Carbon Emission: The Ultimate Guide
The largest source of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions come from human activities. There are different ways in which we can contribute to the reduction of these harmful gases and lower the rate at which global warming is speeding up.
What are carbon emissions?
Carbon emission defines the release of carbon (CO2) into the atmosphere. Carbon emissions are also frequently referred to as Greenhouse Gas emissions, which is the leading cause of global warming and the key driver of climate change. Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, carbon emissions have accelerated at a rapid speed. Carbon emissions are now reaching levels 50% higher than prior to the Industrial Revolution.
What problems do carbon emissions form?
When fossil fuels are burned, they emit a substantial amount of carbon dioxide into the air. Carbon emissions, alongside other greenhouse gases, trap heat into the earth’s atmosphere and drive global warming. Since industrialisation, the planet has warmed by roughly 1°C, causing catastrophic effects - rising sea levels, warming oceans, and drastically melting snow and ice.
Experts widely agree that if global warming levels exceed the ‘safe boundary’ of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, society will be faced with irreversible and detrimental climate-related risks. These risks include drastic hunger levels, mass migration due to flooding, the collapse of financial markets and many more socio-economic disasters.
The legally binding Paris Climate Agreement attempts to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change through limiting the average global temperature to 1.5°C. 196 parties signed the treaty, including the UK, who have since enshrined the target in a Net Zero carbon emissions law. Net-zero means any carbon emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.
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Similarities and differences of Scope 1, 2 & 3 emission
For organisations to measure and reduce emissions more effectively, the carbon output can be categorised into different scopes. Carbon scopes break down emissions into three distinct categories in order to better understand the source - allowing them to take more effective action.
Scope 1 emission
Scope 1 emissions include any of an organisation's direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. An example of such would be running fleet vehicles and onsite fuel combustion, such as gas boilers.
Scope 2 emission
Similarly, Scope 2 emissions include those within the organisation’s own control. However, Scope 2 are emissions that are made indirectly, such as energy bought from suppliers to heat and cool buildings.
Scope 3 emission
Scope 3 emissions are harder to identify and assess as these are emissions that are not direct to the business operations but embedded in the organisation’s value chain - both upstream (with suppliers) and downstream (with customers). Identifying and assessing Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions can be complex and prove difficult.
Organisations often fail to tackle Scope 3 emissions due to the complex nature of gathering and analysing the data. However, Scope 3 emissions usually account for a large majority of the organisation’s overall emissions, so failing to target them is problematic. With such a high percentage of carbon emitted from activities along the value chain and so many potential benefits from reducing this carbon, it is fast becoming a business imperative to measure and reduce Scope 3 emissions.
How you can help lower carbon emissions
At Climate Change Professionals, we offer training to help you start your climate change career. By providing this training, we can help you and your business understand energy reduction and carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
Get involved and take your first steps to becoming a Climate Change Professional and make your pledge today.