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post #1 of 13
Thread Starter

Published online 1 July 2009 | Nature 460, 29-32 (2009) | doi:10.1038/460029a

News Feature

Atmospheric science: Climate's smoky spectre

With their focus on greenhouse gases, atmospheric scientists have largely overlooked lowly soot particles. But black carbon is now a hot topic among researchers and politicians.
post #2 of 13
I don't see it as nearly as big a problem as CO2. Soot can be scrubbed out of a smokestack fairly easily, it's just a matter of getting everyone to do it.

Could even be good news: if we've been underestimating the forcing due to soot, it means we've probably been overestimating the climate sensitivity due to GHG's.
post #3 of 13
It'll be interesting to see how big of an impact black carbon is truly having.  Could spell good news as it's a relatively easy fix (compared to CO2).
post #4 of 13
I think there are other significant sources of soot emissions besides burning coal, like burning biological matter (which is common in many third world countries), but coal is definitely the biggest source.

Nevertheless, it's true that the solution to this problem is mostly the same as the solution to reducing CO2 emissions - burn less fossil fuels (specifically coal in this case).  If the overall impact of greenhouse gases has been overestimated, that is slightly good news, since that would mean most feedbacks won't have as much of an impact.  But in the end, even with soot it still boils down to burning less fossil fuels.
post #5 of 13
When you fly around the world from east to west and north to south you find few locations that don't have a nasty brown haze. It gets really bad over the Indian sub-continent all the way to Korea. I was sadly surprised how bad it is across Africa. I can remember flying years back when the skies were still blue!

There are many messes that need reduced greatly - not just CO2 and soot..

I expect fly ash from power plants in India can be found around the world - virtually all the coal there is of very high ash content but is generally used without any treatment anyway due to political considerations and cost not to mention that the coal and power plants are government owned. 
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Soot is also produced by internal combustion engines, particularly diesels.  Marine diesels are now suspected of being a huge source of soot to the remote marine troposphere.  Furthermore, a lot of atmospheric organics oxidize into darker and darker material until they are "sooty."  This issue is only now being recognized as maybe being very important.  Regulating emissions on the high seas, and from hundreds of millions of tailpipes, is going to be extremely difficult. 
post #7 of 13
Oh yeah diesels, good point.  I didn't realize emissions from marine diesels were such a big deal.  That's going to be a tough problem to solve.
post #8 of 13
That is part of what the EPA proposed marine Emission Control Area regulations are about.

Sounds rather involved - international negotiations! Talks more about sulfur & NOX but particulate matter is part of the whole package.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Russ View Post

That is part of what the EPA proposed marine Emission Control Area regulations are about.

Sounds rather involved - international negotiations! Talks more about sulfur & NOX but particulate matter is part of the whole package.

The whole marine issue makes the problem nearly intractable.  The US never signed the Law of the Seas Treaty so there is no recognized way to regulate things happening in international waters.  Since most ships are flagged in nations of convenience, who themselves never signed the LotST, the EPA can write whatever position papers it wants to, there is no international legal framework to even begin negotiations.  The US also doesn't really occupy the high moral ground here, since it has never accepted the notion that actions in international waters ought to be subject to international law (Reagan's famous quote is that he wasn't going to sign the LotST because he "always thought when you went out on the ocean you could do whatever you wanted."

Just one more thing that should have been addressed in the 80's when it was first recognized climate would be a problem.  Had Reagan signed the treaty and paid attention to the climate scientists, meaningful action might have started in the 90's, when there might have been time to still do something. 
post #10 of 13
It is aimed at US flagged ships but as I read the thing it will affect all ships operating within the 200 mile limit.

This is not new but something in the works over the years.
post #11 of 13
Copied from the

The article is rather interesting.

Shipping by numbers

The world's biggest container ships have 109,000 horsepower engines which weigh 2,300 tons.

Each ship expects to operate 24hrs a day for about 280 days a year

There are 90,000 ocean-going cargo ships

Shipping is responsible for 18-30% of all the world's nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution and 9% of the global sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution.

One large ship can generate about 5,000 tonnes of sulphur oxide (SOx) pollution in a year

70% of all ship emissions are within 400km of land.

85% of all ship pollution is in the northern hemisphere.

Shipping is responsible for 3.5% to 4% of all climate change emissions 
post #12 of 13

Wow, I hadn't even thought about the impact shipping has. About marine diesels, keeping a clean tank and using specially formulated additives can help improve sustainability. The shipping problem is a complex one to grapple with, but there are certain diesel fuel cleaning techniques you can implement to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and prevent the kind of soot you guys are talking about.

post #13 of 13

This is very interesting. Thank you for sharing.


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