It has long been known that biomass burning burning forests to create agricultural lands, burning savannah as a ritual , slash-and-burn agriculture and wildfires figures into both climate change and public health.
But until the release of a new study by Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, the degree of that contribution had never been comprehensively quantified.
Jacobson's research, detailed in a paper published July 30 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, is based on a three-dimensional computer model simulation of the impacts of biomass burning. His findings indicate that burning biomass is playing a much bigger role in climate change and human health issues than previously thought. (see paper: http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/VIII/bioburn/14BburnJGR.pdf)
"We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning," Jacobson said. "That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year."
Carbon, of course, is associated with global warming. Most carbon emissions linked to human activity are in the form of carbon dioxide gas (CO2), but other forms of carbon include the methane gas (CH4) and the particles generated by such fires the tiny bits of soot, called black carbon, and motes of associated substances known as brown carbon.
Jacobson explains that total anthropogenic, or human-created, carbon dioxide emissions, excluding biomass burning, now stand at more than 39 billion tons annually. That incorporates everything associated with non-biomass-burning human activity, from coal-fired power plants to automobile emissions, from concrete factories to cattle feedlots.
Jacobson, the director of Stanford's Atmosphere/Energy Program and a
|Contact: Tom Abate|
Stanford School of Engineering