What Does Carbon Neutrality Mean?

A hopeful sign for the future of the planet is that individuals as well as industries are beginning to take accountability for pollution by working toward Carbon Neutrality. Although there is some controversy about the actual effect that pollution has on climate change and warming, it seems clear that pollution cannot be good for the earth. The pollution that is the most damaging, of which carbon is the most prevalent, is contained in greenhouse gases. Reducing that pollution is a goal that even the US government has set.

What is Carbon Neutrality?

A definition on Wikipedia says that it is the result of balancing the carbon emissions of a business or an individual by off-setting it through carbon credits or by taking other measures. The term refers to carbon produced primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, but can also denote other greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. This inclusiveness has its own designation of “climate neutrality.” To achieve that goal, emissions are measured and expressed as the equivalent release of carbon, then addressed with the same measures that are used to offset carbon emissions.

How does Pollution Affect the Climate?

Certain gases, we released into the air, deplete the ozone layer of the atmosphere, which protects earth from some of the heat and radiation of the sun. This causes the planet to warm, melting ice caps and raising ocean levels. It also affects vegetation and reduces the habitat for many endangered species. Global warming may also be causing more numerous, and stronger, storms. Until fairly recently, scientists worked to reduce all of these gases to make people healthier. Then it was discovered that sulphur dioxide, when released into the atmosphere through smog for instance, actually reflected light and heat and cooled the air. Eliminating too much of that gas made global warming worse. So achieving a neutral carbon footprint may be a more complex issue than first thought.

How is the Neutrality Achieved?

On an individual basis, people can drive less, recycle and make clothing, cars and other manufactured goods last longer. People cam also plant trees and use renewable sources of energy like solar or wind power. These renewable energy sources often result in a surplus of electricity that can be sold back to the utility provider. Industry must go farther. The US government has offered financial incentives to businesses that address emissions. The incentive comes in the form of carbon credits. The government allots or sells permits for the measured emission level of the business. If the corporation wants to increase its emissions, it must find another business willing to sell some of its credits. In that way it is like a currency system.

An article found on the David Suzuki website says that pollution is global. That means any measures taken to reduce carbon emissions should be worldwide in scope. Reducing pollution in another place has a positive effect here, wherever that “here” is. That is why the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in 2005, was formulated. It was signed by 193 countries that agreed to reduce carbon emissions. Countries also reduce their carbon footprints by higher taxes on carbon emissions and gasoline.

Most countries believe that global warming exists and that it is caused by carbon emissions. Controlling these emissions is a worldwide endeavor. In an effort to “leave nothing but a footprint” on the planet, nations have agreed to work toward Carbon Neutrality.