Energy is wasted every day, and wasted energy is wasted money. There are hundreds of small changes you can make to save energy at work and at home, to lower your company’s bottom line or to have some extra spending money at the end of the month after you’ve paid your bills.
Help the planet
The greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere from energy generation cause air pollution and climate change. Everyone has the power to reduce their personal impact on the planet. A small reduction made by lots of people has the potential to make a significant difference to our environment.
Improve your reputation
Companies are under a growing pressure to become more sustainable and to reduce their environmental impact. Becoming greener can represent a business opportunity, opening up new markets and clientele.
Plan for the future
In an uncertain world, it is important to prepare for changes and mitigate future risks. Increases in energy prices could significantly affect the competitive of your business and your personal finances. If you reduce your energy use now, you will be better prepared to reduce the impact of uncertainty in the future.
Climate Change – the importance of reducing energy use
Climate is defined as the statistics of weather – the mean, variance and other statistics of weather variables including precipitation, temperature, sunshine and wind patterns. Climate Change is therefore a statistically significant change in the statistics of these weather variables over a period of time.
Antarctic ice core and other proxy data shows that average global temperatures, and concentrations of greenhouse gasses (GHGs), have changed dramatically over the past 400,000 years, as shown in the graph below. Natural events including volcanic activity, fluctuations in the Earth’s orbit, carbon cycle feedbacks and solar activity are likely to have contributed to these changes. However, since the late 19th century, the average surface temperature of the planet has risen by about 1°C (1.8°F) and most of the warming has happened in the past 35 years. This is a very high rate of change relative to historical climate changes, and it has occurred in the absence of any of the natural forcing factors listed above. Major scientific centres, such as the IPCC, agree that the cause of the current warming is very likely to be anthropogenic GHGs being emitted into our atmosphere by industrial and energy producing activities. As you can see from the graph below, the current concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane (CO2 & CH4 respectively- important GHGs) in the atmosphere are higher than they been in the past 400,000 years.
420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica research station. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vostok_Station#/media/File:Vostok_420ky_4curves_insolation.jpg
What are Greenhouse Gasses
Atmospheric GHGs play an important role in our climate as they absorb and emit infrared radiation (heat) while allowing shorter wavelength energy from the sun to pass through unhindered. When the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation reaches the Earth’s surface, the Earth absorbs it and warms ups. However, the Earth radiates this heat back to space as longer wavelength infrared radiation, some of which is absorbed by GHGs rather than passing through the atmosphere to space. This causes the atmosphere to warm up and re-radiate some of that infrared energy back to the earth’s surface.
It is important that we have GHGs in our atmosphere otherwise the average global temperature would be extremely low. However, if the concentration of GHGs increases, the average atmospheric temperature will also rise.
Important GHGs include: water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, CFCs, and nitrous oxide. Carbon Dioxide is the most significant of these, due to its prevalence in the atmosphere, the rate at which its concentration is increasing, and the duration that it is sticks around.
Anthropogenic sources of GHGs
The main anthropogenic activities emitting GHGs into the atmosphere include: the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) for energy; industrial processes; deforestation; and agricultural practice.
The burning of fossil fuels is the primary activity releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, if we are able to reduce our energy consumption, through energy efficiency, we will slow the increase in concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Luckily, it makes business since to be energy efficient, which the guides on the START2ACT online platform will explain.
Evidence that the climate has started to change
The evidence that the climate is changing includes:
A statistically significant increase in the global average temperature, which in turn is causing:
- Chaining rainfall patterns
- Changes in seasons
- Rising sea levels
- Retreating glaciers
- Declining Arctic sea ice
- Shrinking Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets2.
It is the subsequent knock on effects of the above which are cause for concern. For example, if rainfall patterns change in areas reliant on the rain for farming, the availability of food stuffs may be affected, while melting land ice raises sea levels, threatening coastal communities.
Global Climate Targets
In 2015, at the COP21 Paris Agreement, a major climate deal was agreed by the 55 countries accounting for 55% of global emissions, to limit the rise in the Earth’s average surface temperature, since pre-industrial times, to 2°C.
Where to find further information on climate change
Rule #1 – avoid the media; honest and dishonest mistakes are everywhere.
Rule #2 – there are some very good sites run by scientific bodies with clear and well-presented information: