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Our Environment and Aerosol Black Carbons

NASA's Earth Minute: My Name is Aerosol

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Aerosols and Climate Change
Source: NASA
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

According to NASA “There is only one aerosol — soot, also known as black carbon — that actually helps contribute to global warming by boosting the warming effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In the US, diesel vehicles are the major source of soot, and filters on exhaust pipes can help reduce the amount that they pump into the air. In terms of sulfate aerosols, which are created by sulfur dioxide given off by power plants, the US and Europe have very successfully used sulfur dioxide scrubbers in power plants to reduce these emissions over the past 20 years or so. But we can definitely do more.

By reducing aerosol (soot) emissions, we can buy ourselves some climate time — about 5 to 10 years — while we work on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) in parallel. CO2, you see, hangs around in the atmosphere for an extremely long time, from decades to centuries, so even if we implement cuts today, it will take years for them to take effect. Aerosols, on the other hand, have much shorter lifetimes. If we work to reduce soot emissions now, which can enhance the global warming effect of CO2 by 20-50 percent, the climate impacts will be felt more rapidly.”

According to Bureau of Transportation Statistics “In 2014, over 16.4 million passenger cars and light trucks were sold in the United States [USDOC BEA 2015]. Diesel-powered cars accounted for about 3 percent of total auto sales in the United States, which is considerably lower than 50 percent in Europe [LUSSENHOP 2015]. In 2014, Volkswagen accounted for more than half of U.S. diesel car sales (figure 2) with diesel version of just three models—the Jetta, Passat, and Golf [COBB 2015].”

Did you know these Volkswagens were diesel vehicles? How do you think we (U.S.) is doing on lowering aerosol black carbon? How can we do better? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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