In its 2007 report to the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported to the United Nations that the Earth's climate system is undoubtedly getting warming and concluded that it is more than 90 percent likely that the accelerated warming of the past 50-60 years is due to human contributions.
As the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases increase, more heat is “trapped” and global temperatures rise. This causes significant changes in the timing and length of the seasons as well as the amount and frequency of precipitation.
So What Can Business and Industry Do to Stop Climate Change?
- Know Where You Stand By Measuring Your Carbon
By assessing how much pollution an individual's, nation's, or organization's actions generates you can begin to see how changing a few policies here and there can significantly reduce your overall carbon footprint. Luckily for those of us who want to see how we measure up, there are a number of free online carbon footprint calculators to help figure out just where to start changing.
Carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions assessment. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it, e.g. by technological developments, better process and product management, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), carbon capture, consumption strategies, and others.
- Put a Cap on It: Carbon Capping
The United States Carbon Cap-and-Trade Plan is a policy that would essentially put a price on carbon dioxide emissions by auctioning off permits to emit the gas.
Each large-scale emitter, or company, will have a limit on the amount of greenhouse gas that it can emit. The firm must have an “emissions permit” for every ton of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere. These permits set an enforceable limit, or cap, on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that the company is allowed to emit.
Over time, the limits become stricter, allowing less and less pollution, until the ultimate reduction goal is met. This is similar to the cap and trade program enacted by the Clean Air Act of 1990, which reduced the sulfur emissions that cause acid rain, and it met the goals at a much lower cost than industry or government predicted.
- Reduce Energy Use (Buildings Are the Biggest Energy User) and Get a Third-Party Rating
The building industry now has more building certifications than ever that are fairly straightforward and set measurable and achievable goals for energy use reductions. Some of the most common are:
- LEED for New Construction or Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance
- Energy Star Target Finder
- Net Zero Energy Building Certification
- International Living Building Challenge
- STAR Community Index by ICLEI for Cities
Ask your office building manager if your office building has earned any of these ratings. Each of the rating systems assist building owners in reducing the amount of energy used from 12% all the way to 100% reduction in typical building energy use.
- Relax Your Comfort Standards: Using Less Heat and Air Conditioning
Relax your comfort standards and follow Jimmy Carter's advice to don a sweater or wear shorts to the office. At home: adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower heating costs more than 25 percent. Turn down the heat while you're sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
- Green Your Commute
Switch to public transportation, carpooling, biking, telecommuting and other innovative ways to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on your way to and from work. Encourage your employer to offer commuter benefits that address limited or expensive parking, reduce traffic congestion, improve employee recruiting and retention and minimize the environmental impacts associated with drive-alone commuting. If you do drive, find out the fuel efficiency of your vehicle using EPA's and DOE's fuel economy website, and make more environmentally-informed choices when purchasing your next vehicle by using EPA's Green Vehicle Guide.
- Stand Up Against Coal, Tar Sands and Fossil Fuels
Coal (and unconventional fossil fuels - oil shale, tar sands, methane hydrates, etc.) is the only fossil fuel that is plentiful enough to contribute the amount of CO2 necessary to trigger irreversible climate change. We are currently at 389 ppm, and are increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at approximately 2 ppm annually. Scientists warn that irreversible climate change will occur if 450 ppm (or any level much above 350 ppm) is sustained for very long and that the “safe” long-term level of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) is 350 ppm.
- Invest in Renewables
If you can’t afford to put solar panels on your building, or use biofuel in your car – there are alternatives. The mitigation of carbon footprints through the development of alternative projects, such as solar or wind energy or reforestation, represents one way of reducing a carbon footprint and is often known as Carbon Offsetting.
- Learn to Adapt to Climate Change
Climate change is already being felt in towns and cities across the country. Hundreds of municipalities have centered their climate change efforts on mitigation work and have successfully reduced their greenhouse gas emissions and lessened their climate impacts. However, with the increasing effects of climate change becoming apparent, municipalities are beginning to assess their vulnerability to the changes that are already underway, and to develop responses that protect their citizens and their economies.