What is carbon?
Carbon is Nature’s building block. Everything that grows is built out of carbon. Carbon is also stored in great quantities in all fossil fuels. When carbon is in its solid form, as in a tree trunk or a vein of coal in the ground, it is harmless, and in fact profoundly helpful and supportive of life as we know it. When these sources of carbon are burned, carbon is transformed into a gas known as Carbon Dioxide or C02. Increasing accumulations of C02 in the earth’s atmosphere coupled with increasing emissions of other green house gases is responsible for the global warming crisis we now face as a global community.
What is a “carbon footprint”?
The term “carbon footprint” refers to the amount of carbon (C02) we emit individually in any one-year period. C02 is produced from many sources and is the primary gas responsible for Global warming and the resulting alarming changes in our climate. Nearly everything we do in our modern society requires energy. This energy is generated primarily by burning fossil fuels. From all sources, the average American is responsible for approximately 19-21 tons of carbon emissions annually. China, the US and the EU are responsible for emitting approximately 22%, 20% and 14% respectively of all global green house gas emissions every year. On the other hand, the Small Island States (SIDS) of the world, including the Caribbean, account for less than one (1) percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
Why offset one’s carbon footprint?
It is important for us all to think in terms of first reducing our emissions of C02. As one begins this process, it soon becomes evident that there is no way we can currently reduce our emissions of green house gases to zero. Every single aspect of our economy from manufacturing to transportation, and agriculture to health care is dependent on fossil fuel derived energy and resources. As we seek and develop alternative sources of energy, and as we begin to think and live in more efficient ways, we are still left with the undeniable reality that considerable C02 emissions from economic activity in the US will continue and perhaps escalate for the foreseeable future. The only current way to address this issue head on is to offset the emissions we cannot yet eliminate.
Text source: Marion Institute (2010)
Caribbean photos, source: Google Images.