Not everyone understands why the world’s climate is changing at the moment, or why we are only just waking up to its significance now.
How carbon dioxide emissions affect climate change
The human race adds around 70 million tonnes of invisible carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere every day. It is emitted when we heat and cool our buildings, run mechanical equipment, or engage in shipping, driving and flying. It can stay in the atmosphere for a hundred years and it is having an effect on the global temperature. There are other contributing factors, such as deforestation and the emission of other gases including methane and nitrous oxides. We can do something about all of these things, but especially about CO2.
Carbon dioxide is an invisible gas. In the last fifty years its level in our atmosphere has risen by 25%. If it were purple the sky would now be a noticeably darker shade! Because we haven’t seen it, we haven’t paid it sufficient attention. We need to find ways to, in effect, create carbon visibility.
Lack of knowledge
So why are we not taking more significant action right away? Why do we continue to build fossil-fuel power stations? Why is extreme energy efficiency not mandatory? Why do we still continue with an industrial model at odds with the planet’s natural systems?
One of the reasons is that most people, while aware of the climate change issue, do not fully understand what the concept means or grasp the implications: they are ‘carbon illiterate’. The key is to help the people responsible for most of the emissions – about 1 billion people predominantly in the developed world – to become ‘carbon literate’.
Valuing the atmosphere
Until recently, people and governments have put little value on the atmosphere. Everyone has been free to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Now, for example, industrial emitters in Europe are part of a mandatory scheme to reduce emissions. As society shifts towards a low-carbon future, carbon emissions will start to become integral to economic and political decisions.
All businesses will need to understand the carbon embedded in their products and services. They will have to communicate the facts to customers who desire to make well-informed low-carbon decisions. The numbers have to be brought down.