Household light makes global heat: High black carbon emissions from kerosene wick lamps

Nicholas L. Lam, Yanju Chen, Cheryl Weyant, Chandra Venkataraman, Pankaj Sadavarte, Michael A. Johnson, Kirk R. Smith, Benjamin T. Brem, Joseph Arineitwe, Justin E. Ellis, Tami C. Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kerosene-fueled wick lamps used in millions of developing-country households are a significant but overlooked source of black carbon (BC) emissions. We present new laboratory and field measurements showing that 7-9% of kerosene consumed by widely used simple wick lamps is converted to carbonaceous particulate matter that is nearly pure BC. These high emission factors increase previous BC emission estimates from kerosene by 20-fold, to 270 Gg/year (90% uncertainty bounds: 110, 590 Gg/year). Aerosol climate forcing on atmosphere and snow from this source is estimated at 22 mW/m2 (8, 48 mW/m 2), or 7% of BC forcing by all other energy-related sources. Kerosene lamps have affordable alternatives that pose few clear adoption barriers and would provide immediate benefit to user welfare. The net effect on climate is definitively positive forcing as coemitted organic carbon is low. No other major BC source has such readily available alternatives, definitive climate forcing effects, and cobenefits. Replacement of kerosene-fueled wick lamps deserves strong consideration for programs that target short-lived climate forcers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13531-13538
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 18 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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