Climate Change FAQs
What is climate change?
Climate change or more accurately Global Warming, is a phenomenon whereby the Earth's average surface temperature is increasing. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) says that climate change is one of the biggest threats to humankind. In response to this serious issue governments and businesses around the globe are setting targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG).
What contributes to climate change?
There is now an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that human activity is causing global warming, with the main sources of greenhouse gases, in order of global importance, being electricity generation, land-use changes (particularly deforestation), agriculture and transport - the fastest growing sources are transport and electricity.
What is the Problem?
The planet Earth is warming up - see the graph below – interestingly the warming corresponds with the start of the Industrial Revolution.
What is the current concentration of Greenhouse Gasses (GHG) in the Earth's Atmosphere?
The current concentration of greenhouse gasses in the Earth's atmosphere is around 425 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide equivalent and it has recently been increasing by over 2 ppm each year (Source: The Stern Report). Because many greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide, stay in the atmosphere for more than a century and the effects on climate come through with a lag, temperature and sea level will continue to rise during the twenty-second century, even if we stabilise emissions soon.
What can we do about Global Warming / Climate Change?
In order to prevent global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, current climate science suggests that atmospheric CO2 concentrations should not exceed 450ppm. This requires global emissions to peak in the next decade and decline to roughly 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Such dramatic emissions reductions require a sharp move away from fossil fuel, significant improvements in energy efficiency and substantial reorganisation of our current economic system. This transition can only be achieved by far-reaching national and international climate policies
Where do greenhouse gasses (GHG) come from?
Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs) are released when we burn a fossil fuel – for example propane. Propane (C3H8) for example will burn completely with sufficient oxygen to form water and carbon dioxide. These exhaust gasses are then released into the Earth's atmosphere where they contribute to the greenhouse gas effect - 1 kg of Propane thus burned generates 3 kg of CO2. An average car produces about 2.3 kilograms of CO2 per litre of petrol used.
Globally, where and what are the sources of Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs)?
Some recent estimates indicate the following are the main global contributors to GHG emissions:
- Energy Production – consuming fossil fuels releases 25.6 Giga tonnes or 61% of global emissions (1 Giga tonne = 1 000 000 000 tonnes)
- Land Use changes such deforestation, etc emit 7.6 Gt (18%) of CO2 equivalent to be released into the atmosphere.
Agriculture releases 5.6 Gt (14%) into the atmosphere mostly from soils and livestock
What is ISO 14064?
The ISO 14064 Greenhouse Gas Standards were developed by an International Working Group of 45 countries, with CSA acting as World Secretariat. These standards are designed to help organisations and governments measure, report and verify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a robust and auditable manner.
In parallel with the emergence of regulated or mandatory schemes relating to monitoring, reporting and verification of Greenhouse Gasses (GHG), organizations outside of these schemes are now increasingly wishing to monitor and report their emissions (commonly referred to as the organization’s carbon footprint). In response to this demand and to provide an international standard against which such reports can be verified, ISO 14064 has been developed.