Strange Climate Bedfellows: Black Carbon Bill Unites Boxer, Kerry, Inhofe

At, Earthjustice video urges U.S. leadership at Arctic summit


Erika Rosenthal, Earthjustice, (510) 550-6752

Senators who are usually far apart on environmental issues agreed on Earth Day that the EPA should look at ways to control a dangerous pollutant that kills millions worldwide and accelerates global warming, particularly in the Arctic.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican known as the Senate’s chief global warming skeptic, introduced a bill requiring the EPA to study black carbon pollution and within a year come up with solutions for reducing emissions.

Earthjustice has just released a short animated film that explains the black carbon problem and urges EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to take action. The video also asks Americans to urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team to take international leadership on black carbon at next week’s Arctic Council meeting in Tromso, Norway.

Black carbon consists of microscopic airborne particles of soot that come from diesel engines and industrial smokestacks in the developed world and residential cooking and heating stoves in the developing world. Breathing black carbon causes serious respiratory illness responsible for 1.6 million deaths a year, and when it falls on ice or snow in the Arctic, it causes it to melt faster. Since black carbon stays in the atmosphere only a short time, fast action to control it will buy time for addressing the larger issue of carbon dioxide, the chief cause of global warming,

“The science emphatically proves that black carbon has a larger impact on climate change than was previously understood and we can’t escape reality,” Sen. Kerry said in a press release.

Erika Rosenthal, an Earthjustice attorney who is attending this week’s Indigenous People’s Summit on Climate Change in Alaska, where black carbon is on the agenda, called the bill a welcome first step.

“It’s important that we continue reducing black carbon emissions at home, and help developing countries transition to cleaner fuels, engines, and cookstoves,” said Rosenthal. “Secretary Clinton’s delegation in Norway must show global leadership for an action plan that immediately reduces black carbon from diesel engines, agricultural burning and marine vessels. These technologies are already available. Now we need the political will and financial support to put them in place as soon as possible.”

“The Obama administration has made a good start at home by increasing funding to clean up dirty diesel engines, but much more must be done — and quickly,” Rosenthal added. The U.S. must transition to using shore power for ships at berth; increasing transportation efficiency through retrofits and turnover of pre-1994 trucks and ocean-going vessel speed reduction; heavy-duty vehicle emission reductions; and the adoption of special black carbon mitigation initiatives for the American Arctic.”

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.