Only 5 years ago the problem of global warming was still a debate, with many people rejecting it altogether (Wara, 2011). However, research on the topics of carbon dioxide and global warming today shows that most scientists have come to agree that global climate change is happening, and the issue cannot be ignored any longer by the governments and people of the world (Le Page, 2011). The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased from 280 parts per million to 380 ppm since the industrial revolution, and there is significant evidence that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the leading cause of global warming (Le Page, 2011).
All people on Earth are contributing to the emission of carbon dioxide in countless ways, some of which include transportation, electricity, gas usage, consumption of meat products, and the production and purchase of most goods in developed countries. The world population should aim to reduce its carbon footprint because carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the surface of the Earth and changing the global climate.
My carbon footprint, acquired through the Carbon Footprint Calculator, is 8.76 metric tons per year. It is lower than the average footprint for people in the U.S., which is 20.40 metric tons. The lifestyle of most people in the United States is very consumerism-oriented and requires a lot of energy in the form of fuel and electricity, increasing the country’s overall carbon footprint. My carbon footprint is a lot higher than the world target to combat climate change, which is only 2 metric tons.
Shockingly, the world target of 2 metric tons per year is lower than my footprint for just the past 3 months, which was 2.19 metric tons. This brings an alarming sense of awareness and responsibility because carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to the greenhouse effect that warms the Earth by trapping heat inside the atmosphere (Le Page, 2011). Global warming used to be a very controversial topic but it is becoming apparent that climate change is real and that people need to do something about it (Wara, 2014).
Everybody contributes to the overall buildup of greenhouse gases, so it is important to realize one’s impact, and the Carbon Footprint Calculator is an extremely helpful tool for understanding one’s carbon footprint.
My carbon footprint must be reduced because it is a lot higher than the world target. The difference between my footprint and the world target to fight climate change is 6.76 metric tons, which is an awfully large amount of carbon dioxide. People of the world need to work together on reducing their carbon footprints and the emission of greenhouse gases, and so do I. Decreasing the use of electricity and gas and increasing efficiency is one of the main ways to reduce carbon emissions (Singh, 2013). This includes such simple things as turning the lights off when leaving the room, using less hot water and less water overall), biking instead of driving, switching from cars in general to public transport, and using alternative energy sources such as active and passive solar collectors. A big portion of contributions to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere comes from the livestock industries (Scholtz et al, 2013), so reducing the portion of meat or giving it up altogether helps reduce one’s carbon footprint (fortunately I stopped eating meat 5 years ago, which decreased my carbon footprint greatly). Buying local and growing your food reduces the amount of energy it takes to transport goods; additionally, recycling is a very significant and easy contribution to sustainable living.
A high carbon footprint is problematic because the increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the leading anthropogenic cause of recent global warming (Triacca, Pasini, Attanasio, Giovanelli, & Lippi, 2014). Since the beginning of the industrial age, the rate of burning fossil fuels has been increasing at a constant rate to meet the ever-growing energy demands, resulting in the buildup of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Singh, 2013). These gases absorb heat that would otherwise escape the atmosphere, and they direct this heat to the Earth, raising the temperature at the surface and in the lower atmosphere (Le Page, 2011). The average temperature around the world rose by 0.8 °C in the past century because of the heat trapped in the atmosphere by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by anthropogenic activities (Le Page, 2011). It is known that the planet is going to get a lot hotter, although the rate of warming and the future rise in temperatures cannot be predicted precisely (Le Page, 2011). Global warming has immense consequences for all life on Earth, causing such problems as species extinction and the rise of sea level. Studies suggest that “each 1° C rise in the global mean temperature eventually leads to a 20-meter rise in sea level” (Le Page, 2011, p. 2). Such a high rise in the sea level would impact the lifestyles of many people around the world, especially those who live near the ocean. The amount of land available for people will decrease, and this will generate a big problem for the growing world population.
A wide range of human activities contributes to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and often these activities do not appear as harmful as they are. For example, the medical industry generates a very significant portion of carbon emissions (Morris, Wright, Somner, & Connor, 2013). Studies have been conducted at a hospital in England where 2230 patients had cataract surgery in 2011, and the annual carbon footprint of cataract surgery in Cardiff, UK was calculated to be 405 tons of carbon dioxide (Morris et al., 2013). However, it has been noted that global warming with its potential natural disasters, food and water insecurity, and alterations of natural processes will lead to a spread of infectious diseases and escalating health problems, which in turn will increase the demand for healthcare (Morris et al., 2013).
This presents one of the positive feedback loops of global warming: the healthcare industry’s large footprint increases global warming, which causes health problems, forcing people to seek more help from the medical industry and increasing carbon emissions. Another broad industry necessary for everyday life that emits a lot of greenhouse gases is the livestock industry (Scholts et al, 2013). The work of Scholts et al. (2013) emphasizes the responsibility that livestock industries have in reducing the release of greenhouse gases. Individuals should be aware of the tremendous carbon footprint created by the livestock industry and make sustainable choices when buying meat and other products coming from this industry, such as reducing the portion of meat and buying local products. All factors contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming should be taken into consideration when aiming to reduce one’s carbon footprint.
One of the most significant policies to help the reduction of greenhouse gases and slow down the process of global warming has been the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, resulting from the efforts of diplomats from around the world (Burney, Kennel, & Victor, 2013). Although diplomacy has been active, the actual decrease in emissions is exaggerated and has not been very significant in reducing the overall buildup of greenhouse gases (Burney et al., 2013). The levels of greenhouse gas pollution are the highest they have ever been (Burney et al., 2013). The countries that committed to making significant cuts in emissions under the original Kyoto Protocol were responsible for 60 percent of emissions, reducing that fraction to less than one quarter by 2012 (Burney et al., 2013). However, no major economy has even come close to reaching the goal of making cuts in emissions between 50 and 80 percent (Burney et al., 2013).
Although thoughtful policies are being implemented around the world at various rates, most of them are not very effective in reducing the amount of human-contributed greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
California is the leading state in implementing sustainable policies to aid the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere (Wara, 2014). The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 set the goal of reducing rgreenhousegas emissions in the state of California to the 1990 levels by 2020 (Wara, 2014). Besides the cap-and-trade program, California attempts to reduce emissions through a range of additional overlapping policies, such as setting better tailpipe standards for cars and trucks and implementing a low carbon fuel standard for gasoline (Wara, 2014). The Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulation is intended to reduce the portion of greenhouse gases released during the production and consumption of gasoline by 10 percent by the year 2020 (Wara, 2014). California is on track with reducing its emissions, but although California’s climate change program is very effective, unfortunately, it cannot serve as a model in most other states because it requires significant support from policymakers (Wara, 2014).
However, government officials in most states refuse to support environmentally-friendly policies to reduce carbon emissions. It is beneficial for a state to have industries that bring a lot of profit, even though their large carbon footprints contribute to global warming.
Individual and industrial carbon footprints should be reduced by providing bigger economic incentives for efficient and environmentally-friendly technology. It is important to implement and enforce higher fuel standards and to develop alternative fuels. The burning of fossil fuels causes the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and a good way to reduce the greenhouse effect is to capture and store carbon dioxide emitted from intensive industries (Singh, 2013). As mentioned earlier, the livestock industry is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and a very effective way of decreasing carbon and water footprints from meat production would be to reduce the number of livestock and increase production per animal (Scholtz et al, 2013). Additionally, to help the worldwide global warming fight, the focus should switch from just one pollutant, carbon dioxide, to reducing all major pollutants and finding new ways to slow down climate change (Burney et al., 2013). An aggressive and highly effective method has been suggested by scientists in San Diego: to launch a program to fight soot and other short-lived climate pollutants (Burney et al., 2013).
The lack of action on climate change comes from the lack of incentives for those who take action. There is no scientific doubt about climate change, but there is not enough political action involved in improving the current conditions (Burney et al., 2013). Many people have little understanding of the greenhouse effect, which is the process of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere, warming the surface of the Earth, and causing global warming. People around the world need to become aware of this process and take note of their carbon footprint. footprintscts of modern life contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases, and sustainable choices must be made to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Educational programs and incentives for green living should be implemented around the world to help reduce the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to slow global warming. Most importantly, the world has to realize that the Earth is a system and that humankind is affecting it greatly. One change in the system causes a chain reaction, and soon it will be too late to stop global warming from affecting all parts of the system. People of the world must unite in finding sustainable ways of living to preserve the unique beauty, the ecological diversity, and the limited resources of the precious planet that they call home.