Mitigation of climate change - a global and national task

Greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans continue to grow. The majority of emissions are created by the use of fossil fuels. Mitigation of emissions is both a global as well as a national and local task.

Fossil emissions released by humans increasing

Mankind continues to increase the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. In terms of its heating effect, carbon dioxide (CO2), is the most important gas, and the majority of it, is caused by use of fossil fuels or oil, coal and natural gas. In 2005, greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans totalled 44 gigatons (= 44,000 million tons) in CO2 equivalents [1].

If tighter emission restrictions than the current ones cannot be achieved, according to the IEA, the energy-based carbon dioxide emissions will increase from the current annual 30 gigatons up to 40 gigatons by 2030 [2].

Emissions in Finland

In 2008, Finland's emissions totalled 70.1 million tons [3]. A little over three quarters of them were based on energy. Finland's emissions are approximately a thousandth part of the global emissions. This, however, does not free us from the responsibility of reducing emissions, because per inhabitant, our calculated emissions belong among the world's highest ratings.

Global carbon sinks

In the nature, carbon is in a continuous cycle between various storages. When new carbon dioxide is produced in the air, the natural cycle of carbon divides this addition between the atmosphere, oceans and plant cover (and soil). According to an estimate by the IPCC, approximately 45% of the carbon dioxide produced by mankind since the 18th century has remained in the atmosphere, 30% has ended up in the oceans while the remaining 25% is in plants and soil [4].

As the climate warms, there is a danger that, on a global scale, the ability of sinks to accumulate and store carbon weakens. This would lead to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to increase faster than estimated.

In Finland, forests form a notable sink

In Finland, forests act as a notable carbon sink. As the climate warms, the carbon storage accumulated in the vegetation increases while coniferous forests can change from carbon sinks to sources of carbon.

References

  1. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT), World Resources Institute http://cait.wri.org/
  2. IEA (International Energy Agency), World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2009 http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/
  3. Suomen kasvihuonekaasuinventaario http://tilastokeskus.fi/til/khki/
  4. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. http://www.ipcc.ch/

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