One aspect of being a green business is being aware how much carbon and other greenhouse gases the business emits into the atmosphere. We have all heard the terms global warming, climate change and greenhouse gas but as they are often used interchangeably, it can be difficult to understand exactly what these terms mean. However understanding these terms is important before taking action to reduce emissions from the business. Here is a brief guide to the most common terms:
Global Warming: The phrase global warming refers to an overall warming of the planet based on the average temperature over the entire surface. Global warming has both natural and manmade causes with the main manmade cause being increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases spread around the earth forming a cover trapping solar energy that would normally be radiated into space resulting in increased temperatures.
Climate Change: Although the expressions climate change and global warming are used interchangeably, they do mean different things. The term climate change refers to long term regional changes in climate including temperature, humidity, wind, rainfall and severe weather events. Like global warming, climate change has both natural and manmade causes with the manmade causes of climate change being credited to increased levels of greenhouse gases. Natural causes of climate change include the continental drift, volcanoes and ocean currents.
Greenhouse Gases: These gases are what prevent solar radiation from being discharged to space and are the main cause of both climate change and global warming. Some greenhouse gases such as chlorofluorocarbons are synthetic while others such as carbon and water vapour occur naturally in the environment. While some greenhouse gases occur naturally, human beings have altered the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through their activities such as burning coal, oil, natural gas and wood.
Air Pollution: Air pollution is a related problem and many of the pollutants responsible for poor air quality and smog are also greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Discussions about air pollution usually focus on visibility and air quality but reducing emissions that cause air pollution will also reduce greenhouse gas levels.
Ozone Depletion: Ozone depletion is a different but related problem to climate change and global warming. The ozone layer is a gaseous layer in the upper atmosphere that absorbs ultra violet radiation. A reduction in the ozone layer causes more ultra violet radiation to reach earth which can affect crop growth and cause health problems such as skin cancer. Closer to the earth ozone is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.