Yes, you read it right! Carbon dioxide is not the destructive component responsible for climate change. In fact it is the most important building block for all living things. Let me explain –
So you might know that in the earlier era people used to stay in houses made of mud, wood and straw, used fossil fuel for cooking food, ox to plough the land, and also planted their own crops. Right! Do you think they were responsible for carbon emissions and contributing to climate change?
A BIG NO!
You know why because there is a natural carbon cycle present which is responsible for regulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
So now the question arises how does the Carbon cycle regulate carbon dioxide?
Did you see the carbon dioxide linkages in the above Carbon cycle?
Let me break it down for you.
To understand carbon cycle there are 4 simple components.
So, plants take up carbon dioxide in the presence of sunlight and water to form sugar (glucose) and oxygen. This process is known as ‘Photosynthesis‘.
The sugar and oxygen obtained is utilized by plants to produce energy. When this energy is consumed by animals in the form of forage, sugar and oxygen again break down to carbon dioxide and water, releasing energy. Yes! The reverse of what occurs in the plant.
So in other words to break down the food, we or animals consume, there is a need of oxygen. Thus ‘Cellular respiration’ is the process which breaks down sugars (glucose), obtained from food we eat, and oxygen, from the air we breathe, to provide us energy thereby releasing carbon dioxide and water as waste products.
Now the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. And this carbon dioxide is again used up by the plants for photosynthesis.
When these animals and plants die, microorganisms, fungi and insects act upon them to decay and decompose to form fossil fuels. This fossil fuel such as coal, natural gas (methane) takes millions of years to form which we use for cooking and in industries foe various purposes. God knows what would have happened without the fossil fuels!
Here the fossil fuel is extracted to use in our cars. The fossil fuel undergoes combustion (burning) which releases energy. Also carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct that again enters into the atmosphere.
Do you remember the first ever steam engine built? That used coal for producing energy. And that was the pioneer of the development. Without coal it would not have been possible!
And thus again the carbon dioxide is taken up by the plants for photosynthesis.
You see carbon dioxide is important. It takes various forms: glucose in plants, carbon dioxide in the air and hydrocarbons like coal and regulates the carbon cycle.
Now if you are thinking about global warming due to carbon dioxide. Here is the thing!
Carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas which means it traps heat and keeps the earth warm. Without carbon dioxide our earth is would have been suffering from Global cooling.
Now I hope you get my point why carbon dioxide is not destructive?!
But then where are we going wrong?
Why and how is the carbon dioxide contributing to climate change?
Here is the turning point!
You might have heard the phrase
ANYTHING IN EXCESS IS BAD!Mark Twain
Here anything refers to CARBON DIOXIDE
No doubt carbon dioxide keeps the earth warm but due to excess industrialization excess carbon dioxide is produced, outweighing the number of trees present, resulting in disturbed carbon cycle. Thus leading to climate change.
More carbon dioxide does accelerate the rate of photosynthesis. But with limited water and nutrients present, the plant loses the nutritional value. That means more you eat, less nutrition you get!
Did you notice fossil fuels take millions of years to replenish? That is the problem. Because due to increasing population there is a need of more fossil fuels, more requirement of land to live which means more trees will have to be cut! And if trees are not there where will the excess carbon dioxide go?!
And if we use more fossil fuels without thinking of renewing trees, the energy released by fossil fuel and carbon dioxide produced as waste product may create havoc.
Ultimately if there is no oxygen which is provided by plants, how will we as humans survive? There won’t be any cellular respiration, no energy. Remember?!
Not only trees but even oceans absorb around 1/3 of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This means too much carbon dioxide leads to acidic water and in turn not only disturbs carbon cycle but also affects the marine ecosystem. Grab you fishes now! Who knows we can have them tomorrow or not?!
Thus, the more carbon dioxide we pump in the atmosphere the more carbon cycle gets disturbed.
Now what is the way forward? Is there anything we can do at an individual level to reduce our carbon footprint?
Okay! So carbon footprint is nothing but the amount of extra carbon dioxide your lifestyle adds to the atmosphere as a result of using a car, flying by air, heating and electricity, food and clothes, leisure activities, building and public services.
Also, activities like this where India is planning to fell ancient forest to create 40 new coal fields is not acceptable. This will disturb the carbon cycle creating huge amount of carbon dioxide with no adequate trees to absorb the same.
To read more about this you can click on the below link
Of course the affluent and developed countries have higher carbon footprint. So since they are developed countries they can protect themselves using adaptive and mitigation measures. But I am afraid it won’t be so for the developing countries like India. Because ultimately due to lack of resources to cope up with climate change, developing countries like India will have to suffer.
The good part is it is preventable if we adopt a low carbon lifestyle. We can reduce carbon emission by 80% without waiting for governments or corporation to take any action. That is why we as citizens can reduce our carbon footprint thereby reducing our contribution to climate change.
So do you want me to tell you want you can do to reduce your carbon footprint in order to reduce your contribution to climate change?
All you have to do is be selfish! Save money. Before you raise your eyebrows let me tell you this
1. Zero Plastic
According to Time for Change, the carbon footprint of plastic is about 6 kg carbon dioxide per kg of plastic. Huge, isn’t it!
So try to carry your own paper bags or cloth bags while shopping. Go for bulk shopping it will not only save your time but also save for transportation fuel and in turn money.
Have you ever wondered how many shampoo bottles and lotions and moisturizers you use? Along comes the plastic! And also have you checked their ingredient list where most fall in the carcinogenic (cancer causing) chemicals category?
Why not try making one at home, of your choice! This will not only save your money but also reduce chances of you being prone to chemicals and products you don’t like.
Now, in the time of COVID-19, try to shift to washable cloth masks. This will create less waste and won’t end up in landfill and will reduce your contribution to climate change.
2. Reduce use of cars
For short journeys walk or cycle. This will improve your health and you will not have to donate money at hospital in future.
Reduce the speed of car as car uses energy to push air out of the way or use buses and train when possible. Try to cut down flying by air when not necessary.
3. Eat local food
Eating local food does not only save transport cost, but also gives you the vitamins and minerals you need. So if you are getting your dates from Dubai there will be load of preservatives, the transportation cost, and do not expect to get the nutrients from it. It’s all gone!
Do not eat meat, especially red meat.
Adopt plant based diet. If you are growing food for yourselves rather than for animals which you later eat, you can get up to 10 times as much food from the same land and fertilizers use. Then why not choose your health wisely!
Replace your filament light bulbs with new LED lights as they are 100% efficient. They might seem costly but within 3-4 years or so they will definitely pay you back.
Are you getting high electricity bill? Probably you might be using 10-15 years old appliances. Try shifting to new energy efficient appliances
If you need more ideas try listening to Matthew Tolley
4. 4 R’s
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Embrace minimalism and buy more things second hand online auction site, charity shops and so on as it will save money and waste generation in landfills.
5) Use 3 bins
Food and garden waste to make compost
Recyclable waste such as glass, metal, cardboard, etc.
Last one for electronic waste
I hope you will try to reduce your carbon footprint on individual level and help the climate to heal!
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