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Significance of research of greenhouse gases emissions
Researches into effects of green house gases have been carried out since the 19th century with the benchmark paper of ‘On the Influence of Carbonic Acid (Carbon Dioxide) in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground’ of the Swedish Nobel winner – Svate Arrhenius (Reay, Hewitt, Smith & Grace 2006). Since then, greenhouse gases have been found as one of the major forces that influences the changes in the globe climate. Greenhouse gases targeted by the Kyoto Protocol consist of six gases (UNFCCC 2011):
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
- Methane (CH4).
- Nitrous oxide (N2O).
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
- Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
- Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).
The above said gases have together a single effect that allows the earth to host 6 billion human and countless life forms and also proved to be a serious threat to the lives it help creates; this effect is defined as the greenhouse effect (Ramsden 2001). The greenhouse effect refers to the phenomenon that longwave (infrared) radiation or heat emitted from the earth is absorbed by the above said greenhouse gases and reflected back to the earth’s surface causing the warming of the earth’s surface and troposphere. Figure 1.1 shows a more detailed model of the greenhouse effect.
Figure 1.1: the greenhouse effect.
Without the greenhouse effect, the earth’s surface temperature would be much like its close sibling Mars: -18oC and unable to sustain life (Ramsden 2001). Therefore, greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect can be considered two of the crucial factors that lead to the precious planetary habitability of the earth.
The concentration of CO2 – the primary greenhouse gas – fluctuates during seasons of a year due to the effect of CO2 sinks – the massive uptake of CO2 by terrestrial and oceanic plants (Reay, Hewitt, Smith & Grace 2006). This trend can be observed more clearly in the northern hemisphere due to the effect of seasons. In the summer, trees and plants grow more rapidly, hence more photosynthesis which in turn leads to greater uptake of CO2 and vice versa with the case of winter.
However, due to the relentless march of economic development and industrialization, the concentration of greenhouse gases especially CO2 in the earth atmosphere has increased rapidly:
Figure 1.2: Carbon Dioxide concentration (Reay, Hewitt, Smith & Grace 2006)
Hence, intensify the greenhouse effect, causing the earth to heat up rapidly. Table 1.3 indicates the rate of global temperature increase since the last century:
|Time period||Rate of temperature increase per decade|
|Last 150 years||0.045oC (0.08oF) every 10 years|
|Last 100 years||0.74oC (0.13oF) every 10 years|
|Last 50 years||0.128oC (0.23oF) every 10 years|
|Last 25 years||0.177oC (0.32oF) every 10 years|
Source: Silver 2008
The continuously increase of global temperature will lead to global warming with many devastating effects (Ramsden 2001). Firstly, this will cause various changes in climate and render some agricultural areas unable to produce crops and become wastelands. Secondly, due to global warming, temperature of the Arctic and Antarctic regions will eventually rise above 0oC and lead to the melt down of the polar ice, adding more water into the ocean. Therefore the sea levels in regions around the world will rise and many regions will disappear under the sea.
Significance of carbon reporting
To avoid such disastrous outcomes, it is necessary to first find out specifically how much the total amount of greenhouse gases is there in the earth’s atmosphere; therefore, provide data for solution to be generated. 72% of the total amount of greenhouse gases consists of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) (Shenbagakulalyoymozhi 2010). Therefore, CO2 equivalent was used as the basic unit to quantified the amount of greenhouse gases.
There is however, one certainty that countries around the globe must reduce their greenhouse gases emission. This means cutting back on production of many vital industries of these countries hence leads to stalling of economic development. The effect can snowball into another economic crisis that dreaded the world leaders.
Therefore, carbon emission reporting and reduction are very sensitive issues. A balance between economic welfare and safeguard against global warming must be achieved. For such delicate balance to be made, accurate data is needed for informed decision making. Hence the vital role of carbon reporting to provide these data is realized.