Carbon Footprint is the term used to describe the total amount of greenhouse gases that an individual or group emits. It’s not restricted just to our emissions of carbon dioxide but to the sum total of all our greenhouse gases.
When we talk about Greenhouse Gases we’re referring to all those gases that contribute to global warming – not just carbon dioxide. If we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, then we reduce our carbon footprint.
Greenhouse gases have the ability to retain heat within our atmosphere, the more of these gases we emit the more heat is retained and as a consequence the climate warms up, this is what we refer to as global warming.
Some of the consequences of global warming include the thermal expansion of the seas and oceans and the melting of ice in the polar and mountainous regions. These two factors combine to cause sea-levels to rise. In recent decades the rate by which the seas have been rising has increased from about 1mm a year to 3.2mm a year, it’s set to rise faster in the future. It’s likely that over the course of the next 100 years we’ll witness sea-levels rise by between 500mm and 1000mm. This would have disastrous consequences for coastal and low lying communities and would require the mass evacuation of many millions of people to higher ground.
The temperature of our planet has always fluctuated in the past, the difference now is that it’s rising so much faster than has ever before been known. A consequence of this is that many plant and animal species are unable to adapt quick enough to cope with the temperature changes. There are other problems for animals in that a warmer planet can destroy their natural habitat, disrupt food-chains etc. As a consequence, there are numerous species that are at risk of becoming extinct as a result of climate change; this includes species of penguin, bear, wolf, tiger and fox.
Another consequence of a warmer climate is the disruption to global weather patterns. We’ve already seen a doubling in the number of heatwaves and a tripling in the number of flood events around the world. As the climate warms further, such events will become more commonplace. There is the obvious human cost of such events but there are the indirect consequences such as the destruction of agricultural land, contamination of water supplies and spread of diseases.
These are only some of the reasons why you should take steps to reduce your carbon footprint.