Last week we heard the news that new studies confirm that the West Antarctic ice sheet melt is unstoppable. To quote Dr. Eric Rignot, glaciologist, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/UC Irvine "We have passed the point of no return". See stunning videofile here.
Of course, the spectacular rise of anthropolgenic greenhouse gases especially CO2 is the major culprit in the Antarctic melting. But there is another culprit that may be responsible for the rapid melting in the Antarctic and that is Black Carbon, also known as soot. The video below by Earth Justice gives a simple explanation of black carbon(soot) and how it affects global warming and glacier melt.
Renouned glaciologist, Prof. Jefferson Simoes, who created the first national laboratory in Brazil dedicated to glaciology and geographical polar research and who is Director of the Brazilian National Institute for Cryospheric Sciences and a National Delegate to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research - SCAR has done much research on Black Carbon in the Antarctic. Here is Dr. Simoes speaking about his research at the World Preservation Foundation seminar in London: TOPIC: The presence of black carbon in Antarctica and its effect on ice masses. Link for Dr. Simoes power point is here.
As shown above the connection between meat production and glacier melting occurs when slash and burn deforestation techniques is done to create space for ranching and for growing livestock feed. This burning releases Black Carbon into the atmosphere which is then picked up by air currents and deposited around the globe.
As mentioned at the beginning of Dr. Simoes video above; reducing CO2 must be done but it is not enough to reduce near term warming because CO2 is long lived and can last for hundreds and sometimes even thousands of years in the atmosphere. We can't stop the melting of West Antarctic glaciers but perhaps we can slow the melting by reducing short-lived-climate-pollutants (SLCP) such as Black Carbon.
The culprit in both of these studies is Black Carbon which when settled on ice or snow creates a darkening which decreases surface albedo and absorbs more heat thus accelerating melting.
In Dr. Simoes study in the Antarctic the fires occurring in the Amazon attributed to livestock production are preventable whereas the 2012 US wildfires and general increase in wildfire severity is correlated with rising temperatures and earlier snow melt due to climate change, .
I've tried to simplify a complex dynamic to show that perhaps it's possible to slow warming and melting in the polar regions by a rapid focus on reducing Black Carbon and other short-lived-climate-pollutants (pdf), thereby reducing and slowing rapidly accelerating global warming effects.