TOPICS / Black carbon

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Black carbon refers to solid particles emitted during incomplete combustion. Diesel engines are an important source, though not the major one. Black carbon contributes to climate change in two ways: in the atmosphere it absorbs sunlight and re-emits the energy as heat; and when deposited on ice or snow, in addition to warming the surface and air directly, it reduces the surface albedo (reflectivity) causing the surface to absorb more sunlight. As a contributor to climate change it is possibly second only to CO2, and because it is short-lived (remaining in the atmosphere only a few weeks) reducing BC emissions could have a very rapid and significant effect on the rate of warming. Black carbon is also a serious public health concern. Exposure to particulate matter is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths globally each year.

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