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black carbon

Some good things happened this last week at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Nuuk, Greenland, but the sense of urgency to protect the world’s last great wilderness from the ravages of resource extraction – and to slow Arctic warming and melting – was lacking.

Among the good things that happened in Nuuk:

From the Kangerlussuaq airport, at 67 degrees North in Greenland...

It’s four hours to New York and five to Moscow, but only three to the North Pole. People are speaking Danish and the language of the Inuit people. I’m writing at the airport on my way home from the Arctic Council ministerial meeting, held in the capital, Nuuk, about 45 minutes south by plane. The Greenlandic landscape is stark and beautiful and resplendent in ice and snow over the rolling hills and craggy mountains.

Polar bears are drowning. Huge glaciers are melting. Low-lying cities are worried. All because of climate change. But, when the eight nations of the "Arctic Council" meet next week, climate change won't be on their agenda—despite a frightening new report on climate change by the council's own task force.

Members of the council are those nations bordering the Arctic Ocean—the United States, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Denmark and Iceland.

Teabag by teabag, the anti-environment faction in the House of Representatives has filled its federal government spending bill with amendments that will cripple protections for our water, air, natural resources, wildlife and public health. 

Four Washington moms have begun their attempt to summit Mount Rainier this weekend to deliver a strong message to their governor about coal.

The Climb Against Coal challenges Governor Gregoire to close or convert the TransAlta coal plant by 2015, 10 years earlier than the governor wants to. The TransAlta plant is Washington's largest toxic polluter and largest stationary source of global warming pollution.

Join a 30-minute online chat about black carbon with Martin Wagner, head of Earthjustice's global warming work, this Tuesday (Oct. 20) at 11 a.m. Pacific Time. You can do it on your personal computer at home or at work. For details and to register, go to this website.

Black carbon—sent aloft in the smoke streams from cooking fires, factories and such industrial equipment as diesel trucks and generators—settles on glaciers and in the Arctic, warming and melting the ice. It is considered one of the worst climate change pollutants, and one of the easiest to deal with.
 
 

It's a rare thing to encounter good news regarding climate change. Which is exactly why a bit of hopeful writing from Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute caught my attention. Brown's post, titled "U.S. Headed for Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions," contends that the U.S. has entered a new energy era characterized by declining carbon emissions. Do tell, Lester.

At the just-concluded U.N. climate negotiations in Poznan, Poland, Earthjustice attorneys Martin Wagner and Erika Rosenthal advocated for rapid action to reduce emissions of black carbon, now considered one of the most effective strategies to slow near-term global and Arctic warming.

This could prevent catastrophic, irreversible tipping points such as the melting of Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet, and buy time for implementation of critical strategies to cut long-lived greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent studies identify black carbon, a component of ultrafine particulate air pollution, as a critical climate warming agent both in the atmosphere and when deposited on snow and ice. Technologies exist to rapidly reduce black carbon emissions from diesel and coal sources, and fast-track mitigation efforts will have an immediate cooling effect. As black carbon is a leading cause of mortality from air pollution and accelerates the melting of glaciers that provide fresh water for millions, controlling these emissions is critical to promote sustainable development, improve human health and save lives.

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