Over the last hundred years or so, our civilisation has become heavily dependent on using fossil fuel energy for almost everything we do every day.Fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) have a high carbon content and when burned, the carbon combines with oxygen to form CO2. This powerful greenhouse gas is accumulating in the atmosphere and warming up the planet.
We all have a carbon footprint which is the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases we are personally responsible for. In the UK, each person currently has an average footprint of 12.5 tonnes of CO2 per year. Around half of this – 6 tonnes – is directly created through transport and running a house. The other half – around 6.5 tonnes – is caused by industry, food production, running offices, schools and hospitals, warehousing, transporting goods, and so on.
If we are to avoid runaway climate change, it is clear that we each need to curb our emissions. It is widely recognised that the government policy of a reduction of 60% by 2050 is not ambitious enough to avoid catastrophic global heating. The general consensus is that we all need to reduce our carbon footprint to less than 2 tonnes per person per year, or a 90% cut by 2050. This seems like quite a tall order but there are many affordable steps you can take towards this goal right now (see ‘what can I do?’).
Small acts may seem pointless alone, but every time you take a bus rather than drive or turn down the heating, you are taking a small step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. We have reached an agreement with TheCarbonAccount so you can calculate your own carbon footprint and keep a record of your progress. The web site stores your answers and reminds you to update it with new data on a weekly or monthly basis so you can keep track of how you’re doing over time! Click on the link at the top to find out more.
You can also join a growing network of people who are signing up to make a weekly energy-saving pledge or join the local Carbon Rationing Action Group (CRAG). See the pledge link above to find out more!