Greenhouse gases' are crucial to keeping our planet at a suitable temperature for life. Without the natural greenhouse effect, the heat emitted by the Earth would simply pass outwards from the Earth's surface into space and the Earth would have an average temperature of about -20°C.
However, human activity since the industrial revolution has emitted huge quantities of GHGs, which are rapidly changing the Earth’s climate.
Carbon dioxide, in particular, is a problem: more carbon dioxide is released by human activity than any other greenhouse gas emissions, and it has the most significant environmental impact.
Since carbon dioxide is the most common and damaging greenhouse gas, GHG emissions are often referred to collectively as carbon emissions. However, it’s more accurate to refer to the “Carbon dioxide equivalent” (CO2e)—the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming potential—to describe different greenhouse gases in a common unit.
The problem is getting worse every year.
A 2021 overview of the global average temperature rise from 1880 to 2020reveals some staggering facts: the earth’s temperature rose by 0.08° C per decade, and in the past 40 years, that rate has doubled to 0.18° C per decade.
Global warming can’t be stopped entirely, but experts believe it can be significantly slowed with the right interventions. The goal prescribed in the Paris Agreement is to limit the rise in average global temperatures to
1.5 degrees Celciusfrom where they are today. This goal can only be achieved by limiting the amount of CO2 emitted into the environment.
The European Union and the United States have committed to reaching net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, or carbon neutrality, by 2050. Net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 require
massive investments a significant change in consumer and corporate behavior- no less than
1.4 billion tonnes of carbon emissions need to be cut every year from now until 2050. The US and the EU have set
interim goalslike reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030. 2030 is just around the corner—now is the time to make major changes.
In other words, it’s the maximum amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by human activity while still limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The earth’s carbon budget comprises inputs - carbon emissions - and outputs - carbon removal. For the budget to be balanced, the outputs must be equal to the inputs.
Sustainable travelpractices include opting for direct flights, replacing air travel with rail travel, and choosing airlines that use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) - a clean substitute for fossil fuels sourced from sustainable resources.