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What is Black Carbon? What are the Government’s Measures to Counter it?

Jan 09, 2023

What is Black Carbon
Enhance your UPSC CSE preparation with our daily dose of Current Affairs wherein we discuss topics that make news at National and International level. In today's edition of our Current Affairs, we will discuss What is Black Carbon and What are the Government’s Measures to Counter it?. The topic's relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus is mentioned below. For Prelims: General issues on Environmental ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change For Mains: General Studies Paper III- Environmental Pollution and Degradation


According to a recent study, Black carbon aerosols have indirectly affected the mass gain of the Tibetan Plateau glaciers by changing long-range water vapour transport from the South Asian monsoon region.

Probable Question

What is Black Carbon? How has black carbon contributed to the glacier mass loss on the Tibetan Plateau? (10 Marks, 150 Words)

Impact of Black Carbon on Tibetan Plateau Glaciers

  • The South Asia region adjacent to the Tibetan Plateau has among the highest levels of black carbon emission in the world.
  • Black carbon deposition on snow and glaciers reduces their albedo (a measure of how much of the Sun’s radiations are reflected), thus, accelerating their melting.
  • These aerosols in South Asia heat up the middle and upper atmosphere, thus increasing the North­–South temperature gradient.
  • It also increases the number of cloud condensation nuclei in the atmosphere.
  • As a result, precipitation in the central and the southern Tibetan Plateau decreases during the monsoon, especially in the southern Tibetan Plateau.
  • The decrease in precipitation further leads to a decrease in the mass gain of glaciers.
  • From 2007 to 2016, the reduced mass gain by precipitation accounted for 11% of the average glacier mass loss on the Tibetan Plateau and 22.1% in the Himalayas.

About Black Carbon

    • Black Carbon or soot is a short-lived climate pollutant that is emitted due to the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass.
    • It is a type of aerosol that is characterized by strong solar absorption like visible and infrared radiation.
  • It is a part of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and it contributes to climate change. 
  • It is the second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.
  • India is the second-largest emitter of Black Carbon in the world.
  • Sources of emission:
    • Natural sources: 
      • Wildfires
    • Anthropogenic Sources: 
      • Diesel engines
      • Cooking stoves
      • Wood burning
      • Household cooking
      • Open biomass burning
      • Residential solid fuel combustion through Industrial processes.

Impact of Black Carbon Emission

  • On health: 
    • Premature deaths, lung and heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, aggravated asthma, chronic respiratory disease including bronchitis, and other cardio-respiratory symptoms.
  • On climate: 
  • It absorbs solar energy leading to the warming of the atmosphere.
  • Deposition of black carbon leads to the darkening of the surface of snow and ice, thus reducing their albedo, warming the snow, and resulting in their melting.
  • On Vegetation and Ecosystem: 
    • It gets deposited on plant leaves, thus increasing their temperatures.

Various Measures Undertaken by the Government to counter Black Carbon

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: 
    • This scheme was launched by the Government in May 2016 to provide LPG connections to poor households in order to promote the use of cleaner household cooking fuels. The second phase of the scheme was launched in August 2021 to provide maximum benefit to the migrants who live in other states.
  • BS VI emission norms: 
    • Jumping from BS IV to BS VI norms for fuel and vehicles from 1st April, 2020 to reduce vehicular pollution. 
    • In BS VI fuel, the e volume of PM 2.5 ranges from 20 to 40 micrograms per cubic meter, sulfur content is reduced by 5 times and it emits 80% less particulate matter and nearly 70% less nitrogen oxide.
  • Introduction of cleaner/alternate fuels:
    • Like biodiesel, ethanol, etc.
  • Sustainable Alternative towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) scheme: 
    • The scheme was launched in August 2018 to set up 5000 Compressed Biogas (CBG) production plants and make CBG available in the market for use in automotives.
  • The Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’ 
    • The scheme was launched for the period from 2018-19 to 2019-20 and has been extended for the year 2021-22.
    • The scheme aims to address the problem of air pollution caused by stubble burning by subsidizing the machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue.
  • National Clean Air Programme:
    • The scheme was launched in January 2019 to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
    • The scheme aims to reduce PM concentration by 40 % in cities covered under the scheme by 2026.
  • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) India Scheme:
    • The scheme was launched in 2015 to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies. The second phase of the scheme was launched in 2019 to cover hybrid and electric technologies like Mild Hybrid, Strong Hybrid, Plug in Hybrid & Battery Electric Vehicles. 
    • The scheme addresses the issue of fuel security and environmental pollution.
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