World Bank report highlights the role of “Black Carbon” in the Himalayas

What is the News?

The World Bank has released a report titled “Glaciers of the Himalayas, Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience”.

About the Report:

  • The report studies the impact of Black Carbon (BC) on Glacier melting. It covers the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges.
  • In the end, it concludes that managing Black Carbon emissions in South Asia has the potential not only to achieve global and regional climate benefits but will also lead to other valuable advantages like improved air quality and energy security.
Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain region
  • The glaciers in the HKHK mountain ranges, containing almost 55000 glaciers. They store more freshwater than any region outside the North and South Poles.
  • Their ice reserves feed into three major river basins in South Asia—the Indus, Ganges, and the Brahmaputra. These rivers are home to 750 million people.
Key findings of the report:
  • South Asian countries can reduce BC deposition in the region by 23% by implementing policies currently in place. It can further reduce to an additional 50% by implementing new policies that are currently feasible.
  • Glaciers in the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges are melting faster than the global average ice mass.
  • Even with all existing measures, water from glacier melt is still projected to increase in absolute volume by 2040, with impacts on downstream activities and communities.
Reasons for Glacier Melting:
  • Climate change: One major reason for the accelerating glacier melt is climate change, which is altering the patterns of temperature and precipitation.
  • Anthropogenic Black carbon: A second major reason may be deposits of anthropogenic black carbon (BC). It increases the glaciers melting process in two ways:
    • By decreasing surface reflectance of sunlight, and
    • By raising the air temperature.
About Black Carbon (BC):
  • Black carbon (BC) is a short-lived climate pollutant. It is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet after carbon dioxide(CO2).
  • It absorbs solar energy and warms the atmosphere. When it falls to earth with precipitation, it darkens the surface of snow and ice. Thus reducing their albedo (the reflecting power of a surface), and warming the snow, resulting in the faster glacial melting.
  • However, unlike other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
  • Source of Black Carbon in HKHK region:
    • Industry [primarily brick kilns] and residential burning of solid fuel together account for 45–66% of BC emissions
    • On-Road diesel fuels(7–18%) and
    • Open burning (less than 3% in all seasons).

Additional info

Other types of Carbon:

  1. Blue Carbon: It refers to coastal, aquatic and marine carbon sinks held by vegetation, marine organisms and sediments.
  2. Green Carbon: It is the carbon that is stored in terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, pastures and soils.
  3. Brown Carbon: It is a light-absorbing particle in the Earth’s atmosphere that has the unique characteristics of both cooling the planet’s surface and warming its atmosphere.

Clean Cooking Fund (CCF):

  • It was launched by the World Bank at the UN 2019 Climate Action Summit.
  • The $500 million CCF seeks to scale up public and private investment and accelerate progress toward universal access to clean cooking by 2030.
  • Transitioning to cleaner fuels is necessary to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 on energy.
    • SDG7 – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Source: The Hindu

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