A quick fix for global warming: Replace kerosene lamps

A new study out of UC Berkeley finds that simply replacing kerosene lamps, used by approx one billion people around the world, could substantially reduce black carbon, a tremendously effective heating agent in the atmosphere. From the press release:

"7 to 9 percent of the kerosene in wick lamps — used for light in 250-300 million households without electricity — is converted to black carbon when burned. In comparison, only half of 1 percent of the emissions from burning wood is converted to black carbon.

Factoring in the new study results leads to a twentyfold increase in estimates of black carbon emissions from kerosene-fueled lighting. The previous estimates come from established databases used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others. One kilogram of black carbon, a byproduct of incomplete combustion, produces as much warming in a month as 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide does over 100 years, the authors said."


“There are no magic bullets that will solve all of our greenhouse gas problems, but replacing kerosene lamps is low-hanging fruit, and we don’t have many examples of that in the climate world,” said study co-author Kirk Smith, professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and director of the Global Health and Environment Program. “There are many inexpensive, cleaner alternatives to kerosene lamps that are available now, and few if any barriers to switching to them.”

"Smith pointed to lanterns with light-emitting diodes that can be powered by solar cells or even advanced cookstoves that generate electricity from the heat produced. Such technology, said Smith, is already available in developing countries."

Global warming is a wicked problem. This means we must take especially seriously any partial solution that doesn't make the big problem worse. Prof Ramanathan of UCSD has been pioneering similar research into black carbon on the Indian subcontinent, and thinks its atmospheric heating is underestimated not just by IPCC models, but by satellite sensors too. 

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