In their frantic search for a solution to the global warming crisis, climatologists and policy makers have managed to overlook one of the leading causes of rising world temperatures - soot, the familiar black residue that coats fireplaces and darkens truck exhaust.
According to a new study in the journal Nature, soot may be the second biggest contributor to global warming - just behind the infamous greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2).
``Soot - or black carbon - may be responsible for 15 to 30 percent of global warming, yet it`s not even considered in any of the discussions about controlling climate change,`` says Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, author of the Feb. 8 Nature study.
Human beings produce most of the soot particles that pollute the atmosphere, observes Jacobson, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.
``Soot consists primarily of elemental carbon,`` he says, ``and 90 percent of it comes from the consumption of fossil fuels - particularly diesel fuel, coal, jet fuel, natural gas and kerosene - as well as the burning of wood and other biomass when land is cleared.``
A reduction in worldwide soot emissions, he maintains, could prove beneficial in slowing down the disastrous pace of global warming.
Jacobson`s findings come on the heels of a Jan. 21 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC), an organization made up of hundreds of scientists from around the world.
In its most dire forecast to date, the IPCC predicted that, by the end of the century, the average surface temperature of the Earth could increase by 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit, with catastrophic results: melted glaciers, flooded shorelines and long periods of drought that persist for hundreds of years.
The IPCC report pins most of the blame for global warming on human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which also are byproducts of fossil fuel burnin
Contact: Mark Shwartz