What are Global Carbon Emissions?

Ken Black

Global carbon emissions are the global summation of carbon emitted from all sources on Earth. This is often broken down into carbon emissions produced by natural sources, and those produced by man-made sources. The measurement of global carbon emissions is considered important in addressing global climate change, commonly referred to as global warming. Often, global carbon emissions are tallied based on the estimated emissions broken down by country or region.

Hybrid vehicles can help cut down on emissions.
Hybrid vehicles can help cut down on emissions.

The main source of global carbon emissions comes from natural processes. Human beings can do very little to influence or change these sources, and they are considered part of a natural balance. Though man-made global carbon emissions are thought to be a rather small part of the overall balance, it is theorized that contributions tip the balance just enough that it causes a gradual warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Automobiles are a major source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Automobiles are a major source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Of global carbon emissions that come from human sources, the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles and coal-fired power plants accounts for most of them. In fact, carbon emissions from solids, mainly including coal, gasoline, and diesel, contribute nearly equal amounts to the atmosphere, according to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. In developing countries, such as China, which has more coal-fired power plants than any other country, the numbers may be more skewed toward coal than other sources.

All carbon emissions must be considered worldwide carbon emissions, because they all go into the same atmosphere. Consequently, strategies have focused on a global solution. Treaties such as the Kyoto agreement tend to put more pressure on developed countries than developing countries, but it still represents a global approach. Even so, one of the main criticisms of this treaty is that it simply does not go far enough in addressing global carbon emissions because of the break it gives to developing countries.

Solutions to global carbon emissions that focus specifically on electrical generation include the use of nuclear power and renewable sources of energy. These sources, while they generally do not produce any carbon emissions, have drawbacks of their own. For example, radioactive waste is still a problem without a permanent solution for nuclear facilities. Nevertheless, they are seen as at least potential replacements by many environmentalists, with most preferring renewable sources to nuclear energy.

For automobiles, the solution also focuses on renewable energy and electric technologies, both of which can reduce or completely eliminate the carbon emissions so commonly associated with fossil fuels. Hybrid vehicles can help cut down on emissions, especially on cars that drive in town a great deal of the time. Fuel cell vehicles are in the process of being developed that may use hydrogen as their primary fuel source, producing only water as an emission.

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