Black Carbon and Melting Glaciers

News: The report titled “Glaciers of the Himalayas: Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience” says that the glaciers are melting faster than the global average ice mass. However, the strong policy on black carbon can sharply cut glacier melt. The research report is released by the World Bank and covers the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges.

Details:

  • Black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity accelerate the pace of glacier and snow melt in the Himalayan region. The rate of retreat of HKHK glaciers is estimated to be 0.3 metres per year in the west to 1.0 metre per year in the east. BC adds to the impact of climate change.
  • Deposits of BC act in two ways hastening the pace of glacier melt, one by decreasing surface reflectance of sunlight and the other by raising air temperature.
  • Full implementation of current policies to mitigate BC can achieve a 23% reduction but enacting new policies and incorporating them through regional cooperation among countries can achieve enhanced benefits.
  • The rate of retreat can be sharply reduced through new, currently feasible policies by an additional 50% from current levels. Specifically, in the Himalayas, reducing black carbon emissions from cookstoves, diesel engines, and open burning would have the greatest impact and could significantly reduce radiative forcing.

Black Carbon

  • Black carbon is a kind of an aerosol. An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in the air. Among aerosols (such as brown carbon, sulphates), Black Carbon (BC) has been recognized as the second most important anthropogenic agent for climate change and the primary marker to understand the adverse effects caused by air pollution.
  • It gets emitted from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants, and other sources that burn fossil fuel. It comprises a significant portion of particulate matter or PM, which is an air pollutant.

HKHK Mountain Region:

  • HKHK Region spans eight countries; Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and also has some of the world’s tallest mountains including Mt. Everest and K2.
  • HKHK Glaciers feed into river systems including Ganga, Yangtze, Irrawaddy, and Mekong.
  • The water that runs down from glaciers feeds the agriculture, on which nearly 2 billion people are dependent upon. HKHK Region, also known as the third pole, along with China’s Tien Shan Mountains holds most ice outside the North and the South Pole.