One term that we read a lot while talking about climate change and pollution is greenhouse gases (GHG).
Let’s try and understand what greenhouse gases are; what are their sources; and how these emissions are shortening the life of the planet. The reason GHG are dangerous is because they trap heat and make the planet warmer. And humans are the reason that GHGs are released into the atmosphere.Over the last 150 years human activities have increased the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Burning of fossil fuels for the production of electricity, heat, and supporting transportation are all activities that emit greenhouse gases.
Power on, gases out
Producing electricity means that fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are burned. The Electricity sector involves the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) makes up the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions from the sector, but smaller amounts of methane and nitrous oxide. Thermal power plants use burning of coal to produce electricity, however, Coal combustion is more carbon-intensive than burning natural gas or petroleum for electric power production.
It is important that alternative sources like solar, wind and water are used to produce energy. Also energy consumption should be monitored and electricity should be used judiciously.
Transportation is also a cause
We all use cars and other vehicles for our daily transportation needs. This also includes the movement of people and goods by cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and other vehicles.
The aviation sector is one of the big emitters of greenhouse gases. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation are carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from internal combustion engines (ICE) like petrol and diesel.
Some urgent steps that can be taken to reduce these emissions are - using public transport, carpooling for daily commute, and not using air travel unless absolutely necessary. The arrival of electric vehicles can also revolutionise the way we travel. Changes in policy that promote the usage of electric vehicles must be done by governments. And vehicle manufacturers should also make the pricing of electric vehicles affordable for the masses.
Emissions of greenhouse gases from factories and other industrial production can be divided into two categories - direct and indirect.
Direct emissions are the smoke and pollution emanating from the facility, and indirect emissions are the energy consumption needs of the industry.
To curb the emissions from industry, the approach has to be two-pronged. The first has to be a policy level shift that forces industries to cut on their emissions.
The second has to be the usage of recyclable materials. Producing industrial products from materials that are recycled or renewable, rather than producing new products from raw materials will make the industry sustainable and the planet healthy.