A Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher who has been studying soot’s impacts on climate change has pegged the pollution as the second most powerful greenhouse gas.

In a paper published yesterday in the journal Nature Geoscience, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry, and Climate at Scripps, said that soot, the black stuff that comes from diesel exhaust or burning fuels for home cooking, may have 60 percent of the warming effect that carbon dioxide does. That’s three or four times higher than previously estimated.

As much as 35 percent of the globe’s soot comes from India and China, where coal is used to heat homes and wood or cow dung is used for cooking fires. In a news release, Ramanathan said per capita emissions are equal in the United States and many European countries, which rely heavily on diesel fuel for transportation.

Ramanathan said eliminating the pollution from cooking, which annually kills an estimated 400,000 women and children in Asia, would be a cost-effective way to improve the health of people who inhale soot while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


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