Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Since the Industrial Revolution, when we began burning coal and then oil, people have been changing the planet’s climate. According to NASA and the world’s scientists, burning fossil fuels and other human activities has increased the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years.
What does this mean? Our atmosphere has had to absorb more CO2 and other gases—and now we are seeing the effects. As these gases accumulate, more sunlight and heat are absorbed, increasing the overall global temperature and changing the climate that previous generations have known. We are responsible for raising the global temperature in just 50 years and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently warned that we must keep the global temperature below 1.5°C to slow catastrophic effects.
Unfortunately, global temperatures are warming faster every decade. Why? As global temperatures rise, polar ice melts, shrinking the white reflective area and expanding the dark surface area (of oceans, lakes and land) that absorbs the sun’s rays. Instead of a slow, progressive warming, these feedbacks accelerate warming faster each decade, with unpredictable weather patterns.
Catastrophic events, such as drought, food and water shortages, disease, refugee crises and war, are all likely scenarios if human activities continue at current rates of carbon emissions. Our grandchildren – in 2030 and in 2050 and beyond – will be the victims of our lifestyle and our consumption of unsustainable energy.
We can all take steps to reduce our carbon footprint, but it begins with knowing where we stand. Calculate your carbon footprint to find out how you are contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Action Checklist
In 2018, our State of the Bay report showed climate impact trends for Lake Huron-Georgian Bay of average surface summer water temperature warming by 1°C each decade since data was collected – that’s an unprecedented projected warming of 10°C this century within coastal ecosystems. Research also shows, despite variable warm or cold winters, there is a trend of less annual ice cover over the past several decades.
The most powerful computers on earth show that warmer winters in Parry Sound, Ontario are occurring and affecting species migration, ice travel and safety, winter tourism and recreation. Fewer very cold days can also result in a lack of natural control for certain pests and diseases, resulting in more Lyme disease and West Nile virus.
Very hot days (above 30°C) are dramatically increasing in Parry Sound. We can expect droughts, groundwater shortages, crop failure and increased food costs. Forests are vulnerable to pest outbreaks and fires. More frequent and severe weather events like storms and floods are expected, according to the Canadian Climate Atlas.
We can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, especially if governments implement good policies and market incentives along with consumer choices. Renewable energy is a growing sector that reduces vulnerability to fuel prices. Putting a tax on carbon pollution can work, generating billions of dollars. Cap-and-trade systems are becoming more efficient and reliable on world markets. There are many technical and policy solutions to slow climate change.
Communities across Canada are taking climate change action. Locally, the Town of Parry Sound gets about 30% of its power from hydroelectric and has proposed generating an additional 60% of its power from a major solar project. If successful, their efforts could exceed international targets of 40% emissions reduction by 2030.
There are many ways we can each reduce our carbon footprint, saving energy and money, and reducing impacts on future generations:
- Be energy efficient at home and work. Update old appliances and set your water heater on a timer; seal and insulate your building.
- Choose green power. Switch your energy source to renewable energy, if possible. Speak with local experts about the options.
- Use less hot water. Take shorter showers. Use the dishwasher and washing machine only when you have full loads; wash clothes in cold water.
- Transportation options. Avoid air travel. Walk, cycle, carpool or take public transit when you can. Purchase a smaller, fuel-efficient or hybrid/electric vehicle.
- Eat locally. Buy locally grown food, as it does not have to travel as far. Eat less meat (as crops for livestock take a lot of energy to grow and process).
- Reduce your waste. Buy less, simplify. Avoid single-use products and over-packaging. Reuse things before recycling. Repair items whenever you can. Compost kitchen scraps for garden soil. Garbage buried in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
- Get involved and informed. Talk about climate change with others, share your personal actions to influence others, and voice your concerns to those in power.