts and the sooner we start making changes, the better.”

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Jacobson’s study showed that soot is second only to carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming; putting it above other greenhouse gasses like methane. Additionally Jacobson found that soot kills over 1.5 million people prematurely each year and affects millions more with respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.

These side effects of soot emissions though are most prominent in developing countries where biofuels are used for home heating and cooking.

In fact, Jacobson found that while fossil fuel soot contributed more to global warming, the soot emitted from biofuels caused eight times the number of deaths as fossil fuel soot did. By providing electricity to rural and developing areas, the need to burn biofuels to cook and heat would drop, and possibly so too the health impacts.

Jacobson’s theory that by reducing soot emissions would have an immediate impact on global warming comes not only from the magnitude with which soot is playing a part in our atmosphere, but the way in which it plays. Soot is washed out of the atmosphere within a few weeks, compared to gases that sometimes stay for decades or a century. This means that even if we reduce the gases we will not see any effect for some time.

By reducing soot emissions now, we could begin to see improvements much sooner.

Source: Stanford University




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