CO2 Emissions and Pollution - Breaking the Habit

In all the debates on the effects and implications of global warming, climate change and CO2 emissions, one thing can certainly be agreed; things are changing. There may or may not be reason to discredit the idea that climate change is a man-made phenomena, and there may or may not - though this writer would definitely argue that such claims are false - be reason to doubt the detrimental effect of such concepts. But there can be no dispute on the fact that CO2 emission levels are rising; the EIA shows that CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels has risen steadily every year for 20 years.

With that rise, necessarily, comes global warming, and the shift in the earth's atmosphere and ecosystems that we generally term climate change. Some skeptics argue that the rise is either natural - a result of the great climatic pendulum - and others argue that it is unpreventable; it is quite validly claimed, for example, that the steady rise in world population levels are the chief contributor to growth in CO2 emissions worldwide. The argument goes that - short of official birth control policies - it would be almost impossible to curb the rise in population, and CO2 emissions are the inevitable consequence.

That view needs to be challenged. Certainly, there is some truth in the claim; population rises mean more people, and that creates a greater demand for fossil fuels, the source of most things that are able to feed, clothe, and house us. But that summation implies a necessary dependence on fossil fuels. It is true to say that the modern world relies on fossil fuels, so that the correlation is a strong one, but it is not a doomed relationship; much can be done, even if a total independence from fossil fuels is a current practical impossibility, to greatly reduce the world dependence on fossil fuels.

That can be seen when world population rates are compared with CO2 emissions percentages. The world's largest annual polluter, the U.S, contributes around 20% of annual world carbon emissions, and China, which comes in second, is closer to 15%. But China has the world's largest population, at close to one fifth, and the U.S comes in third this time, with roughly 5%. India sits between them, at around 17%. In world CO2 emissions levels, India falls in fifth behind Russia and Japan.

What this information resolutely shows is that, whilst there is certainly a link between the rise in population levels and the rise in CO2 emissions levels, they are by no means proportional; if one nation can contribute a fifth of annual emissions with just 5% of the world's population, then the problem of CO2 emissions levels must lie much more firmly in lifestyle habits than population levels. If that is the case - as evidence shows - then global warming, climate change and CO2 emissions are not unsolvable issues, and damage can be limited.

It seems like a fairly basic point, but it is such an important one; if CO2 emissions are not linked to unstoppable phenomena, then human beings can be made accountable. And if human beings can be made accountable, then those who subscribe to the dangers of global warming, CO2 emissions and climate change, are valid in their attempts to do everything they can to curb such an all consuming problem. Skeptics beware.

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Chris Woolfrey is an expert on global warming and climate change. He writes for

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