On Monday representatives from 19 Asian countries, including Nepal’s Minister for Science, Technology and Environment Keshab Man Shakya, gathered in Bangkok to explore ways to reduce the impacts of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like methane, ozone and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and black carbon (soot).
Organised by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and UNEP the Regional Intergovernmental Consultation on Near-Term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits is the first Asia wide meeting where the SLCP challenge is being collectively discussed.
Three weeks ago a comprehensive study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres concluded that black carbon ( a major component of soot formed from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood, and biomass) was the second most damaging greenhouse agent after carbon dioxide. The study also found that black carbon is about twice as bad for the climate than what had been thought until now. Deposits of soot on snow increase the amount of light and heat they absorb which explains the increasing glacial retreat and receding snowline in the Himalayas.
“The four year study has given us a better understanding of how black carbon affects the climate by quantifying its effects,” says Arnico Panday, lead atmospheric scientist at ICIMOD who is also conducting the study of air pollutants including black carbon in Jomsom area.
Black carbon, unlike carbon dioxide, remains in the atmosphere for only few weeks so sweeping it from the atmosphere is easier and gives us more time to keep the earth’s temperature under control.
A UNEP study in 2011 found that aggressive action to reduce SLCPs by 2030 could avoid over 2 million premature deaths and annual crop losses of over 30 million tons, as well as halve the pace of global warming by 2050 and deliver significant regional climate benefits. Cost-effective technologies like better exhaust in vehicles, improved cooking gas to deliver the necessary emission reductions are already available internationally.
Where do we stand
Amidst the black cloud of smoke emitted from the neighbouring brick kilns in Bhaktapur, Khadka Singh Mahat notes reading from the equipments housed on the terrace of the five storied building which is one of the super sites of the Sustainable Atmosphere for Kathmandu Valley (SUSKAT) project. “We are trying to understand the science of air pollution that is now choking the valley,” says Mahat pointing towards the sun photo meter which measures the depth of black carbon. There are four similar sites around the valley to measure the flow and density of air pollutants in Kathmandu. “We know that black carbon among other air pollutants have been increasing the pollution but haven’t quantified their effect ,” says Mahat. SUSKAT project aims to understand the science of air pollution, their sources and then formulate ways to mitigate them.
For a comprehensive understanding whether the pollution is local or regional, they are also working with experts from India who are conducting similar studies there.
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