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Biggest Contributors to Climate Change

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

There's no denying it. Climate change is a big problem. But what can we do better the planet and decrease human's impact on it? First, we can learn about the cause of the problem can help to diagnose the source. Then, we can work toward decreasing them.

Emissions from factories burning fossil fuels for energy

1. Emissions from burning fossil fuels

We use the energy from burning fossil fuels to create heat and electricity. This action alone account for 1/3 greenhouse gas emissions. To decrease this amount, we would need to drastically decrease the amount of electricity we use.

2. Pollution from travel

We all like to travel. But the pollution caused by driving cars and flying planes has a huge impact on the planet. According to the WRI, travel accounts for 15% of pollution.

3. Corporate manufacturing emissions

Manufacturing, construction and industry emissions create almost as much pollution as travel. Moving over to more environmentally friendly ways of producing is not only a consumer friendly trend- it's necessary to protect our planet. The countries that manufacturer more of the world's goods create the most pollution in this area. According to the WRI, China, the United States, the EU and India are the world's top emitters. Creating environmental initiative policy in these countries would create the positive change.

4. Food consumption

Likewise, our food systems are villains in the fight against climate change. Advocates say giving up meat, especially beef, would help curb greenhouse gases. Agriculture makes up 11.1% of global emissions, according to WRI.

5. Landfills wastes

Landfills produce methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Our waste systems create 3.1% of global warming pollution, according to WRI.

There are many more contributors to climate change, but these are the biggest that we've found.

A lot of these contributors saw decrease of use during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, people were traveling a lot less, which led to a decrease in flights and long car rides. This decrease in long distance travel led to less emissions added to the atmosphere.

The hope is that we can learn from the dramatic difference we saw when human activity all but ceased and better formulate our plan for the future. While daily actions certainly help, we saw firsthand what a positive impact widespread behavior changes can have. Decreasing emissions is still of utmost importance, and, as we resume normal life, we need to continue to work against climate change.

6. "Bunker Fuels"

Many emissions cannot be linked to a specific country because they do not occur on the grounds of a country. These types of emissions typically occur on international waters from ships transporting cargo or international flights. "Bunker Fuels" account for 2.2% of all climate change emissions.

7. Manufacturing and Buildings

Often overlooked, manufacturing and construction make up nearly 14% of total emissions making them the third highest contributor to pollution. The manufacturing and construction activities that contribute to the large amounts of emissions include building materials, transporting materials, and then the actual construction process. This contributes to about 25% of the emissions produced by a building throughout its lifetime.

Powering, lighting, heating, and cooling, also known as "operational carbon emissions", make up the rest of the emissions produced by buildings during their lifetimes. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential and commercial buildings account for 40% of energy consumption throughout the country.


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Can anyone think of ways we can decrease these sources of pollution with our daily actions? Personally, I eat less beef and often have no meat meals to lessen the need for meat production. What steps have you taken?

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