Two countries account for almost 50% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy: China and the USA. Of course, this is partly down to the fact that both countries have large populations. That fact, however, cannot hide the high rate of emissions per person within those countries. China’s population is estimated to be around 1.4 billion people, representing 19% of the world’s population – on a par with that of India. Yet while China accounts for 27% of carbon dioxide emissions, India accounts for only 5%. The population of the United States is estimated to be around 320 million people –around 4.4% of the world population. The next most populated country is Indonesia, with 270 million people (3.6% of the world’s population). However, the USA accounts for 17% of global carbon dioxide emissions, whereas Indonesia accounts for a mere 1%. It is therefore clear that, per person, China and the USA bear the brunt of the blame for polluting the world’s atmosphere.
On average, each person in the world causes the emission of four metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. For Americans, however, this figure stands at twenty metric tons. Other populations are even more irresponsible – it is estimated that the average Qatari causes the emission of forty metric tons per year. So it is certainly time that such populations started to look at ways in which they, as individuals, can help to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide they cause to be released into the atmosphere.
A big part of the emissions we cause comes from the way we choose to get around. Americans are known the world over as the only people who believe their feet are there to control pedals rather than for walking on. There is still a trend in the country to buy vehicles which give appalling gas mileage as some kind of status symbol. Anywhere else this would be taken as a clear show of stupidity, but unfortunately not here. Americans will get behind the wheel to drive a hundred yards down the road, when the weather is comfortable and they don’t have anything to carry. This causes them to get fat –75% of Americans are overweight and around 36% are clinically obese. These people don’t have the energy to carry their own weight around all day the way people at normal weights do – yet, instead of trying to do something about it, they perpetuate the problem by using their cars more to get around, which in turn unnecessarily pumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Of course, nobody is suggesting that everyone get rid of their cars altogether. There are occasions when using a car is undoubtedly the smartest way to make a journey. In these cases, in order to minimize your environmental impact, ensure that your tires are properly inflated and that your engine is tuned. Make sure your vehicle is well maintained and, where possible, choose a fuel-efficient car. All of these factors will help reduce waste and unnecessary emissions.
Consider alternative modes of transport when making other journeys. Airplanes are notoriously bad for polluting the air, and it may be better to take a train (more and more developed countries have high-speed rail networks; several parts of the US, notably California are currently constructing their own networks). Rather than driving to the train station, why not take a bus, cycle or look at alternative modes of transport at http://theelectricrider.com/?
At home there are a number of changes you can make, too: turn down your thermostat, wash your clothes in cold water, rather than hot water, dry your clothes on a line rather than in a machine, replace energy guzzling lightbulbs with LED lighting, maintain your boiler properly and replace it when it becomes inefficient, insulate your house properly, including fitting thicker window panes. Recycle as much of your household waste as possible.
Many people have no idea just how irresponsibly they live their lives. We have reached and passed the point where it would have been possible to completely reverse the effects of our recklessness. But we can slow it down. We are already seeing the effects of climate change in various regions of the world, but over the next years this will intensify and begin to have a severe effect on populations and economies closer to home. Act now and you can slow the damage.