Wood and coal heating stoves release black carbon, tiny particles that both warm the climate and damage respiratory and cardiovascular health. In addition to improving air quality and public health, reducing black carbon emissions from wood and coal heating stoves is one of the most effective ways to slow climate change and rapid snow and ice melt in the Arctic and in Nordic countries.
Why? First, woodstove emissions may seem small, but collectively are one of the most important sources of black carbon affecting the Arctic region. The Arctic Council has calculated that BC from woodburning in Nordic countries have the greatest per-unut impact on the Arctic climate of any black carbon source (1). Second, heatstoves comprise the only source of black carbon emissions from developed countries projected to remain the same or increase without new and additional action.
On the other hand, analysis by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that replacing conventional log woodburning stoves with pellet stoves can lead to about a 15% reduction in warming in the Arctic region (2). (There are some indications that new “reverse combustion” stoves that still use log fuel may approach or surpass pellet stoves in lowering BC emissions.)
Reducing woodstove emissions is one of the most promising avenues to prevent dangerous climate change in the Arctic. It’s also one of the easiest ways that individuals can be a part of the solution: switch to an efficient stove, burn the right fuel, and use the right burn technique. Just follow the Five Simple Steps for Better Burning!
- The World Bank and International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (2013). On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution Can Slow Warming and Save Lives. The World Bank and International Cryosphere Climate Initiative: Washington, DC.
- UNEP (2010). Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon, Methane and Tropospheric Ozone.