Primer on carbon emissions and climate change

0
59

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

We hear so much about carbon emissions and how we should all reduce our carbon footprint, but what are they and what’s the problem?
What are carbon emissions?

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

We hear so much about carbon emissions and how we should all reduce our carbon footprint, but what are they and what’s the problem?
What are carbon emissions?
“Carbon emissions” (CEs) refer to the amount of carbon dioxide gas released into the Earth’s atmosphere. “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, odourless and non-poisonous gas formed by combustion of carbon and in the respiration of living organisms” (bit.ly/3azZQJa).
On its website, Carbon Stock Study explains, “humans and animals also produce this gas naturally. As we inhale oxygen, we exhale CO2. Therefore, there’s nothing wrong with CO2 itself. The problem is that we have produced such a big amount of CO2 due to human actions, that the amount of it we find in the atmosphere is dangerous.” (bit.ly/2RGF9Ta)
What is the atmosphere?
The atmosphere is a layer of gases encircling and protecting Earth. National Geographic explains, “The atmosphere acts as a gigantic filter, keeping out most ultraviolet radiation while letting in the sun’s warming rays.” (bit.ly/38tECuM)
Why are CEs a problem?
CEs matter because with our increased human population on Earth, we use more fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) to heat our homes and operate vehicles. We mine and create products like cell phones and plastic goods in manufacturing centres, then transport them all over the world, all of which increase CEs into the atmosphere.
CO2 and other gases (e.g., methane and nitrous oxide) rise into and are trapped by the atmosphere layer, which reflects heat back to Earth in an ever-increasing, warming cycle. These emissions are creating serious changes in climate globally: glaciers and permafrost are melting; droughts, fires, storms and other conditions are worsening.
Carbon emissions teach us how interconnected Earth is: what occurs in one country can harm another, without intention. Case in point? Soot from Australia’s catastrophic fires is settling on New Zealand’s glaciers, hastening melting.
Greenhouse effect
The global warming Earth is experiencing is created by “the greenhouse effect”.
What is that? Think of tomatoes growing inside a glass greenhouse. Sunshine heats the interior, providing a warm environment to grow plants. Greenhouses are useful – unless air trapped inside becomes too hot, whereupon plants perish.
Now think of Earth’s atmosphere, the layer of gases surrounding our planet. Our increased CO2, methane, and other emissions cause the atmosphere to trap increasingly more heat. Our planet is heated because the atmosphere’s function is compromised by human activity, so the term “greenhouse effect” is appropriate.
Changes: climate and economic
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is encouraging world governments and multinationals to act immediately to financially support and encourage sustainable energy solutions and phase out fossil-fuel dependencies. Fossil-fuel industries boost carbon emissions, increasing the greenhouse effect and
creating climate havoc.
Despite the science proving such a climate crisis, migration from fossil-fuel-based to renewable economies is often considered threatening and impractical. Some governments, CEOs, shareholders, and individuals don’t believe in climate change, have no faith in sustainable-energy solutions, cannot envision alternatives to the status quo — or are unwilling to contemplate actions that may ensure a more sustainable life for future generations.
Climate change is fundamentally threatening to life as we know it, so
maintaining the status quo makes no sense.
Act as if we love our children
On January 21 at the Davos convention, Thunberg challenged world citizens to “Act as if you loved your children above all else.”(yhoo.it/2NQLslW)
Seems harsh? Not to my ears. Ecological sustainability is key to continued, viable life on earth. Greenhouse gases are creating climate change. Science tells us that
reducing carbon emissions and adopting sustainable, renewable energies can employ people and help reverse climate change.
We humans are phenomenally successful at adaptation – aka change. The wheel was a pretty smart invention that’s been universally adopted.
If we all know we’re poisoning the only habitable planet in the solar
system, not only for ourselves but for all other creatures’ lives including following generations. Doesn’t it make sense to change?
Yes.
Further reading: Read the BBC’s simple guide to climate change (bbc.in/38Jo6Hh)