You’ve heard of global warming and carbon offsets, but have you
ever wondered about the connection and what you can do about
‘Carbon emissions’ refers to the carbon dioxide that’s released
into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels. The carbon
dioxide becomes trapped, allowing more of the heat from the sun to
remain in Earth’s atmosphere. An excess of carbon dioxide occurs
when more emissions are released into the atmosphere than can be
consumed by CO2-absorbing forests and oceans, also known as carbon
sinks. Elevated CO2 levels in natural ocean sinks are already
killing reefs, fish and other ocean life. And as the build-up
increases, atmospheric temperatures rise ? i.e. global warming ?
which causes extreme temperatures (hot and cold), increases
flooding and expands desert areas, and causes more intense weather
disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
Burning fossil fuels in cars, planes, homes, factories and power
plants is the largest contributor to global warming today ? which
is why smart driving, energy efficiency and reduced use of
nonrenewable energy sources are key factors in fighting climate
change. Doing your part to combat unnatural climate change is made
simple by tallying your personal carbon emissions, then making a
plan to reduce the amount.
Fortunately, calculating your carbon footprint is easy. There
are a number of Web sites that offer carbon calculators for
individuals, businesses and organizations ? you can even determine
the emissions for a specific event, such as a wedding ? and it
takes just a couple minutes. Here are just a few:
Emissions are determined based on the size of your home, number
of residents, driving (car size and mileage) and other factors such
as whether or not you use
Most calculators require basic information, though it helps to have
your annual estimated mileage and average energy use available (in
kWh, therms or gallons, if you use electricity, natural gas or
heating oil, respectively). You can find monthly fuel usage numbers
on your regular utility bill.
There are a number of ways to cut down carbon emissions,
including carpooling, regular car maintenance, flying less,
combining trips, making your home more energy efficient and
switching to renewable energy sources, among others. According to
SafeClimate, the average American produces 9.44 tons of carbon
dioxide annually. That’s the emissions equivalent of cutting and
burning all of the trees that would fit in a football field-sized
swath of the Amazon rainforest. Once you’ve found your number,
you’ll know just how much you need to whittle down. Many
calculators tell you where you use the most energy and provide tips
for lowering your use.
Have you calculated and reduced your carbon emissions? Share
your tips and resources in the comments section below.