Learn why reducing carbon footprint is important?
What is carbon footprint? Why is it important to reduce it? What has it got to do with climate change? In this article, we attempt to answer these questions.
Carbon footprint is defined as the overall amount of various greenhouse gas emissions, primarily comprising carbon dioxide, emitted due to the actions and choices of an individual, organisation, or nation. Carbon footprint is often expressed as carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Most greenhouses gases such as CO2 and methane (CH4) are emitted through activities like land clearance, burning of fossil fuels and the production and consumption of various products and services.
To understand the importance of carbon footprint, you should think of it like an impression you would leave behind if you walked through wet cement. Such an impression traps and seals your imprint, and it remains intact for a long time. While you may not realise it, every choice you make either increases or reduces your carbon footprint. Each time you forget to switch off appliances, drive to work in your car, or buy bottled water, you are carving your carbon footprint deeper into the earth. Conversely, by switching off appliances, taking public transportation to work and using reusable bottles, you reduce your carbon footprint. As is apparent, your carbon footprint is like a permanent stamp of your actions on the planet, so it is critical to understand the importance of reducing carbon footprint.
There are many reasons why reducing carbon footprint is important. Let us look at the primary ones.
The most obvious reason why reducing carbon footprint is important is that it is adversely affecting the planet. Rising temperatures, year-long rain showers, tropical storms, wildfires, melting ice caps, and other unusual climate changes are a result of increasing CO2 emissions. Shifting precipitation patterns are affecting the growing patterns of plants. As a result, indigenous vegetation is moving to cooler climates. While sea levels are rising, shores are eroding, and ecosystems are getting destroyed. All of this leads to the displacement of various coastal cities and towns and the total disappearance of certain islands and island nations.
Wildlife preservation and conservation largely depends on specific weather patterns and vegetation. But climate change has led to shifts in vegetation, and the increasingly shifting temperature and weather patterns are threatening various wildlife species into extinction. For instance, upon arriving at their destinations, migratory birds find that plants have either not bloomed at all or bloomed too early. These factors cause starvation and, ultimately, extinction. Similarly, the hunting grounds for polar bears are destroyed due to melting Arctic ice caps. According to a study by Nature Conservancy, at least a quarter of the earth's species are expected to go extinct within the next 40 years if climate change continues to increase at the current rate.
Besides the environment and wildlife, increased carbon footprints can also impact human health, especially those of children residing in unhygienic and drought-prone areas. Climate change and drought interfere with the growth of food crops. This, in turn, results in the unavailability of crops and increased malnutrition. Moreover, droughts cause diarrheal diseases and compromises access to safe drinking water. Additionally, the compromised air quality index in most cities has led to an increase in the number of people suffering from respiratory issues like asthma, bronchitis, and allergies.
The importance of reducing carbon footprint can also be attributed to the fact that it poses a significant threat to the economy. Several studies have shown that climate change affects countries that depend on their land for agricultural and natural resources. For instance, in India, farms have witnessed lowered crop yields. Similarly, the famous New England lobster industry in Maine, USA, is threatened due to increasing carbon footprint with catching rates plummeting. This is impacting Maine's economic growth significantly. Additionally, rising water temperatures are threatening the survival of coral reefs putting a major dent in the economy.
We can do several things to control our carbon footprints on a personal level. Studies have proven that the environmental impact of switching to energy-efficient appliances in your home can be significant because the generation of electricity leaves a large footprint.
For example, 20% of your electricity bill is attributable to electricity lighting your house. By replacing your incandescent tube lights and bulbs with Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL bulbs), you can reduce your monthly electricity consumption by 75%. Now let’s say there are 140 million homes in an Indian city. If each house in the city replaced its incandescent lightbulb with a CFL bulb, it would save enough energy to power over 3 million homes in a year while reducing annual emissions by the equivalent of taking over 800,000 cars off the road.
Another obvious solution is to switch to hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and all-electric vehicles (EVs). These vehicles typically produce lower tailpipe emissions compared to petrol or diesel vehicles. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that the annual emissions per EVs were less than 5000 pounds of CO2e, whereas those for PHEVs and HEVs 5500 and 6000 pounds of CO2e, respectively. In comparison, petrol and diesel vehicles generated annual emissions per vehicle exceeding 12,000 pounds of CO2e – more than double of carbon emissions from EVs, PHEVs and HEVs.
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*Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only. We recommend you get in touch with your income tax advisor or CA for expert advice.