How Countries Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions
The topic of carbon dioxide or CO₂ emissions has risen to become a top priority for many countries around the world today. CO₂ may occur naturally on our planet, but as we learn more about the negative effects that it has on everyday life, ecosystems, and the environment as a whole, the need to take action increases dramatically. We have been damaging our Earth for a long time, and making changes isn't always easy – much of our lives rely on the systems, infrastructure, and products that CO₂ emitting processes have created for us over the years. Change is necessary for progress, however, and it has led many to wonder how countries regulate carbon dioxide emissions and what other countries need to consider as methods of reducing their own impact abroad.
Carbon dioxide isn't the only danger to our Earth, but it is a big one. Of all the greenhouse gases that are produced to help us maintain our modern lives, the sheer excess of CO₂ has the greatest negative impact and can cause catastrophic issues if not curbed on a global scale. The best way to understand the issue and therefore determine a viable solution is to first understand carbon dioxide itself, and then focus on what leading countries are doing to decrease energy production, consumption, and other big players in the world of CO₂.
What Is Carbon Dioxide and How Is It Produced?
Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless, heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is emitted both inherently in the natural environment and by way of human activities. Plants, animals, and humans all emit CO₂ when we breathe, so it's important to understand that it isn't dirty or purely a negative product of industry. The Earth does a fantastic job of absorbing carbon dioxide on our behalf and balancing the atmosphere naturally, but because CO₂ traps heat within the atmosphere, an increase can ultimately alter the overall global temperature. So, the issue arises when humans create more CO₂ than the planet can balance – that's when the scales tip and we start to degrade the Earth and bring on the serious issues of climate change, low air quality, and a sharp decline in human health.
What Are the Negative Effects of CO₂?
According to NASA, our human activities have raised CO₂ levels in the atmosphere by 48% compared to the pre-industrial CO₂ levels of the year 1850. This is due to factors such as the introduction of electricity, the automobile, increased mining activities, and advanced industrial infrastructure that has been constructed to both mass-produce products and generate the very energy required to power them. Our heating and electricity costs alone for residential and commercial buildings account for the highest percentage of human-produced CO₂, followed closely by the transportation and manufacturing sectors.
As heat generated by CO₂ production increases and the Earth is unable to balance it out, it remains trapped within the atmosphere. This can increase temperatures and create a warming effect that can be catastrophic in relation to extreme weather. Major hurricanes, storms, droughts, wildfires – these can all become intensified as the planet warms up due to trapped CO₂. Ice caps and glaciers can melt which slowly raises water levels, putting numerous seaside communities and coastal regions in extreme danger of being flooded out. Suffice to say, this sort of uncontrolled action can place an immense strain on healthcare systems, agriculture, housing, and more.
How Countries Regulate Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Unfortunately, it isn't enough for everyone to collectively reduce their carbon footprints and produce less CO₂ on their own. While ideal, the concept isn't plausible and therefore regulations are needed to guide nations towards managing their carbon output and taking steps to reduce it on a larger scale. To determine how countries regulate carbon dioxide emissions we can look at two popular methods.
One way to incentivize both businesses as well as the general public is to enact emission caps that permit a specific amount of carbon dioxide production. These caps are typically in support of the common goal of maintaining a global temperature that is less than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures. Businesses must adhere to these caps and adjust their operations to accommodate – much as how the automotive industry has developed new technology to decrease vehicle emissions below a set standard for passenger and commercial vehicles. By setting a carbon threshold and invoking a tax on anything above that threshold, businesses and households are encouraged to seek out new ways to reduce their CO₂ production either through alternative operations or renewable energy sources.
Another option is to introduce a carbon tax that simply puts a price on all greenhouse gas emissions that are produced. Whatever a business or household uses in terms of energy, be it gas or electricity, is taxed. This method has the ability to cast a broader shade over more of the population with the intention of reducing costs as there will be a tax-saving incentive to engage in cleaner energy solutions. However, this method also adds a financial burden for a system that had been designed long before current households and numerous businesses existed. Many feel that being punished for utilizing the energy sources they've been given doesn't provoke positive change and only creates a further divide between governments and their constituents. That said, the push for reduced carbon emissions is still prominent with this method as many wish to avoid the tax as much as possible.
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