Why is carbon a focus?
New reports published by Leeds Climate Commission have encouragingly predicted that Leeds could become a carbon-neutral city by 2050 in line with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. This means that the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere will be balanced by actions which offset this output (for example, by planting trees to absorb and store carbon).
But why is there such a strong focus towards reducing carbon emissions?
The Earth is surrounded by a layer of gases (including carbon), otherwise known as the atmosphere. The atmosphere regulates the Earth’s temperature by absorbing the sun’s heat and keeping the planet warm. However, peak levels of atmospheric carbon are having an effect on global climate like never before. As carbon is a heat-trapping gas and is stored in the atmosphere, the Earth is warming at an alarming rate.
This warming (commonly known as climate change) is shifting habitats across the face of the planet more quickly than animals can adapt. Additionally, human health is affected because mosquito-borne diseases spread more readily in warmer conditions, and malnutrition is being fuelled by droughts and floods. Finally, natural resource availability may be compromised under a heating climate – for example, the availability of specific crops, fisheries and corals are suffering the effects of climate change as a result of increasing atmospheric carbon.
The reality is that humans are unlocking more carbon than the Earth naturally would through human-based actions such as deforestation and the burning of coal and oil. This also means that humans are key to the solution of reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and bettering the outcomes of what is now being called a climate emergency.