Thursday, 17 August 2006

Intro - Climate Change and Carbon Offsets

I thought I’d start out by describing what carbon offsets are meant to do.

In 1896, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, suggested that CO2 acts like the glass of a greenhouse, trapping some of the sun’s heat close to the earth’s surface. Other gases like water vapour and methane also have this effect. The more of these “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped. Since Arrhenhius’s time, human activity has dramatically increased the concentration of greenhouse gases, and 2005 was the warmest year since records began. So far.

This is a problem mainly because people and nature don't adapt very easily to climate change impacts. For example, shrinking glaciers can mean that water supply and flood patterns don't match the needs of our farms and cities. If a river crosses borders, these floods and shortages often lead to conflict.

What can we do about it? Well, we can slow global warming by putting less CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere. We can also try to increase the amount that gets absorbed by the forests and oceans. More about those options in the coming days and weeks.

I want to make one main point today.

Greenhouse gases spread pretty evenly throughout the lower atmosphere. So burning coal anywhere will help increase CO2 levels everywhere. And capturing methane from a landfill anywhere will slow net emissions growth everywhere. From a global point of view, it doesn’t matter much where we clean up our global warming pollution. Just so long as we do it, quickly. We need to keep global CO2 levels from rising too fast.

That’s what offsets are all about. At Carbon Clear, we work with people to reduce climate change pollution. Since the reductions can happen anywhere, you can reduce some of your emissions at home, and some by investing in CO2 clearing projects that provide jobs and improve living conditions in poor communities.

Again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to reduce your own pollution directly. We’ll be coming back to this topic and would like your suggestions on how you can reduce what you can.

(Link to Carbon Clear Homepage)