It is generally acknowledged that climate change is a serious issue faced by many countries. According to Wuebbles and Jain (2001), climate change can be expressed in terms of the change in the earth’s average atmospheric temperature. Global temperature has risen considerably over the last century and it is likely to continue increase in the following decades. Such phenomenon often referred as Global Warming, has made a dramatic impact not only to nature but also to the economy and the well being of human kind. For instance, climate change has resulted in increasing sea level, melting of glaciers and extreme weather such as droughts, floods and heat waves. Furthermore, extreme weather has caused substantial loss of lives as well as heavy damage to industries such as agriculture, forestry and tourism. Finding the cause of Global Warming and the solution to prevent its’ damage to our environment has become the top priority to our scientists and global leaders.
Additionally, Carbon emissions are attributed to being the most significant of the harmful greenhouse gases considered to be the direct cause of climate change. Wuebbles and Jain’s study (2001) illustrates that the increased level of carbon emissions such as carbon dioxide coming from burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal by human activities to power machines and in transport play major role in climate change. However, this essay will argue that although carbon emissions resulting from transport is one of the factors that contribute to climate change, but it is not the most significant factor as the statistics from four major sources have showed that the major causes of such circumstance is due to the carbon emissions resulting from natural changes and energy supply used in electricity and industry. The reasons will be present below.
First of all, EPA (2014) states that the earth temperature affected by natural changes can be traced back centuries ago. The historical record demonstrates that the climate system has shifted numerous times before the Industry Revolution, which may be a result of natural changes such as greenhouse effect and eruptions of volcano. For instance, the atmospheric temperature is mainly determined by the amount of solar energy that the Earth receives and preserves. As the Earth’s surface absorbs energy of the sun, it would reflect most of the energy back to the space as heat (infrared radiation) if the Earth were not surrounded by atmosphere. Certain types of gas in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, prevent some of the reflected infrared radiation by the surface from escaping to the space. Hence, they keep the Earth and the atmosphere warmer.
This is called the greenhouse effect and the gases that cause such effect are called greenhouse gases. Without the greenhouse gases, earth will be too cold for lives. However, more than necessary greenhouse gases will cause the change of climate and harm our environment. Additionally, carbon emissions from volcanoes are the other factor of climate change. When a volcano explores, it releases a large sum amount of ash and gases into the atmosphere. Yet, carbon dioxide and water vapor are the most common gases coming from volcano, which are the major blame for climate change (EPA, 2014). Therefore, although natural causes have constantly influenced climate change, there may not have effective way to prevent such problems by mankind because the changes of nature is inevitable.
Secondly, carbon emission comes from different types of human activities, and fossil fuel burning is the major one of it. Carbon emission from industry cause substantial or even higher than that from transport in particular developed countries. According to Adam and Evans (2006), recent data illustrates that in the United Kingdom there are five companies that produce carbon dioxide more than all the automobiles on the road in the UK. In 2005, they have produced an estimated 100m tonnes of carbon dioxide, whereas all of the private cars combined produce 91 tonnes a year.
Additionally, there are about 700 companies in the UK, among which, the companies such as Tesco, Walkers, Ford, Unilever, Kellogg’s, Allied Bakeries and Nestle caused above 100,000 tonnes of carbon emission in 2004. Other European countries such as Germany and France have also experienced a similar issue (Adam and Evans 2006). Hence, even though industry is essential to the economy, it has produced a large sum of carbon emissions that may affect the climate. As carbon dioxide resulting from industry is far more than those from transport.
Last but not the least, the primary carbon emission from fossil fuel burning is coming from power generation rather than transport. Power Scorecard (2014) claims that burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are the main source of carbon emissions. In the United States, a large-scale of carbon dioxide is attributed to the combustion of coal to generate electricity as burning coal produces more carbon dioxide than oil and other gases, and around 86% of coal purchased is used to generate electricity. Similarly, a study by WWF (2014) in Australia suggests that a considerable amount of carbon emissions is coming from electric power production because approximately 77% of coal is burned for electricity generation. Thus, there is no doubt that carbon emission from electricity plays a major role. Transport only consumes a small amount of fossil fuel and produces relatively insignificant amount of carbon emission.
To sum up, it is clear that carbon emissions from transport is not the dominate factor that contribute to climate change as above evidence suggest that the most significant factors are the carbon emissions coming from natural causes, electricity production and industry. As carbon emissions by human activity is one of the major causes of climate change, it is positive that many industrialised countries have concluded an organization (The Kyoto protocol) as an international agreement to reduce the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels (United Nations 2014). In the future, increasing the consciousness of the issue in society could also be an effective way to encourage people to take a part in solving this serious problem.
Adam, D and Evans, R (2006). New figures reveal scale of industry’s impact on climate. Retrieved 30/11/14 at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/may/16/pollution.uk
Power Scorecard (2014). Air quality issues of electricity production. Retrieved 30/11/14 at: http://www.powerscorecard.org/issue_detail.cfm?issue_id=1
United Nations (2014). Framework convention on climate change. Retrieved 30/11/14 at: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php
UPA (2014). Causes of climate change. Retrieved 30/11/14 at: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html
Wuebbles, D, J and Jain, A, K (2001). Concerns about climate change and the role of fossil fuel use. Fuel processing Technology. PP. 99-119
WWF (2014). What causes global warming? Retrieved 30/11/14 at: http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/global_warming_and_climate_change/science/global_warming_causes/