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Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Global Warming and Endangered Species
Law360, March 27, 2009

Feds Ignore Impact Of Warming On Species: Suit
By Jesse Greenspan

New York -- A bill has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would reduce domestic and global emissions of black carbon, a type of soot estimated to be the second-largest contributer to global warming after carbon dioxide.

The legislation, known as the Black Carbon Emissions Reduction Act, was introduced Thursday by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and subsequently referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Committee on Science and Technology.

It was co-sponsored by Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Mike Honda, D-Calif.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups that support the bill, reducing black carbon emissions would bring about immediate climate mitigation because the pollutant only stays in the atmosphere for about two weeks.

The government already possess the technological and economic ability to reduce black carbon pollution, and such reductions would result in significant public health benefits, the group added.

“While only a fraction of bills introduced ever become law, this one we predict will be signed by the president,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The central question is whether we will move quickly enough on black carbon and other greenhouse pollutants to prevent catastrophic damage from global warming.”

“Reducing emissions of short-lived climate forcers such as black carbon is the only means of minimizing warming in the short term, so these actions are essential complements to reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” added Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

If passed, the bill would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue a black carbon assessment and abatement report within a year and final black carbon regulations within two years.

It would also mandate that the U.S. Department of State, the EPA and other government agencies seek to reduce black carbon pollution internationally through foreign assistance and the growth of U.S. clean technologies abroad.

"Through existing clean air programs, the United States has substantially reduced black carbon emissions, but more can be done," the bill said.

Black carbon is typically generated by burning firewood or other biomass. The highest emission rates come from countries such as China and India, which have millions of residential cookstoves and their own brands of forestry and agricultural practices.

Black carbon is not considered a greenhouse gas and has not yet been addressed in any major congressional global warming bill.

But according to the environmental groups, black carbon has a particularly negative effect on snow and ice, especially in the Arctic, where summer sea ice levels have shrunk considerably over the past few years.

“This bill could make a real difference in saving polar bears and their Arctic habitat,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. “We need to do everything we can to keep the Arctic blanketed in snow and ice, for the species that live there and to help cool the planet.”

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton