Innovation: Mitigation Of Arctic Warming By Controlling European Black Carbon Emissions

Last update: 14.07.2013
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Case studies in: 
emission reduction‚ climate protection‚ greenhouse gas‚
Arctic temperatures have increased at almost twice the global average rate over the past 100 years. Warming in the Arctic has been accompanied by an earlier onset of spring melt, a longer melt season and changes in the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet. The lengthening of the melt season changes the Earth’s albedo, a positive feedback effect which leads to further warming.Reducing the atmospheric burden of CO2 is the only meaningful way to mitigate climate forcing in the Arctic.

However, reducing the concentration of short-lived climate forcing agents, such as black carbon (BC), might be used to slow the process, allowing time for other measures to take effect. The advantage of reducing emissions of these short-lived agents is that the effect on the radiative balance of the atmosphere is noticed much quicker than with long-lived greenhouse gases.


The project has three main objectives:

1. To demonstrate, by implementing the best available tools, the innovative approach to mitigate warming of Arctic climate by black carbon (BC) emissions reduction at mid latitudes, especially at Europe. Arctic areas are expected to suffer most from climate change. Demonstration also identifies knowledge gaps and uncertainties in how BC emissions can be linked with radiative forcing in Arctic areas using current modelling and measurement tools.

2. To assess the impact of the current air quality and climate relevant legislation in the northern hemisphere on BC emissions, their transport to the Arctic, and eventually Arctic warming and how it relates to warming by CO2. To evaluate an extensive set of mitigation measures targeting BC emissions that could enhance the existing European legislation to increase climate co-benefits of air quality.

3. To transfer action procedures and experiences to various stakeholders (modelling community, national authorities) within EU by implementing a web portal to assess and mitigate BC emissions from most important source sectors, especially small-scale wood burning.
The new project coordinated by the Finnish Meteorological Institute concentrates on one short-lived compound, black carbon, which has been shown to affect the Earth’s radiation balance markedly. It is thought that black carbon speeds up climate change regionally, for instance, in the Arctic and in the Himalayas. Black carbon is generated when the combustion process is incomplete. Its sources are mostly anthropogenic; the only natural sources are forest fires. Black carbon emissions from Europe are thought to have a major impact on black carbon concentrations and the climate in the Arctic regions. The main sources of black carbon are small-scale burning of wood and emissions from transport.

The principal objective of the project is to use the best methods available for demonstrating that climate change in the Arctic can be mitigated by reducing the emissions of black carbon at mid-latitudes and especially in Europe. At the same time, it is possible to assess how the current legislation on air quality and the climate affects black carbon emissions and the transportation of black carbon into the Arctic. In addition, the impact of black carbon on the Arctic climate and its links with warming caused by carbon dioxide will be studied.

The research findings will help assess the possibilities of reducing black carbon emissions. Another objective is to transmit scientific information, for instance on the impacts of wood burning, to decision-makers and the general public within the EU. Apart from the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Environment Institute, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis of Austria are participating in the project.
Expected results:

1. An assessment of the impact of current EU legislation on climate and air pollution (CLEC and CLECC Current Legislation scenarios) on future radiative forcing by BC in the Arctic;
2. Development of a scenario using additional measures to lower BC emissions in the Northern hemisphere (Bcadd);
3. An evaluation of the potential for technical reduction of BC, i.e. Maximum Technically Feasible Reduction (MTFR);
4. Cost estimates of the mitigation measures for the different scenarios (CLEC, CLECC, BCadd, MTFR);
5. An assessment of the contribution of current and future Finnish emissions to BC concentrations in surface air and snow as well as to BC radiative forcing in the Arctic;
6. An evaluation of the potential risk associated with future climate change; and
7. A priority list of further mitigation actions to reduce BC in the European Union and estimates of their cost with respect to climate impacts in the Arctic.

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This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Mitigation Of Arctic Warming By Controlling European Black Carbon Emissions


01.01.2011 to 31.12.2013

completed project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

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Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: LIHAVAINEN Heikki


Phone: +358-9 1929 5492