How to reduce greenhouse gas
So you’re concerned about climate change and you’ve heard a lot about rising levels of greenhouse gases. As you may have guessed, they are vital to understanding climate change. In this article we’re going to be looking at what they are and how we can reduce greenhouse gases to fight climate change.
What is a greenhouse gas?
The greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. They are so named because they contribute to the greenhouse effect. They occur naturally in the atmosphere, but their quantities have significantly increased in recent centuries due to human activity and industrialisation. As a result, more greenhouse gases have been into the atmosphere, primarily through burning fossil fuels.
What is the greenhouse effect?
The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process that affects the earth’s temperature. When solar radiation from the sun reaches our planet, it is reflected by the earth’s surface back out into space. Some of this radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, reflecting it back to earth again. This heats up the earth and makes life here possible.
However, humans have disturbed the natural balance of radiation with our greenhouse gases. Since the beginning of industrialisation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the levels of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere by humans has risen dramatically. This is mainly due to burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
Today there is 40% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at the beginning of the industrial age, resulting in a global temperature increase approximately 2°C since 1900.
Two degrees may seem small, but during the last ice age when the US was covered by more than 3,000 feet of ice, average temperatures were only 5 to 9 degrees cooler than they are today.
Why is climate change a danger to our planet?
The impact of climate change, in part caused by an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is seen in the ice-caps melting, accelerated sea levels rising, droughts, and more intense heat waves. These are just some of the effects of the temperature rise that has taken place in the last century.
Scientists predict that global temperatures will continue to rise, largely due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities, which would be extremely damaging for our planet.
For this reason, one of the main pledges of the historic UN Paris Agreement in December 2015 was to limit global temperature increase this century to below 2 degrees Celsius. Ideally we are aiming for 1.5 degrees to reduce the impact of global climate change.
How can we reduce greenhouse gas?
In order to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement, developed countries like America, the UK, and China need to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
To do this, countries need to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels for energy (such as burning coal). Equally important is investing in green energy and low-carbon infrastructure, and rethinking carbon-heavy international imports and exports.
There is no doubt that radical changes are needed at international level to have a large-scale impact on climate change. However, this doesn’t mean that as individuals we can’t also have a meaningful impact in the fight to protect our planet’s future.
What can I do as an individual to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
Before you can start reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, you need to calculate your carbon footprint. This is the sum total of the carbon emissions associated with your daily activities, and gives you an idea of your impact on the environment.
We recommend the WWF carbon footprint calculator.
- Cut out flying
Mile for mile, flying has the most damaging impact on the climate out of all modes of transport. Aviation currently produces around 2% of all global CO2 emissions. Reducing the amount you fly will have a dramatic impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
- Swap to a hybrid or electric car
Hybrid and electric cars do not rely on burning fossil fuels to run, which means they produce less greenhouse gas. Over a year, just one electric car on the roads can save an average 1.5 million grams of CO2. That’s the equivalent of four return flights from London to Barcelona.
- Switch to a plant-based diet
The meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is made up of the energy involved in raising animals, processing the food, and transportation. Red meat in particular has 100 times the impact of plant based foods on the environment. Eating lower down the food chain reduces the demand for meat and dairy, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reuse & recycle
By recycling even half your household waste, you could save on average 1080kg of CO2 emissions annually. Consider reducing what you’re buying in the first place: choose products with less packaging and avoid single use plastics.
Around the home
- Swap to green energy
Many energy providers offer green tariffs, meaning that your energy will come either wholly or in part from renewables. This can reduce your energy bill and total greenhouse gas emissions. Make sure to check the small print as some tariffs are 100% renewable and others will offer a percentage of the total.
- Make some simple changes
Turning the heating down by a few degrees and investing in insulation will reduce your energy bill and use significantly less energy, saving greenhouse gas emissions. Did you know that LED light bulbs use two-thirds of the energy of regular lightbulbs, and last 10 times longer.
As a business
- Offset your employees
For when those important meetings just can’t be done over the phone, you can offset the carbon footprint of your employees’ trips to make your company carbon neutral.
- Cycle to work scheme
As a UK business, you can take part in the cycle to work scheme, saving your employees on the total cost of a new bike. Not only is cycling proved to reduce stress levels and improve happiness, but it also cuts down on carbon emissions from the transport they would otherwise be using.
When reducing isn’t enough
Taking steps to minimise your carbon footprint can only get you so far in reducing greenhouse gas. Unfortunately almost every activity in our lives results in pollution.
However, there is something you can do!
Offsetting your carbon footprint removes the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through carbon reduction schemes. What’s more, there is no limit on how much carbon you can offset. Why stop at carbon neutral? If you offset more than you emit, you can become carbon negative, actively contributing to reducing greenhouse gases.
With Treepoints you can support the best carbon reduction projects around the world, certified by UN Gold Standard. Reduce greenhouse gas, offset your carbon footprint, and support sustainable development in vulnerable communities. Treepoints makes it simple to do good for our planet.