CO2 Emissions

Can’t see it! Can’t touch it! Can’t smell it! No, it’s not a superhero– it’s carbon dioxide, or CO2 – the most common greenhouse gas. Like oxygen, CO2 is essential for life on Earth, but you really can have too much of a good thing! How do we know it even exists?  Well, scientists have been studying atmospheric concentrations using ice cores stretching back over 700,000 years and they’ve concluded that human activities have already pushed CO2 levels past the “normal,” safe zone. There is an overwhelming consensus that if we don’t rapidly change course the Titanic is going to hit that iceberg all over again…that’s if there are any icebergs left!

Just like a pressure regulator on a tank that indicates when things are about to blow, the planet’s CO2 regulator is steadily creeping towards the blowing point of 420 parts per million (ppm). Many of the predicted consequences are already manifesting around the world. We’re seeing increasingly frequent and costly forest fires, extreme weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons, flooding in some areas and droughts in others. Nothing else connects us like our atmosphere – changes in one place impact people hundreds and thousands of miles away. Look at the record floods in the Midwest and the catastrophic typhoon that hit Myanmar. The prices in our grocery stores reflect the huge losses in corn, wheat, and rice crops.

The average American uses 600 gallons of gasoline per year, creating six tons of CO2 emissions just from auto travel.  Now add in air travel. And don’t forget the distances that most of our food and other goods have to travel before reaching our shelves. Not to mention that the vehicles we use for this transport have some of the lowest fuel economies found anywhere in the world (well below Australia, China and Europe). We also use more gasoline (346 million gallons per day in 2003) than the next 20 largest gas consuming countries combined (including China, Russian, and Germany). But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many solutions – if only we could make them mainstream!

First Things First
Use a carbon calculator to find our your current carbon footprint so you can track reductions and show off to your friends.
No Brainers
  • Use water and energy efficiently.
  • Write a To Do list before heading out to run errands so you don’t have to backtrack and make unnecessary trips later.
  • When you get your oil changed have them check your tire pressure – make the effort to do this yourself before going on any big trips. Think about how much more energy it takes to ride your bike when the tires aren’t fully inflated. The same is true of your car – it performs a lot better with properly inflated tires.
  • Buy local whenever possible.
  • Don’t drive over 55 mph when you don’t have to – your fuel economy dives 15-20% when you go from 55 to 70 mph.
Reasonable Investments
  • Buy carbon offsets for air travel.
  • If you’re going to renovate or build a new home/business use green building standards.
  • If you’re in the market for a new car consider a hybrid. Can’t argue with 40-50 mpg!!
A Little More Time
  • If there’s a farmer’s market nearby – GO!
  • Call and send letters to local, state and national politicians asking them to support legislation that would cut CO2 emissions, encourage investment in renewable energy, and increase fuel economy.
  • When you fill up the car multiply the number of gallons by an average of 20 lbs of eCO2 per gallon to get the CO2 emissions…a little fuel for thought.
Full on Treehugger
  • Become a vegetarian. According to the 2006 FAO report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” almost 20% of global warming emissions come from livestock.
  • Ride a bike to run errands within a 5 mile radius.
  • Get on a waiting list for plug-in electric vehicles that could hit the roads as soon as 2010.