Carbon Footprint – The planet is warming at an alarming rate and scientists are now 95% certain that humans are the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s*. But why is the planet warming, how much does this warming really matter and what can organisations and employees do to slow this trend?
To understand why climate change is happening we need to look at the Greenhouse Effect. Solar radiation powers the planets’ climate system; about half of solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth’s surface, effectively warming it. Infrared radiation is emitted from the Earth’s surface, and whilst some of this infrared radiation passes through the atmosphere, most is absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by greenhouse gas molecules and clouds. As the level of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has been rising consistently for decades, extra heat is being trapped near to the Earth’s surface, causing the Earth’s temperature to rise.
So what is the current situation and what is being done on a global scale?
The average global temperature has increased by 1.2 degree Celsius with sea levels rising by 20cm since 1901 and Arctic ice 65% thinner than it was in 1975. It is widely accepted that climate change is happening, and at a rate that could cause irreversible damage if we fail to slow this rate down. Countries across the globe have come together to make pledges that will address this climate crisis. In December 2015, the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change, was adopted by 196 parties. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5, compared to pre-industrial levels. The Climate Change Act was passed in the UK in 2008 and commits to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. However this target was made more ambitious in 2019 when the UK committed to a NetZero target by 2050.
How is the UK government driving a NetZero agenda?
In October 2021 the UK government set out the Net Zero Strategy, an economy-wide plan for how businesses and consumers will be supported in making the transition to clean energy and green technology. The new strategy included: