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Climatic impacts of air pollution

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Photo: Minna-Kristiina Sassi


Besides carbon dioxide (CO2), also many other air pollution emissions such as fine particles have a significant impact on the climate. Especially soot or black carbon containing particles have the climate warming effects. The particles containing black carbon are black or very dark and thus absorb solar radiation and warm the surrounding air. When black carbon is transported on snow or ice, it accelerates the melting. Black carbon containing particles are called the short lived climate pollutants (SLCP). Other SLCP compounds include, i.a., ozone and methane.

Temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than globally in average. Because black carbon emissions accelerate global warming and the melting of snow and ice, black carbon emission reductions in the vicinity of the Arctic is a particularly effective measure for mitigating climate change . Because black carbon remains in the atmosphere just a few days, reduction of black carbon emissions could slow down global warming relatively quickly. Effective ways to reduce black carbon are cleaner fuels and more efficient combustion systems in domestic heating and cooking, as well as diesel engines with particulate filters. Policy actions are needed to support the implementation of reduction measures.

Anthropogenic fine particles also cool the planet by reducing the amount of the surface incoming solar radiation. The balance between absorbed and radiated energy determines the average global temperature. The influence of different components can be described as radiative forcing (see the figure below). More information about black carbon is available in MACEB portal.

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Fig. Radiative forcing estimates in 2011 relative to 1750 and aggregated uncertainties for the main drivers of climate change.(IPCC WG1 AG5/2013 (pdf))


Published 2015-10-02 at 14:15, updated 2016-02-10 at 13:23