UN and the World Bank Warning: Urgent Action Needed to Avoid Climate Tipping Point
Melting ice sheets and glaciers in the northern and southern hemispheres will not only contribute to sea level rise, but will also leave many regions around the world without basic water resources for human consumption and industrial production. Last week the World Bank presented devastating news to an audience in
Combating rising temperatures and slowing the rate that ice and snow are melting requires fast responses. One near-term solution is to focus on black carbon, or soot, an aerosol that scientists assert may be the second largest contributor to climate change after CO2 and that has an enhanced impact on snow and ice melt. Black carbon is emitted from incomplete combustion of burning fossil fuels and biomass, and contributes to climate change in two ways: while in the atmosphere, the dark particles absorb heat and warm the air; when it falls on ice and snow, it also absorbs more solar radiation, leading to more rapid melting, which then leads to less reflective ice, in a dangerous accelerating feedback cycle.
UNEP reports that, “Soot may be a contributor to the disappearance of glaciers in some regions and could even explain the accelerated rates of melt in the Himalaya-Hindu-Kush,” relying on a scientific paper by V. Ramanathan and G. Carmichael. The scientists urge rapid reduction of black carbon emissions to slow warming in the near term and help avoid passing the temperature thresholds for abrupt climate changes. Unlike CO2, where a significant fraction remains in the atmosphere for over a thousand years, black carbon only stays in the atmosphere for a few days to a week. Hence, reducing black carbon emissions has an immediate effect on global warming. Reductions also have major health benefits for millions who currently live in heavily polluted areas and risk disease and death from breathing polluted air.
“In contrast to reductions in black carbon soot, cuts in CO2 emissions, while essential, do not produce significant cooling for at least a thousand years,” stated
“The UNEP and World Bank reports are clear: the world is facing serious danger, and we have to take urgent and aggressive action now — starting with black carbon reductions — to avoid devastating consequences of passing tipping points,” added Zaelke.
SOURCE Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development