The first thing to understand is that carbon, in its most basic form, is an element and it’s everywhere. From the air we breathe to the food we eat and even in the chemical makeup of our bodies. But if we’re talking about carbon emissions that has to do with carbon dioxide, CO2.
CO2 is exchanged between the atmosphere and the oceans, it’s released from animals and plants through respiration, it’s emitted as plants and animals decompose. These emissions are kept in balance through natural cycles yet humans have stopped living in tune with nature when we started, around the time of the industrial revolution, extracting, refining and burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil we began releasing extra carbon in the atmosphere. In addition, we’ve been cutting down trees, which absorbed CO2 and when they’re burnt or left to decompose that they emit CO2
Why is more CO2 in the atmosphere so bad you might be wondering? CO2 is a greenhouse gases - alongside methane and others - that absorbs radiation and prevents heat from escaping our atmosphere. Basically they emit radiant energy within the first layer of the atmosphere creating excess heat. This excess heat leads to disrupted weather patterns, higher global temperature averages, sea level rise and stronger and more frequent natural disasters.
If we look at who’s responsible, it’s possible to trace back most CO2 emissions to the energy sector that includes electricity, heat and transport. Altogether that amounts to 73% of CO2 emissions according to climate watch. Agriculture and industry are also responsible for a large percentage of CO2 emissions. Every sector of the global economy must radically change - especially in those countries that have the highest emission of CO2 per capita like the United States and most western countries.
Carbon Dioxide emissions have reached a concentration level in our atmosphere that the Earth hasn’t seen for more than 400,000 years. We are clearly heading in the wrong direction and we must change things quickly as we only have one-fifth of our "carbon budget" remaining in order to avoid warming the Earth more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. That’s what the IPCC deems to be a safe upper limit for global warming, past which natural systems begin to reach tipping points, triggering lasting changes and transforming life as we know it.
Despite all the doom and gloom, there’s still hope, especially if we join efforts and do our best to change things. The best way to start taking action is by calculating your carbon footprint. That’s a measure of the impact your activities have on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced through the burning of fossil fuels. By using online tools like this that help you calculate your carbon footprint you can identify the areas in your life that you can improve in, changing those habits that are negatively the planet. To make things easier, here at #NAM we provide eco friendly options to make the transition to a sustainable lifestyle easier!