Reducing our carbon footprint seems like a daunting task to the average person. We’re taught from a young age the importance of “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” However, there’s a growing concern about the sizable impact the industrial sector has on the environment.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the industrial sector. Therefore, to reduce the carbon entering the atmosphere, aggressive measures must be taken.
There’s debate over the seriousness of the consequences of climate change, but there’s a plethora of evidence showing human activity is causing the earth’s temperature to rise. World leaders aim to reduce our emissions and ultimately reach net-zero emissions.
What does this phrase mean? Net-zero emissions is a phrase tossed around during climate debates. Gaining a deeper understanding of the impact emissions have on the environment will help us determine feasible solutions.
Let’s explore where we stand right now in our fight against global warming and look at ways the industrial sector can change its practices to reduce its carbon footprint.
Net-Zero Emissions Defined
Reaching a net-zero means that we, as a population, stop releasing emissions into the atmosphere. It sounds simple, but it’s a complex and challenging task. Uniting countries across the globe and convincing world governments to take serious action is far from easy.
Carbon enters the atmosphere naturally and due to human activities. The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas is the primary source of these emissions. Much of the industrial sector relies on fossil fuels to power their machinery to produce the goods we use daily.
A few years ago, many countries entered the Paris Agreement, an international treaty that prioritized limiting Earth’s temperature rise to below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. By reducing the amount of carbon dioxide entering Earth’s atmosphere, the temperature should fall back to where it was before the Industrial Revolution.
Current Greenhouse Gas Emissions
After the ratification of the Paris Agreement, some countries like Denmark and Finland took measures to reduce emissions, which have proven to be successful.
The years 2010-2019 were the warmest period on record, and temperatures continue to increase. To account for these increases, emissions must reduce by 6% between the years 2020-2030.
Some argue that spending resources on reducing greenhouse gases are costly. However, adding green jobs would boost the economy, and direct economic gains could reach $26 trillion.
You may be wondering, “How does this affect me?” But the effects of climate change are already rippling across the globe.
According to NASA, these are some consequences of climate change that we’ll experience in the future if we don’t take action:
- Average temperatures will continue to rise.
- Hurricanes will grow in size and strength and cost people their homes.
- Arctic regions will be ice-free, and coastlines will recede around the globe.
- Heavy precipitation and flooding will affect many regions and compromise topsoil health.
- Droughts and heatwaves will last longer and be more severe and raise utility prices.
- Sea levels will rise uncontrollably and reduce countries’ available coastline.
Changes to the natural environment will create shifts in all means of production. Many industries will feel the effects of climate change unless strides are made to reach net-zero emissions.
So, how can the industrial sector combat climate change?
Reducing the Industrial Carbon Footprint
The industrial sector is broken down into three types of industries: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
The primary sector focuses on using raw materials. The secondary sector takes the raw materials and manufactures them to create products for consumer use. Lastly, the tertiary sector provides services such as hospitality, nursing, and banks, for example.
Because there are so many industries that make up the entire industrial sector, it’s challenging to find a one-size-fits-all approach to moving to a greener society.
Aside from the environmental impacts the industrial sector makes, it causes changes to the average citizen. Therefore, it’s common for utility costs to rise if energy levels rise. Cities are especially subject to this, considering the amount of energy produced by one city.
The World Resources Institute outlines some ways the industrial sector can reduce its carbon footprint and improve the current climate crisis we’re experiencing:
- Move away from coal plants.
- Invest in clean and renewable energy.
- Retrofit buildings with new technologies.
- Work toward decarbonization of cement, steel, and plastic fabrication.
- Use electric vehicles more widely.
- Encourage the use of public transportation.
- Decarbonize the aviation and shipping industries.
- Put an end to deforestation and restore damaged lands.
These changes need to occur much faster than anticipated to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.
Some companies are taking other measures to be more sustainable. Whether it’s improving the efficiency of their supply chains or creating innovative technologies, corporations worldwide are acknowledging these issues and working to find appropriate solutions.
Reaching Zero-Net Emissions
The famous saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” can be applied to the global effort to reach net-zero emissions. It takes more than the work of a few countries to save the planet from the devastating consequences of climate change.