Fuel that causes the most pollution is being used in the poorest parts of the world?leading to global warming, which affects these areas the MOST. The burning of “biomass” fuels for, which are defined as burning organic substances such as peat, wood or cow dung, for heating and cooking, has a warming effect in the atmosphere three to four times greater than conventional fuels.

This type of particulate pollution also comes from burning diesel fuel, which is simpler (and therefore cheaper) to refine from petroleum, which is why it’s used in countries like Mexico. Besides causing climate change, burning these fuels spews out large amount of particulate air pollution, which is especially dangerous for people’s health.

Using satellite images, atmospheric scientist V. Ramanathan and chemical engineer Greg Carmichael have discovered that soot and other forms of black carbon caused by burning these fuels have a greater global warming effect than any greenhouse gas besides CO2.

Ramanathan says, “We now have to examine if black carbon is also having a large role in the retreat of arctic sea ice and Himalayan glaciers as suggested by recent studies.” These glaciers that provide billions of people throughout Asia with drinking water. In addition, the inhalation of smoke during indoor cooking has been linked to the deaths of an estimated 400,000 women and children in south and east Asia. Between 25 and 35% of black carbon in the global atmosphere comes from China and India, emitted from the burning of wood and cow dung in household cooking and through the use of coal to heat homes, and even countries in Europe rely heavily on diesel fuel for transportation.

Sometimes change has to start at a very basic level: Ramanathan is seeking corporate sponsorship for Project Surya, which would provide 20,000 rural Indian households with smoke-free cookers.

Art credit: gimp-savvy.com

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