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What Are Carbon Emissions?
Carbon emissions refer to the release of carbon dioxide, a type of greenhouse gas (GHG) that filters into the atmosphere both naturally and from human activities like deforestation, electricity consumption, and industrial manufacturing. Greenhouse gas emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, leading to several changes like global warming, deterioration of the ozone layer, and destruction of ecosystems. While gases like methane and nitrous oxide are also harmful and contribute to our overall carbon footprint, carbon dioxide is the most prevalent. While plants and animals also emit carbon, human activity like the burning of fossil fuels, manufacturing, and transportation has been a leading cause of the sharp increase in CO2 emissions, at levels that are impossible for nature to balance on its own.
Why Is Reducing Carbon Emissions Important?
Reducing carbon emissions is important because it can help offset the dangerous and harmful effects high levels of CO2 have on our environment. Reducing carbon emissions can:
- Save lives. The levels of pollutants in the air can detrimentally affect our health, leading to chronic health conditions and premature death. According to researchers, poor air quality caused by carbon emissions can lead to heart attacks, strokes, lung disease, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. According to scientists, reducing carbon emissions will positively impact air quality and prevent thousands of premature deaths.
- Ease the burden of the healthcare system. Poor air quality exacerbates health issues for people with pre-existing chronic conditions, increasing the frequency of their healthcare visits, which can overburden the healthcare system. Taking steps to reduce these emissions makes it easier for healthcare providers to treat those in need.
- Reduce wildfires. Wildfires and carbon emissions are part of a harmful cycle. Wildfires emit dangerous amounts of carbon emissions, and rising carbon emissions cause extreme weather conditions like heat waves, which often contribute to wildfires. Reducing our emissions can relieve some of the burdens from forest and land management, emergency responders, and fire departments worldwide.
6 Ways to Reduce Carbon Emissions
There are many ways humankind can pitch in to help reduce carbon emissions:
- Reduce air travel. As of 2017, the amount of transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions eclipsed the amount of electricity generation emissions. Transportation is now the number-one source of greenhouse gases. Eliminating just one roundtrip transatlantic flight will save you 1.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.
- Make your driving more efficient. While living a car-free lifestyle may not be possible for everybody, try substituting car trips with bike rides, bus trips, train rides, or other forms of public transportation. When you drive, cut back on fossil fuel emissions by accelerating slowly and using the air conditioning sparingly. Check your tire pressure for better fuel economy, carpool when possible, and consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle if you want a new car.
- Plant trees. Deforestation is one of the significant causes of carbon emissions. Trees absorb and store the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but they can no longer absorb carbon once they are cut down. Planting trees is among the most inexpensive, natural ways to take climate action and reduce our negative environmental impact.
- Switch to clean energy. Clean energy is another way to help reduce carbon emissions. Solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal energy are all energy sources with a higher level of sustainability, produce low carbon emissions, and lower our dependence on natural gas and resource harvesting.
- Eat less red meat. Over 220 grams of carbon dioxide are produced for every gram of beef produced, resulting in almost four percent of the total GHG emissions. Eating vegetarian more often or consuming less beef can lower the amount of carbon present in our atmosphere.
- Make your home more energy-efficient. If you live in a state that allows you to choose your energy supplier, the first thing you should do is look for a supplier that uses renewable energy sources. For instance, a coal-fired power plant burns fossil fuel and is more harmful to the environment than wind power or solar power. Ensure your home is adequately insulated and that doors and windows are sealed with weather stripping to prevent cooled and heated air from escaping. Lastly, reduce energy use in your everyday life: Buy appliances that meet United States energy efficiency standards, use your thermostat to regulate temperatures and try to use your air conditioning infrequently, turn off all lights and appliances when you’re not using them, and replace old lights with LED light bulbs that use less energy.
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