We all want to work together to safeguard planet Earth.
Global warming is here: we can feel it and see the effects. Choices we make every day have an impact on the global climate, measurable as our ‘carbon footprint’.
Carbon footprint represents the greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), generated by your day-to-day activities, such as:
- Travelling by car or plane;
- Warming and cooling your home;
- Buying food, clothes, electronics; or
- Almost anything that uses energy
We burn fossil fuels containing carbon to get energy for these activities (e.g. coal, gas, oil, and petrol). The carbon reacts with oxygen to make CO2, mostly released into our atmosphere.
Why does excess CO2 warm the climate?
CO2 in the air acts as a cosy jumper around earth: we need enough to keep the planet warm and also for plants to grow. Without it, we would freeze and starve! It’s a delicate balance – too much CO2 is like putting on a second jumper. Heat from the sun can enter our atmosphere, but excess CO2 traps extra heat so Earth’s climate gets hotter, like a greenhouse.
CO2 emissions are rising because of us. We are burning more fossil fuels for energy and cutting down forests so there are fewer trees to absorb the excess CO2 we create.
Look at the map: the dark areas show there is less CO2 in the air over areas like the Amazon jungle with huge forests left intact. That’s because all those trees are absorbing CO2. Find the level where you live using this interactive map. How much has the level has risen over your lifetime?
Since 1900, our climate has warmed by 1°C and is on track to increase by up to 4°C by 2100 if CO2 emissions increase the way they have over the last 50 years. We must eliminate CO2 emissions as soon as possible! Most governments are planning to do that by 2050, but many climate scientists think we should try to get there by 2035.
How large is your carbon footprint?
Running an average Australian home releases around 7 tonnes of CO2 annually. Energy used for your transport contributes about as much again.
Visualising 14 tonnes of CO2 isn’t easy: it’s invisible! Instead, we can count trees needed to absorb the CO2 that your activities create. A medium-sized tree captures about 700kg of CO2 in 50 years. Planting trees to absorb your carbon emissions is called ‘carbon offsetting’, and you can pay a company to do that for you!
Reducing your carbon footprint
It will take more than just planting trees to eliminate CO2 emissions. Engineers are working on improved solar panels, electric cars and appliances that use far less energy.
Australian households are leading the world by installing solar panels to generate clean, renewable electricity (see this report). Using solar electricity makes economic sense as well as helping to eliminate fossil fuel emissions. Solar electricity can recharge electric vehicle batteries, run your fridge and freezer and provide hot water. A superbly well-insulated modern home requires very little energy for heating and cooling.
We can’t all afford a brand new home, solar panels or an electric car. However, we can all help reduce Australia’s carbon footprint and save at the same time.
Taking holidays closer to home, virtual meetings, public transport and cycling can reduce transport emissions. Careful choices help. Check labels and avoid foods that have travelled long distances to the supermarket shelf. Take the stairs instead of a lift and choose clothes that will last longer.
Comfort and your carbon footprint
You can make a big difference when it comes to household comfort, saving money, reducing CO2 emissions, and improving your health.
Heating and cooling a home is expensive. In hot climates, air conditioning a home can account for 40% of your energy bill. The average room air-conditioner in Australian homes consumes 1,700 Watts electric power for about 550 hours a year. This releases ¾ tonne of CO2 and costs over $300, using fossil fuel electricity.
Yet nearly all that energy is used to cool concrete and bricks that don’t need cooling. Also, traditional room air-conditioners need windows and doors closed so there’s little ventilation. Our experience with Covid-19 shows how important ventilation is for reducing the risk of infection.
Using a personal air conditioner is a great way to save money and slash your cooling carbon footprint by 80% when you don’t need to cool a crowd, particularly at night when there is no solar electricity. Windows and doors remain open so fresh air can circulate all the time.
A whole-house ventilation fan draws cool air through windows at night to cool the house walls, floors and roof ensuring lower temperatures through the following day. It can remove 15 kW heat using only a 300 Watt electric motor, costing far less than a ducted air conditioning system (Illustration by JPT).
It feels much better to know we’re all working together to prevent catastrophic climate change. We can all take responsibility for the impact that we have on the Earth.
Use an electric throw rug in winter and save heaps on heating: it only needs 100 Watts, reducing your emissions by over 90% (Illustration by JPT).
In summer, use a Cool Focus personal air conditioner instead of a traditional air conditioner. Keep cool knowing you’re saving up to 75% off your cooling costs and 80% of your CO2 emissions at the same time!