Black Carbon Larger Cause of Climate Change Than Previously Assessed
By Ellen Baum
Thirteen years after Jim Hansen described the significant role of black carbon for climate stabilization,1 in a comprehensive assessment of black carbon and climate released on Jan. 15, a team of 31 worldwide experts have confirmed the importance to combating global warming by reducing black carbon from targeted pollution sources.
Schematic overview of the primary black carbon emission sources and the processes that control the distribution of black carbon in the atmosphere and determine its role in the climate system [Bond et al., 2013].
The authors of the study, Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment, have developed a best estimate of black carbon’s direct influence on atmospheric warming that is almost two times higher than most previous work, including the estimates in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—from 0.34 W/m2 (0.27°C) to +0.71 W/m2 (0.57 °C)2.
The Clean Air Task Force (CATF) welcomes this paper, which was four years in the making and adds more certainty to a number of questions about the effectiveness of controlling black carbon as a climate mitigation strategy. A particular thorny issue—the effects of black carbon on clouds—remains complicated, but the study concluded that black carbon is not having a strong cooling influence on clouds, which strengthens the case for mitigation efforts. When all effects of black carbon are included i.e., the effects on snow and clouds, the best estimate of the climate forcing impact of black carbon is stronger than previous estimates—at a total forcing: 1.1 W/m2 (0.88 °C) or two-thirds of the warming to date from CO2.
The assessment also confirms that black carbon causes significantly higher warming over the Arctic from a combination of the warming effect on the atmosphere and the additional effect of black carbon darkening snow and accelerating the melting of Arctic snow and ice.
Although the study bolsters the case that black carbon is a powerful global warming agent, it also corroborates previous analyses that mitigation actions must be carefully targeted to certain pollution sources for maximum effectiveness. Black carbon is emitted by the incomplete combustion of fuel and emitted with a mixture of gases and aerosols that both warm and cool over the short and long term.
Reductions will be most climate beneficial depending on that mix of emissions composition other aerosols such as organic carbon and gases, including sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and carbon dioxide as well as location of the source of pollution. The study looks closely at the best-known sources of black carbon and their total impacts to the climate and identifies diesel engines, brick kilns and residential cook stoves as the most promising sources for mitigation.
CATF has been working to navigate a defensible scientific and action roadmap to first understand and then win reductions from black carbon-rich sources. Guided by the previous work of the study’s authors, CATF has worked for nearly a decade to advocate for effective policies to reduce black carbon emissions including:
- Coordinating the U.S. diesel campaign to win retrofits of existing, dirty diesel engines with emissions controls that can reduce black carbon emissions by more than 90 percent, arguing for the climate benefits that could come with retrofitted engines.
- Working in the Arctic to reduce sources of black carbon from flaring from oil and gas operations and agricultural fires.
- Advocating for controls on ships traveling in and near Arctic waters through actions at the International Maritime Organization.
- Supporting research to measure black carbon in Arctic and seasonal snow packs
- Funding the only measurements of black carbon from traditional and modern brick kilns and collaborating on brick modernization activities in India and through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in other regions and countries.
Based on the new evidence in today’s study, there are a number of actions to push for to quickly reduce black carbon. The U.S. should demonstrate leadership on black carbon by advancing policies that reduce emissions from the large fleet of older diesel vehicles in the U.S. and from natural gas systems. Measures include:
- Fully funding the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) to support diesel vehicle and equipment retrofits that achieve vital black carbon reductions.
- Reducing the excise tax on new diesel engines to accelerate fleet turnover.
- Regulations to reduce emissions from flaring associated with the oil and gas industry.
The U.S. should also call for:
- Faster adoption of tighter diesel vehicle emission standards internationally, which will promote the global deployment of advanced U.S. diesel engine technologies.
- Faster global deployment of flaring technologies for natural gas systems to achieve complete combustion of flared gas.
- Greater public-private partnerships and multinational collaboration (e.g. the State Department’s Climate and Clean Air Coalition or the Arctic Council).
- Adoption of controls for shipping in and near Arctic waters through the International Maritime Organization.
International opportunities include:
- In 2011 the Arctic Council called upon nations to reduce black carbon emissions from in and near Arctic sources3; now Arctic nations should take active steps to adopt those actions.
- There are transitional and transformative opportunities for brick modernization for the 1.5 trillion bricks produced worldwide each year, affording cost-effective opportunities for countries and industries to upgrade. More than 80 percent of brick operations are in Asia.
The best news is that all of these are targeted sources in the Bounding paper. Further, the paper gives us—and others—the confidence to keep our shoulder at the wheel, knowing that we are making even greater inroads with this work than we thought when we were inspired to get started.
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
1 Hansen, J.E. et. al. Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario, PNAS, August 29, 2000 97 (18) 9875–9880
2 The conversion of radiative forcing to temperature depends on climate sensitivity. Here we assume 1 W/m2=0.8°C
3 ,Technical report of the Arctic Council Task Force on Short-Lived Climate Forcers, May 11, 2011
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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