The world is ignoring another deadly carbon

Once again, the Canadian wilderness is vast burning, threatened towns and forced thousands to flee. It Seems like a breakthrough about “zombie fires”: word wildfires last year that never really went away completely but still smoldering underground, regenerating vegetation on the ground this year. They were spewing smoke—once again—into northern US cities. That smog contains a more obscure form of carbon than its more famous cousin, CO2: carbon black. By May 16, monthly carbon emissions of fires exceed 15 megatonsincreased dramatically compared to previous years.

Black carbon consists of tiny particles created from the incomplete combustion of fuels – whether that’s trees and soil in Canada, cooking fuels like wood and charcoal, or coal. Yusuf Jameel, person study black carbon at the non-profit Climate Solutions Project. “They don’t burn properly. So they emit a lot of toxic particles and gases.”

In a home in an economically developing country where a wood stove may be used for cooking, it can lead to catastrophic indoor air quality and all kinds of health consequences, including heart problems, breathing problems, and cancer. If black carbon were released from such wildfires in the Arctic, it would darken the ice and snow, dramatically increasing the rate of melting. “It’s a huge health problem. It’s a big climate problem,” Jameel said. “Yet it hardly gets any mention when we talk about an effective climate solution.”

CO2 and methane (CH4) gets all the attention in the form of planet-warming gases. And rightly so: Humanity must cut emissions as quickly as possible to slow climate change. At the same time, we are ignoring easy ways to reduce black carbon emissions.

Although it is not a greenhouse gas like CO2 and methane and black carbon have a significant impact on climate. For example, black wildfire smoke absorbs the sun’s energy, warming the atmosphere. While CO2 remaining there for centuries and methane for about a decade, the black carbon will return to Earth in no more than a few weeks.

Atmospherically speaking, that short lifespan is fortunate, but unfortunate for the Arctic and other icy places where black carbon is present. Normally snow and ice can exist because they are very reflective, reflecting solar energy back into space. But if they are coated with carbon black, the dark color will absorb heat. “You can see these little particles drilling holes into the ice. Brenda Ekwurzel, director of distinguished science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said it’s impressive that black carbon can absorb sunlight and heat things up. And if you completely melt highly reflective ice or snow, she says, you’ll see the darker ground or ocean below, which absorbs sunlight much more easily, which helps with warming. area.

This then forms a feedback loop. As the world warms, wildfires in northern latitudes are increasing increasingly frequent and intense, as hotter temperatures drain away any remaining moisture in vegetation. Warming also creates more ignition sources by encouraging thunderstorms: Modeling shows lightning strikes across the Arctic can double at the end of this century. Wildfires have become so intense that they are even breeding His own storm cloud made from smokewandering around causing new fires.

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