The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported to the United Nations that the Earth's climate system is undoubtedly getting warmer. The IPCC has also concluded with 95 percent certainty that much of the accelerated warming of the past 50-60 years is due to human contributions.
Large percentages of this increase are due to activities by businesses, factories, and other commercial facilities.
As the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses increase, more heat is “trapped” in the earth's atmosphere and global temperatures rise. It causes significant changes in the timing and length of the seasons as well as the amount and frequency of precipitation. The effects of climate change can be seen in rising sea levels, ecosystem changes, food insecurity, and increases in extreme weather conditions such as flooding, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires.
How Does the Industry Sector Create CO2 Emissions?
The Industry sector produces goods and raw materials for everyday use, every single day. The greenhouse gasses that industrial production emits are split into two categories:
- Direct emissions are greenhouse gasses produced at the facility itself.
- Indirect emissions are associated with the facility's use of energy but happen off-site.
Carbon dioxide emissions can be caused by energy used at factories and other facilities to run machines, process raw materials, run computers, connect to the internet, heat and cool buildings, and more. Direct emissions can also be caused by leaks in the industrial process, chemical reactions during the manufacturing process, and the use of petroleum in production. Indirect emissions are caused by energy production off-site, such as the emissions created by the power plants from which facilities get their electricity.
In the United States, the industry sector accounts for approximately 22 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions from the industry sector are significant contributors to increases in levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. However, there are many ways that businesses and factories can begin to reduce their emissions. Some are significant, requiring changing standards in production and facilities management.
Others are simple. Setting the thermostat just two degrees lower in winter and two degrees higher in summer, for example, could save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions each year per facility.
How to Reduce CO2 Emissions In the Industry Sector
No matter the size of your business, there are steps you can take to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change.
- Measuring carbon footprint. By assessing how much pollution an organization's actions generate, you can begin to see how minor policy changes can significantly reduce a company's overall carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a greenhouse gas emissions assessment. Once the size of your carbon footprint is known, you can devise a strategy to reduce it through technological developments, better process and product management, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), carbon capture, consumption strategies, and others.
- Carbon capping. Emissions trading, sometimes known as cap-and-trade policies, puts a limit on carbon dioxide emissions. A government entity sets a "cap" on the emissions that can be produced in its jurisdiction, and companies are given carbon allowances. These allowances can either be used or traded to other companies.
- Reducing energy use. The building industry now has multiple energy efficiency certifications. The standards help set measurable and achievable goals, reducing the amount of energy used from 12 percent all the way to 100 percent of typical building energy use. Some of the most common certifications include LEED Green Building certification, Energy Star, Net Zero Energy Building Certification, and High-Performance Building Program by ICLEI. The industry sector can ensure new buildings are energy efficient by earning any of these ratings.
- Rewarding green commuters: Encouraging employees to switch to public transportation, carpooling, biking, telecommuting, and other environmentally-friendly commutes can add up and have tremendous effects. Employers can 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.
- Reducing fossil fuel dependence. Burning coal to produce energy creates carbon dioxide emissions and contributes to irreversible climate change. Businesses that make a conscious effort to switch to sustainable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, can help to reduce their daily CO2 emissions.
- Voluntary offsets. If a company can't afford to undertake new energy-efficient building initiatives or put solar panels on buildings, there are alternatives. Balancing your carbon footprints through alternative projects, such as solar or wind energy or reforestation, is known as carbon offsetting. Carbon offsets can be purchased from many third-party suppliers who then engage in these activities on behalf of the business.
Learning to Adapt to Climate Change
Climate change is already being felt around the world. 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, towns and cities are developing responses that protect their citizens and their economies from the changes that are already underway. In addition to reducing their own emissions, businesses can support and protect their local communities by participating in these programs. Investing in local research and climate programs can reduce your business's impact and help adapt to new climate conditions.