Fuel for Thought

  • Where Do Emissions Come From?

Where Do Emissions Come From?

Apr 26 2019 Read 1202 Times

The twin problems of global warming and poor air quality are both primarily caused by one contributing factor: emissions of damaging greenhouses gases (GHGs). Whether it be carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides or another harmful gas, these pollutants are destabilising our climate, poisoning the air we breathe and compromising the health of the planet for future generations.

With the scientific community developing ever-more sophisticated techniques of detecting gas emissions and estimating their source location with increasingly pinpoint accuracy, we can now be more sure than ever before of where these emissions emanate. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest sources of GHG emissions across the world, along with a suggestion on how best they might be addressed:

Transportation

Responsible for nearly a third of all GHG emissions, transportation is a major contributing factor to the twin evils named above. Of course, land vehicles such as cars, buses and trucks are often the main source of media attention, but aircraft contribute almost 10% of transportation emissions, while shipping and railways are both responsible for small but significant amounts.

Reducing the need for travel altogether would be the ideal solution to this problem, but is restricted by the demands and customs of the modern world. Other sensible practices include switching to cleaner forms of fuel (such as electric- or hydrogen-powered vehicles), improving fuel efficiency and increasing environmental awareness in other areas of the industry.

Electricity

The second biggest contributor to GHGs is electricity - and incidentally, if EVs do supplant fossil-fuelled power vehicles as the number one mode of transportation in the near future, then ensuring we have a clean supply of power will be more important than ever.

The best way to achieve this will be to continue to pursue more efficient forms of green energy, including renewables and perhaps nuclear, as well as minimising the damage inflicted from fossil fuel systems through the implementation of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

Domestic and commercial emissions

In addition to the electricity we consume in turning on our lights and powering our appliances, the gas and oil used to heat our homes and supply our cooking needs is also a significant contributing factor to GHG emissions. And just as heating requires energy and results in emissions, so too does cooling - which is why refrigeration and air conditioning systems are also a concern.

Converting to a Smart-enabled system at home and at work can help to tighten up efficiency and ensure that heaters, air conditioners and the suchlike are only turned on when necessary. Meanwhile, switching to refrigerants with lower potential to aggravate global warming and reducing our overall energy consumption are other avenues worthy of pursuit.

Land use, agriculture and deforestation

Given that methane is approximately 30 times more effective as a heat-trapping gas than carbon dioxide, it’s no surprise that there is widespread concern over this damaging GHG. Agriculture and cattle farming are major contributing factors to methane in the atmosphere, while clearing of land to make way for such activities results in deforestation, thus exacerbating the problem of carbon in the air at the same time.

Weening ourselves away from a meat-based diet, employing environmentally-friendly farming practices and improving land management techniques can help to minimise emissions from the sector, while safeguarding our natural rainforests and replanting any trees which are uprooted is integral in ensuring the Earth is equipped to deal with the harmful emissions we inflict upon it.

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