>Thanks to Barry Hurley of the CEF Management Committee for the following post…
WHAT IS CARBON FOOTPRINT?
The concept of “Carbon Footprint” can be defined as “a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide“. It is generally measured in terms of “tonnes C02(equivalent) generated by an individual, or enterprise, commercial or agricultural, or indeed any other activity or product one wishes to apply the concept to. On a national level it refers to the total Carbon Dioxide generated by a country in a year.
WHY IS CARBON FOOTPRINT IMPORTANT?
There are two related factors which make our Carbon footprint a vital part of living the in the 21st century:
1. The major source of the energy we use, to heat our homes, to travel, and to run our industries is based on fossil fuels (oil, coal etc). Fossil fuels are a finite dwindling resource, and is rapidly being depleted, and so far no sustainable alternative has been developed to provide an adequate replacement.
2. All of the above mentioned fossil fuels, which when combusted to give us our energy also release massive quantities of the main greenhouse gas (Carbon Dioxide) into the atmosphere. Analyses of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere over the past 150 years have shown an increase from a figure of c. 270ppm in pre-industrial times to a current value of c. 370ppm. This is still rising, in line with our increasing use of fossil fuels. The rapid industrialisation of Asian, African, and other developing economies is going to increase the rise in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide even further.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) in their 4th major report on Climate Change (November 2007) have confirmed the existence of a Global Warming effect our world……
‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level…’
‘Continued GHG emissions at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century…’
This report , and indeed the film and book by Al Gore “An Inconvenient Truth” give further evidence that major irreversible climatic changes are occurring on our planet.
WHAT MUST BE DONE TO HALT GLOBAL WARMING?
1. Governments ,Local, National, and International, must address this problem as a matter of urgency. Apart from the many useful programmes they now support, they should provide major funding into truly sustainable forms of Energy, such as SOLAR POWER.
2. Companies should determine their Carbon footprint. The main trust of this would be their use of Energy in production, as well as heating , lighting and transport. This would allow a company to compare performance, and set targets to lower the industry norm. This would highlight points of wastage and possibilities of saving money. It would also prepare industry for the onset of “Carbon Credits” ,a Government initiative already in place for the larger Irish companies ,which will probably be extended to all industries in due course.
3. Individual citizens should determine their Carbon Footprint by identifying their Energy use from Gas, Electricity and other heating and transport bills. This can be done by utilizing a Carbon Calculator at www.change.ie . As fuel prices continue to rise this exercise will enable citizens identify the location of their high outputs of Carbon Dioxide, and make appropriate savings.
HOW DOES IRELAND FARE vs. REST OF WORLD?
In a survey of 206 countries in 2004
Our entire weather system, which circulates water and heat which ensure the maintenance of optimum conditions for life as we know it to flourish, is contained in a tiny envelope (The Troposphere), about 5-10 km above the earth’s surface. Because CO2 can move freely across national boundaries within this space, our life-sustaining Troposphere is being systematically ravaged by us ,citizens of the ”first” world by our huge discharges of CO2.
NOW IS THE TIME FOR EVERYONE TO TAKE ACTION TO LOWER THEIR CARBON FOOTPRINT!!
Barry Hurley 14th June 2008
Barry Hurley, Ph.D,
Director, Cork Environmental Forum (www.cef.ie)