Financial Dimensions of a key climate system “Wild Card”: The Atmospheric Brown Cloud over South Asia

We are running out of time to bend the CO2 emissions curve to avoid dangerous climate change. Even with global efforts to reduce emissions drastically (e.g., (1, 2)), there are several major scientific uncertainties in the climate system that may change the playing ground, and in most cases accelerate climate change (e.g., (1)). These uncertainties, or ‘Wild Cards’, are climate/earth system phenomena that can alter the otherwise strong connection between anthropogenic emissions and warming. This unfolds by triggering abrupt changes in the earth system and amplify disruptive climate change. Important known Wild Cards include thawing of Arctic permafrost, Amazon deforestation, and the Atmospheric Brown Cloud (ABC ) over Asia, blanketing large regions in East and South Asia, with aerosols stemming from incomplete combustion processes in primarily China and India. This air-pollution (i.e. black carbon particles in the case of this research) has a significant effect on climate change at large, as well as on the health of local population and the regional ecosystems. 

The novelty of the project lies in combining a review and detailed mapping of emission sources, with value chain analysis and analysis of corporate ownership and debt to understand the financial actors and financial flows underpinning key emitting sectors in the region. 

The overarching goal is to (a) identify the key financial flows and actors behind the largest BC emitting sectors of the South Asian society, and (b) to use this knowledge (from combined physical science, social science and economics) to create a platform for a stakeholder dialog aiming to find ways to reduce ABC-forming emissions. 

Work to date shows a key emitting sector to be agriculture, through residue burning, and the team is working to map the value chains of rice, sugar and wheat and linking these to updated emission inventories. The next step entails identifying corporate actors, and mapping corporate ownership and debt to understand the financial actors and flows underpinning key emitting sectors.

Principal Investigator: 

Beatrice Crona, GEDB

Key scientific contributors:
Örjan Gustafsson, Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University

August Andersson, Researcher, Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University

Victor Galaz, Deputy Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

Bert Scholtens, Professor, Professor of Banking and Finance, University of St Andrews

Andrea Downing, Research Fellow, Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB)

Manish Kumar, Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Environmental Science, Stockholm University

Niraj Joshi, Watershed Organization Trust