As thousands of negotiators and politicians were busy working on an agreement in Copenhagen for carbon dioxide reductions, the subject of black carbon was scarcely touched upon, save by a few stalwart scientists who attempted to draw attention to an important fact ... even if world leaders were to agree on CO2, we would barely see any positive benefits for (at least) 100 years.
Do we need to have an agreement on CO2? Yes, absolutely ... the sooner the better. But we have to acknowledge that CO2 is only 50 percent of the global warming problem. And fixing the other 50 percent could provide us with a more immediate solution to global warming.
Soot, otherwise known as black carbon, comes from extremely inefficient combustion of fossil fuels, and according to a recent report the particular matter absorbs heat in the atmosphere and increases the speed of snow melt, two significant forcers of global warming. Black carbon is prevalent in India and China and also in the U.S., most notably in the trucking and agricultural industries.
The good news is that mitigating black carbon is a lot easier than dealing with CO2, both politically and financially. Black carbon is widely known as a major source of air and water contamination, so the public is behind it and the problem can largely be solved by inexpensive filters and changes in agricultural practices.
In other words, giant corporations are not involved, so the political obstacles presented by fossil fuel lobbyists that ensnare CO2 do not apply to black carbon. And, since particulates do not linger in the atmosphere for more than a few years, global cooling results could be seen almost immediately.
Scientists testified today before U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming chaired by Congressman Edward Markey, and they hope to raise greater awareness about a carbon solution that may buy us the time needed (50 years or so) to solve the CO2 problem.