An overwhelming body of scientific evidence paints a clear picture: climate change is happening, it is caused in large part by human activity, and it will have many serious and potentially damaging effects in the decades ahead. Scientists have confirmed that the earth is warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants and other man-made sources—rather than natural variations in climate—are the primary cause. Due largely to the combustion of fossil fuels, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide — the principal greenhouse gas, are at a level unequaled for more than 400,000 years.
As a result, an enhanced greenhouse effect is trapping more of the sun’s heat near the earth’s surface and gradually pushing the planet’s climate system into uncharted territory. Climate change is a real problem, but it also has real solutions. Some of its effects are already inevitable and will require some degree of adaptation, but humanity has the power—working collectively and individually at all levels of society—to take serious action to reduce the threat posed by climate change. The time to act is now. While the early actions of local and state governments, nations, and business leaders are significant, climate change remains a global problem requiring efforts on all fronts. Each step you take to reduce your impact on the environment can make a difference, so start reducing your carbon footprint today.
What are greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere. They blanket the earth and protect us, like plants in a greenhouse, from the colder temperatures of the outer atmosphere.
A lot of what happens in daily life produces greenhouse gases. Nature produces greenhouse gases through the decomposition of food and plant waste and even sewage. Human activity produces greenhouse gases too including burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gasoline, raising livestock, fertilizers, clearing land and growing crops. A wide range of industrial and manufacturing processes add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as well.
The problem is that with so many manmade sources producing so much greenhouse gas, the globe is starting to heat up beyond what is natural leading to changes in our global climate.
Helping to reduce the volume of greenhouse gases caused by human choices is the purpose of Make an Impact.
There are three main types of greenhouse gases:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2): Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), solid waste, trees and wood products, and also as a result of other chemical reactions (e.g., manufacture of cement). Carbon dioxide is also removed from the atmosphere (or “sequestered”) when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle.
- Methane (CH4): Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O): Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.
Why should you care?
A U.S. government report concluded that “Global average temperature has risen by about 1.5 degrees F since 1900. By 2100, it is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5 degrees F.” Even the low end of that range is a significant amount of warming.
A change in our climate will affect our economies, our infrastructure and our environment, all of which are suited to the fairly stable climate conditions of the past and will have to adapt to rapidly changing climatic circumstances – unless we begin to take action now to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are heating the planet.
What can we do about it?
Addressing climate change is no simple task. To protect ourselves, our economy, and our lands and waters from the adverse effects of climate change we must ultimately dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. We believe that everyone has a role to play in the solution ¬--business, government and individuals.
Any workable solution will fundamentally transform the way we power our global economy. This demands shifting away from a century’s legacy of unrestrained fossil fuel use and its associated emissions in pursuit of more efficient and renewable sources of energy. Such a transformation will require society to engage in a concerted effort, over the near- and long-term, to seek out opportunities and design actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But a workable solution also requires each of us to take personal responsibility, change our own behaviors and consume less of the fuels and products that contribute to climate change. Make an Impact is designed to help!