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SIBANG KAJA, BALI — Half a world away from Cancún, Mexico, and the international climate change talks that took place there last month, a school here in Indonesia is staging its own attempt to save the planet.

It is small-scale and literally grassroots — and possibly in some respects more effective than the tortuous efforts of politicians to agree on how to stop global warming.

In the midst of the lush, steaming jungle of Bali, along a pitted road, past scattered chickens and singing cicadas, Green School has two dozen buildings made of giant bamboo poles. There are no walls, and there is no air-conditioning. Just gracefully arched roofs, concrete floors and bamboo furniture. There is a big, grassy playground, complete with goalposts made — yes — of bamboo; a bamboo bridge across a rock-strewn river; vegetable patches; and a mud-wrestling pit.

But there is also a computer lab, a well-stocked library and an array of courses drawn from an internationally recognized curriculum and taught in English.

Read more: Bali School Makes Sustainability a Way of Life

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Black carbon (BC) or soot holds both peril and perhaps promise for Earth's climate system. The peril, of course, is that continued emissions will hasten ice melt, because of its heat-absorbing qualities, and thereby quicken global warming. The promise is if we can reduce the amount emitted soon (which is technologically and clearly possible) warming will slow significantly. Reducing BC will give world leaders time to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas (GHG) of concern.

Read more: Black Carbon: Part 2 — Changing Glaciers in Asia

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This is going to be a dirty story — about carbon soot that is. In the combustion of biomass (e.g. wood, crop residues, dried dung), and fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), the primary end product is the gas carbon dioxide.

As has been noted previously, this gas is colorless and invisible to the eye. Also formed during the combustion process, under certain conditions and to a lesser extent, are small black particles which one can see (such as from diesel engines or lit candles with long wicks), and which have recently been recognized by scientists as a contributor to global warming.

Black carbon or soot is a part of a larger type of emissions, both natural and manmade, called aerosols. These aerosols are very small particles that are suspended in our atmosphere. They can originate from natural sources such as salt spray formed during ocean wave processes, dust formed from the grinding and erosion of land surfaces, forest fires, and volcanic eruptions for example.

Read more: Black Carbon: Impact on Climate Change and Human Health

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