By Keerthi Chandrashekar / ( | First Posted: Jan 15, 2013 11:58 PM EST

Buildings are seen in heavy haze in Beijing's central business district
(Photo : REUTERS/Jason Lee)

While climate change is more commonly associated with carbon dioxide, a new study indicates that black carbon is more potent than previously thought - potent enough to be the second leading cause of global warming. 

The study, titled, "Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: A scientific assessment," is the product of 31 authors and can be found in The Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 

Black carbon, more commonly known as soot, is formed through the incomplete combustion and warms up Earth by decreasing our planet's ability to reflect sunlight off snow and ice. Unlike carbon dioxide, which can remain in our atmosphere for decades at a time, black carbon usually dissipates after several weeks. 

"Predominant sources are combustion related; namely, fossil fuels for transportation, solid fuels for industrial and residential uses, and open burning of biomass," the report reads. 

"For a few of these sources, such as diesel engines and possibly residential biofuels, warming is strong enough that eliminating all emissions from these sources would reduce net climate forcing (i.e., produce cooling)."

The newly revised look at black carbon states that it is twice as potent as previously thought in a 2007 U.N. report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

Black carbon tends to accumulate in concentrated areas in our atmosphere, unlike carbon dioxide which distributes itself fairly universally, making it potentially easier to target. The 31 study authors hope that policy makers will pay more attention to the harmful effects soot has on our planet.

"The major sources of black carbon are presently in different stages with regard to the feasibility for near-term mitigation. This assessment, by evaluating the large number and complexity of the associated physical and radiative processes in black-carbon climate forcing, sets a baseline from which to improve future climate forcing estimates." 

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