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Where Do Carbon Emissions Come From?

Global climate change is upon us, whether you choose to accept that or not. And carbon emissions are a big part of the climate change conversation. After all, humans emit carbon when they breathe, drive cars, fly in planes, and burn fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil for energy. Yet the scary thing about carbon emissions is that it’s not just affecting the earth, but also our health.

Carbon Emissions

What Are Carbon Emissions?

Carbon emissions are created by burning fossil fuels, the most dominant of which is coal. In today’s modern world, carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a topic of immediate concern.

It’s commonly thought that carbon emissions cause global warming, ocean acidification and pollution. But what are they exactly?

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a naturally occurring gas that all animals and plants produce during the process of photosynthesis. It’s also a by-product of burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which are used to generate electricity and fuel cars.

Over the past two centuries carbon emissions have increased dramatically. In fact, global carbon emissions are growing at a rate of 2% per year — faster than ever before in history.

Global carbon emissions are reaching record highs. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are still many energy efficiency trends which are on the rise and could help slow down global carbon emissions growth if we use them.

We may have exhausted a lot of our traditional methods for reducing our energy consumption, but we’re far from done yet.

Where Do Carbon Emissions Come From?

Carbon emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are burned to power cars, trucks, trains, and planes—but they’re also burned to generate electricity.

The energy source that powers your home could be one of the most important decisions you make as a homeowner. Energy is used in every aspect of our lives, from heating and cooling to cooking and cleaning.

Fossil fuels include coal and natural gas: two of our most common sources of electricity generation. Other sources include nuclear power and renewable energy like wind turbines or solar panels.

Fossil fuels are resources that were formed from the remains of dead plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. These fuels have been stored underground since then and can be accessed through drilling or mining.

Some fossil fuels are easier to access than others, but all produce carbon dioxide when burned. This greenhouse gas contributes to global warming by trapping heat in our atmosphere.

Coal is one of the oldest sources of energy used by humans. It consists mostly of carbon but also has other elements such as hydrogen, sulphur, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, and ash content.

When coal burns it produces soot with negative health effects such as lung disease.

How Do We Measure Carbon Emissions?

The topic of climate change is an emotive and controversial one but getting to grips with the basics of measuring carbon dioxide emissions isn’t as hard as you might think.

There are two main ways of measuring carbon dioxide:

Direct measurement: This involves taking samples from the air and analysing them to find out how much carbon dioxide they contain. This method is very accurate but expensive, so it’s not used very often.

Indirect measurement: This involves collecting data about the emissions of carbon dioxide from various sources. Then using a mathematical model called a carbon budget to calculate how much CO2 must be in the atmosphere if those emissions were to balance out with absorption by plants and soils. This method is less accurate but cheaper than direct measurement, so it’s used more often.

The most common way to measure carbon emissions is in tonnes of carbon dioxide per year or tCO2/year. This number can also be measured in units of carbon dioxide per hour or minute.

Some countries still use the older unit of measurement, pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per hour—it’s the same thing, but with a different name. If you’re feeling particularly technical and want to get really exact about it, you can even measure your emissions using units based on kilowatt hours (kWh).

Are There Any Other Sources of CO2 Besides Human Activity?

Plants are a source of CO2 on Earth, but there are other sources as well. For example, volcanoes emit CO2 when they erupt. Animals also produce gas in small amounts.

Plants produce CO2 through photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy. This process also produces oxygen and water vapour, both of which are important for sustaining life on Earth.

Volcanoes emit CO2 when they erupt. Volcanic eruptions occur when molten rock from inside the earth rises to the surface and erupts into the air in a series of explosions.

The molten rock contains magma and gasses that come from deep within the earth’s crust. As these gases escape into the atmosphere during an eruption, some of them become trapped as CO2 gas molecules in clouds above the volcano.

Respiration is a process by which organisms release energy stored in food molecules through oxidation in the presence of oxygen. This process releases CO2 as a waste product.

Some types of animal life have been shown to produce carbon dioxide as well. For example, fish release CO2 when they breathe out. In general, however, this is not enough to significantly contribute to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

What About Greenhouse Gases?

A greenhouse gas is any gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.

There are two categories of greenhouse gases: natural and human-made. Natural sources include volcanoes, forest fires, and animals’ exhaling.

Human activities are responsible for putting the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—things like burning fossil fuels (gas, oil and coal), cutting down forests, manufacturing cement and other industrial processes that release methane into the air.

Greenhouse gases also come from animal and plant life, which release CO2 through breathing and decomposition.

How Climate And Weather Are Connected To Global Warming

Climate and weather are connected to global warming in many ways. Learn how climate change affects temperature, precipitation, and other weather elements…read more

The sun’s energy, as visible light and ultraviolet radiation enters Planet Earths atmosphere. These are absorbed by greenhouse gases, warming up our planet. The warm air then releases infrared radiation (heat) back into space, but some of it is trapped by more greenhouse gases instead of escaping into space.

By trapping this heat, greenhouse gases create a “blanket” effect that keeps our planet warm enough for life to exist on its surface. The greenhouse effect is important because it keeps Earth warm enough for life to survive on its surface.

If there were no greenhouse gases, solar radiation would pass through the atmosphere without being reflected back into space and reach Earth’s surface, where it can be absorbed by plants or converted into heat energy by Earth’s surface rocks, oceans, and other features.

However, too many greenhouse gases do have the opposite effect and the result is our planet gets too warm!

Other Types of Greenhouse Gases Besides CO2

Other greenhouse gases contribute to climate change. Methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have a high global warming potential, meaning they trap heat at a much higher rate than CO2.

The second most common greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, after CO2, is methane. It is produced naturally by bacteria in wetlands, as well as in agriculture, mining, and natural gas production. Methane is also emitted by landfills and animal agriculture.

Nitrous oxide is another potent greenhouse gas; it has 298 times the atmospheric warming potential of CO2 over a 100-year time horizon. Nitrous oxide is produced by industrial activities such as chemical manufacturing, metal production and fossil fuel combustion.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are synthetic chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, aerosols, and foams. They do not occur naturally but are created through human activity; there are no other natural sources for HFCs in the atmosphere today.

When it comes to the climate impact of these gases, methane has about 25 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide over 100 years.

Nitrous oxide has nearly 300 times more, and HFCs have 1,000 times more. However, these gases don’t remain in the atmosphere for very long. Unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for centuries after it’s emitted from a source like coal-fired power plants or transportation emissions.

Knowing where our carbon emissions come from can help us lower them.

There are many reasons to be concerned about global warming. The most obvious one is the climate change that’s already happening, and the impacts it’s having on our planet and the people who live on it.

But there are also issues of equity to consider. How can we ensure that those who contributed least to the problem are not disproportionately affected by it? How can we ensure that those who contributed most to the problem aren’t allowed to carry on polluting without being held accountable?

There are several ways we can do this — including policies such as carbon pricing or emissions trading schemes, which make polluters pay for their pollution.

However, knowing how much CO2 you emit is just one piece of the puzzle—it doesn’t tell you what effects your emissions might have on climate change, or whether they’re enough to make a difference at all!

This is where carbon footprint calculators come in handy: they use available scientific data on emission sources to estimate how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases are per litre of gasoline burned for example.

And then suggest ways for reducing your own contribution to global warming through lifestyle changes that could ultimately decrease your personal “carbon footprint.”

We all know that human-caused climate change is a big problem. But rarely are we asked to think about our personal contributions to this global problem. It’s easy to think that if we’re only one person, it doesn’t matter how much we drive or what we eat.

But when we look at the bigger picture, there’s plenty of room for improvement on an individual level. Even if it’s just by knowing where our carbon emissions come from and then making small changes in our daily lives to reduce them.


Carbon emissions come from a variety of sources including human activities, the most common being the burning and production of fossil fuels and deforestation.

It’s up to us to do our best to go carbon neutral as often as we can. And when we’re not on a direct emissions-lowering path, we can at least be aware of the many ways that CO2 is generated throughout our day-to-day lives, wherever possible.

We can use this information to try and prevent future emissions where possible. In the end, it’s all about awareness. Because let’s face it: if you don’t know where the carbon dioxide is coming from, then how will you be able to stop it from happening?

I’d suggest starting by keeping track of your lifestyle habits so that you’ll know exactly how to lower your carbon footprint.

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