Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Himalayan Glaciers are melting due to Black Carbon from India

The Lawrence Berkley Lab in the US has conducted a research and found that the Himalayas are melting due to black carbon from India. Some of the highlights from the study include:

Black carbon absorbs sunlight and warms only the atmosphere. Black Carbon also makes the snow surface dirty. Dirty snow absorbs far more sunlight—and gets warmer faster—than pure white snow.

Top sources of black carbon include shipping, vehicle emissions, coal burning and inefficient stoves. According to Menon’s data, black carbon emitted in India increased by 46 percent from 1990 to 2000 and by another 51 percent from 2000 to 2010.

Black carbon heats the atmosphere, it changes the local heating profile, which increases convection, one of the primary causes of precipitation. While this results in more intense rainfall in some regions, it leads to less in other regions, this situation triggers extreme weather in eastern India and Bangladesh.

“The black carbon from India is contributing to the melting of the glaciers, it’s contributing to extreme precipitation, and if black carbon can be controlled more easily than greenhouse gases like CO2, then it makes sense for India to regulate black carbon emissions,” says Menon.

Check out:

Bhutan and Kerosene Heaters

Not long ago, Bhutan was estimated to have one of the highest rates of fuel wood consumption in the world, at 1.27 tons per person per year, according to a 1991 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Home heating is huge part of our cooking stoves. There are many versions of improved cooking stoves which have been implemented in different parts of the country. One of the most common one is the “Bukhari”.

Over the last few years a lot of urban Bhutanese have resorted to Kerosene room heaters from South Korea. It is a big trend in the country.

I was never too sure about the emissions, although doctors have claimed it to be very bad, but then what choices do people have? Wood is now expensive and difficult to get in urban areas unlike in villages, electric heaters are not good enough for the extreme cold with inefficient homes, coal is non-existent, so are gas heating or geothermal. Some countries do seem to have policies and regulations, we have none.

How bad is bad? and What would be the best possible alternatives?