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Strong policies on black carbon can sharply cut glacier melt: World Bank study

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Strong policies on black carbon can sharply cut glacier melt: World Bank study:


The world Bank had recently conducted a research study on impact of Black Carbon over the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush (HKHK) mountain ranges, where glaciers are melting faster than the global average ice mass.

  • The report is titled “Glaciers of the Himalayas, Climate Change, Black Carbon and Regional Resilience”.

Key findings:

  • Black carbon (BC) deposits produced by human activity accelerate the pace of glacier and snow melt in the Himalayan region.
  • The rate of retreat of HKHK glaciers is estimated to be 0.3 metres per year in the west to 1.0 metre per year in the east. BC adds to the impact of climate change.
  • Deposits of BC act in two ways hastening the pace of glacier melt: by decreasing surface reflectance of sunlight and by raising air temperature.


  1. Full implementation of current policies to mitigate BC can achieve a 23% reduction but enacting new policies and incorporating them through regional cooperation among countries can achieve enhanced benefits.
  2. The rate of retreat can be sharply reduced through new, currently feasible policies by an additional 50% from current levels.
  3. Specifically, in the Himalayas, reducing black carbon emissions from cookstoves, diesel engines, and open burning would have the greatest impact and could significantly reduce radiative forcing.

About Black Carbon:

  • BC is a short-lived pollutant that is the second-largest contributor to warming the planet behind carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Unlike other greenhouse gas emissions, BC is quickly washed out and can be eliminated from the atmosphere if emissions stop.
  • Unlike historical carbon emissions, it is also a localised source with greater local impact.
  • It is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot.

Sources of black carbon in HKHK regions:

Industry [primarily brick kilns] and residential burning of solid fuel together account for 45–66% of regional anthropogenic [man-made] BC deposition, followed by on-road diesel fuels (7–18%) and open burning (less than 3% in all seasons)” in the region.


Insta Curious:

Do you know What Hoarfrost is? Read Here



Prelims Link:

  1. What are Tarballs?
  2. Differences between black carbon and brown carbon.
  3. Sources.
  4. Impacts.

Mains Link:

Examine the impact of Increased percentage of Tarballs on Himalayas.

Sources: the Hindu.