Low Carbon Living
Two educational resources for low carbon living can be downloaded from this website:
The level of CO2 in the world’s atmosphere has increased to 410 ppm – 46% higher than in pre-industrial times – due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human industrial and agricultural activities. Most of rise has been in the last 50 years. Climate scientists agree that the corresponding 1.2 deg. C rise in global temperatures is due to the rising carbon emissions and that it is likely to reach 1.5 deg. C by 2030.
In affluent countries such as the US and Australia, typical per capita emissions from personal consumption as estimated by GHG-Energy Calc is 11-12 tonnes CO2e per year. Individuals with high emitting habits, such as driving a lot in large cars, eating a lot of red meat, frequent flights and heating large houses with oil or coal may have carbon footprints 2 to 3 times this size.
The world must rapidly ‘decarbonize’ to avoid exceeding 2 deg. C of warming, beyond which climate change will be catastrophic and irreversible. To achieve this, the world must reach zero net carbon emissions – i.e. emissions equivalent to the capacity of the biosphere to assimilate them – by 2050. Many nations have already adopted this goal. This level of emissions is equivalent to each person in the world emitting no more than 1.5 tCO2e / year. We will all have to live ‘low carbon lifestyles’ to greatly reduce our personal carbon footprints.
What should our carbon footprint goals be?
- A carbon footprint of 5 tonnes CO2e per person per year is an achievable personal goal for all people living in developed countries in 2020. Average CO2e emissions of people in many European countries e.g. Sweden, Spain and France are already below this figure. Being part of the change is the best way to be empowered. The Author and his wife, who live in an outer suburb in Australia have reduced their personal CO2e emissions from 10 tonnes to 5 tonnes per year although they still travel 25,000 km/ year, have a light car and eat small amounts of white meats.
- If electricity is 90% renewable, by 2030 it will be possible to reduce our carbon footprint to 3 tonnes each per year and still have a modern urban lifestyle. All people will need to be:
- travelling mostly by electric bus, train, E-bicycle or electric micro-vehicle(s),
- eating mainly vegetarian diets,
- living in super-efficient housing in terms of energy use, space and materials,
- not taking fossil fuelled flights and ocean cruises.
This is achievable globally by 2030 if there is the community and political will to do it.
- Every one of us in the world will need to reduce our carbon footprints to less than 1.5 t CO2e, to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050. In this time-frame, radical emissions reductions will have to be made in energy and industrial supply chains by all corporations and governments, in addition to the lifestyle changes outlined in 2 above.