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[Answered] What is black carbon? Discuss the consequence of rise in black carbon in the atmosphere. Suggest measures to tackle the rising level of black carbon.

Demand of the question Introduction. What is black carbon? Body. Discuss the consequence of rise in black carbon in the atmosphere. Suggest measures to tackle the rising level of black carbon. Conclusion. Way forward.

Black carbon is a potent climate-warming component of particulate matter formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other fuels. It is emitted from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, and other sources that burn fossil fuel. Black carbon has negative implications for both human health and climate.

Consequence of rise in black carbon in the atmosphere:

  1. Climate change: Black carbon contributes to climate change causing changes in patterns of rain and clouds. It has recently emerged as a major contributor to global climate change, possibly second only to CO2 as the main driver of change. 
  2. Global warming: Black carbon warms the Earth by absorbing sunlight and heating the atmosphere and by reducing albedo when deposited on snow and ice (direct effects) and indirectly by interaction with clouds. Per unit of mass, black carbon has a warming impact on climate that is 460-1,500 times stronger than CO2.
  3. Precipitation: Black carbon causes changes in patterns of rain and clouds. Black carbon, like all particles in the atmosphere, affects the reflectivity, stability and duration of clouds and alters precipitation. 
  4. Rise in sea level: It could accelerate the amount of freshwater Greenland loses and raise sea levels due to warming effect.
  5. Impact on vegetation and ecosystems: Black carbon can affect the health of ecosystems in several ways like by depositing on plant leaves and increasing their temperature, dimming sunlight that reaches the earth, and modifying rainfall patterns. Changing rain patterns can have far-reaching consequences for both ecosystems and human livelihoods, for example by disrupting monsoons.
  6. Air pollution: It comprises a significant portion of particulate matter or PM, which is an air pollutant.
  7. Health problems: Inhalation of black carbon is associated with health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even birth defects.

Measures to tackle the rising level of black carbon:

  1. Reducing emission: Black carbon has a short atmospheric lifetime. Thus, targeted strategies to reduce emissions can provide climate and health benefits within a relatively short period of time.
  2. Household energy: It is important to replace traditional cooking to clean burning modern fuel cook stoves. The Ujjwala scheme is an important initiative in this direction.
  3. Transport: Fast transition to Bharat 6 vehicles and soot-free buses and trucks is needed. Eliminating high-emitting diesel vehicles should be a priority.
  4. Agriculture: It is important to ban open-field burning of agricultural waste and formulate a policy to develop a market for the agricultural waste procurement.
  5. Waste management: Municipalities must handle waste efficiently. A ban open burning of municipal waste should be there.

India is the second largest emitter of black carbon in the world, with emissions expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades. Thus, it is important to target and reduce black carbon emission for a clean and sustainable future.

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