According to a climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan, soot from mud cooking stoves in tens of thousands of villages in India is emerging as a major source of global warming.
Soot, also known as black carbon, is the second most hazardous gas, after carbon dioxide and is responsible for 18pct of the planet's warming.
Advertisement"It's hard to believe that this is what's melting the glaciers," the Scotsman quoted Ramanathan as saying.
Ramanathan suggests that replacing primitive cooking stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot could provide a much-needed solution.
"It is clear to any person who cares about climate change that this will have a huge impact on the global environment," said Ramanathan, a professor of climate science at the US Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who is working on a project to help poor Indian families acquire new stoves.
"In terms of climate change, we're driving fast toward a cliff, and this could buy us time," Ramanathan said.
Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for years, soot stays there for a few weeks.
And converting to low-soot stoves would remove the warming effects of black carbon quickly.
Soot from India has been found in the Maldive islands and on the Tibetan Plateau; from the US, it travels to the Arctic.
In Kohlua, in central India, where there are no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero, and in numerous Indian villages like this one, the environmental and geopolitical implications of soot emissions are enormous.
Ramanathan warned that Himalayan glaciers are expected to lose 75pct of their ice by 2020.
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