Carbon Emissions
April 24, 2023

Carbon Emissions

Carbon emissions are one of the biggest contributors to climate change and are rapidly warming our planet. In this blog, we explore the impact of carbon emissions, why it's essential to reduce them.

What are carbon emissions, and how are they produced?

Carbon emissions are carbon dioxide in gas forms released into the atmosphere due to human activities. These activities are damaging to the environment as they use finite resources such as fossil fuels and coal that release harmful gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The overabundance of these gases in the atmosphere is the cause of the warming climate. Electricity creation, industrial processes, and mining transportation are major contributors to carbon emissions. The serious effects of carbon emissions are detrimental and will affect everyone. By being more aware of our actions and habits, we can reduce carbon emissions and create a more sustainable future. 

What are the primary sources of carbon emissions?

Primary sources of carbon emissions include industry, energy production and transportation. Most of the world's carbon emissions come from a collection of these industries. 

  1. Transportation includes cars, trucks and other vehicles. They generate large amounts of CO2 and other toxic pollutants. Another significant source is air travel. Planes produce an exceptionally high amount of carbon emissions.
  2. Electricity is the second major carbon emission contributor. Power plants burn massive amounts of fossil fuels, which result in large-scale emissions and other toxic chemicals. Although renewable energy production has considerably expanded recently, many countries still predominantly rely on fossil fuels to meet their energy demands.
  3. The industrial industry significantly contributes to carbon emissions, with activities like manufacturing, construction, and mining playing a role. Deforestation and agriculture can also contribute significantly to atmospheric carbon emissions.

How do carbon emissions contribute to climate change?

There are many ways that carbon emissions affect climate change. Carbon dioxide and other gases function as a blanket, trapping heat and preventing it from escaping into space when discharged into the atmosphere. The greenhouse gasses make Earth's climate habitable for people and other living things.

Nevertheless, the blanket thickens when we release excessive carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping more heat and warming the earth. Climate change is what we refer to as this warming effect.

With rising temperatures come various effects, such as more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, and floods. Additionally, coastal towns and cities are threatened by rising sea levels and severe weather patterns. The more intense weather will also affect agriculture and wildlife, resulting in food shortages and vulnerable biodiversity.

What are the effects of climate change caused by carbon emissions?

Excessive carbon emissions have a massive impact on our planet, from rising temperatures to more frequent natural disasters:

Severe weather: Heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and other extreme weather phenomena may become more common and intense due to climate change.

Rising sea levels: Sea levels are rising due to the melting of ice sheets and glaciers brought on by global warming. This might increase flooding and endanger coastal communities' infrastructure.

Food insecurity: Changes in weather patterns can harm crops and livestock, resulting in a food shortage.

Loss of biodiversity: Climate change can disrupt ecosystems and cause biodiversity loss as plants and animals struggle to adapt to the changing environment.

Influences on health: Severe weather, such as heatwaves, droughts, or heavy rain, especially in vulnerable areas, can harm people’s health and sense of well-being.

What are the impacts of carbon emissions on human health?

Carbon emissions don't just harm the environment - they can also have a significant direct and indirect impact on human health. According to the NASA website, The World Health Organisation states that burning fossil fuels emits air pollutants, such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides which are linked to premature death and respiratory illnesses, including asthma.

Air pollution: As carbon-based fuels are burned, several pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, are released into the atmosphere. Further to raising the risk of heart disease and stroke, they can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma.

Rising heat: Heatwaves are getting more common and intense as the earth heats due to carbon emissions. This raises the risk of developing heat-related disorders such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Infectious diseases: As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, disease-carrying insects may find new habitats, affecting the spread of contagious illnesses like malaria and dengue fever.

Illnesses: Changes in weather patterns can also impact the availability and safety of food and water, increasing the risk of food and waterborne infections.

Mental health: Because extreme weather events and other climate-related calamities can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression, climate change can also affect mental health.

How can we reduce carbon emissions?

Carbon emissions must be reduced to combat climate change and provide a sustainable future for both present and future generations. Here are some actions that every one of us may take to lessen our carbon footprint:

Employ renewable energy: Using renewable energy sources like wind and solar can help cut carbon emissions from electricity generation.

Public transportation: Reduce your dependency on your car and consider taking the bus, biking, or walking as alternatives. Doing so can lessen the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during transportation.

Reduce energy usage: Using energy-efficient appliances and turning off lights when not in use are easy ways to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

Adopt a plant-based diet: Reduce your meat consumption or switch to a plant-based diet to help lower your carbon footprint. Livestock husbandry is a significant source of carbon emissions.

Reduce waste: Landfills release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, so cutting back on consumption, recycling, and composting waste can all help cut down on carbon emissions.

Promote legislative change: Advocate for legislation that prioritises renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable practices.

Lowering carbon emissions necessitates teamwork at all scales, from individual acts to governmental reform. We can all contribute to building a more sustainable future by reducing our carbon footprints and lobbying for change.

What are the policies and regulations in place to reduce carbon emissions?

The New Zealand Emissions Trading System (ETS) is a cap-and-trade system that charges for carbon emissions and offers rewards for cutting emissions. Companies must use the ETS to compensate for their carbon emissions. One carbon tonne is equivalent to one carbon credit, and the government and businesses are able to trade these credits as carbon units. The regulations and emission allowances are reviewed regularly. 

An advantage of the ETS is that it allows businesses and even individuals to cut carbon emissions they are unable to do themselves. It also incentivises companies to invest in low-carbon processes and technologies to reduce the amount of carbon they emit, as it puts a price on the carbon units. Additionally, it offers a source of income that can be reinvested into offsetting projects. 

What are some examples of successful carbon reduction initiatives?

Renewable energy: New Zealand has seen a significant increase in its transition to renewable energy, particularly in the electricity sector. Renewable energy includes geothermal, wind, solar and hydropower. 

ETS: As was already established, New Zealand's efforts to reduce carbon emissions rely heavily on the incentives of the ETS. 

Sustainable transportation: New Zealand has implemented multiple sustainable transport options and programs to encourage environmentally friendly transportation. For example, the creation of bicycle lanes, net-zero buses, and cheaper public transport. The promotion of these programs reduces the release of fossil fuels from petroleum cars.

What is the Paris Agreement, and how does it relate to carbon emissions?

The Paris Agreement is a climate change treaty created in 2015 and signed by 196 nations. The agreement is a form of legal commitment to climate action that aims to pursue efforts to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The agreement establishes targets for nations to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases to achieve net-zero emissions in the second half of the century.

Since the Paris Agreement primarily concerns reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, it directly affects carbon emissions. Each nation that signed the accord has pledged to reduce carbon emissions to limit the effects of global warming.

The treaty also requires nations to track and report on their progress and present their findings to the UNFCCC annually. 

How are businesses and industries working to reduce their carbon footprint?

According to the Harvard Business Review, "Businesses that continue to sit on the sidelines will be badly handicapped relative to those that are now devising strategies to reduce risk and find competitive advantage in a warming, carbon-constrained world... business leaders need to approach it in the same hardheaded manner as any other strategic threat or opportunity." Business can effectively find a competitive advantage by:

Investing in renewable energy: Many businesses are moving to renewable energy sources like solar or wind power and reducing their dependency on fossil fuels.

Enhancing energy efficiency: Companies can look to implement more efficient technology and methods to reduce their energy use.

Using sustainable materials: Some sectors try to reduce their adverse environmental effects by incorporating sustainable materials into their goods or packaging.

Implementing circular economy principles: The circular economy is a strategy that emphasises reuse and waste reduction more than disposal. This is a more sustainable and environmentally conscious way of operating.

Developing goals for carbon emission reduction: An increasing number of businesses are setting personal goals for carbon emission reduction as part of larger sustainability initiatives. These goals include becoming carbon-neutral, net zero or even carbon positive by a specific date. 

A lot of progress still has to be made; however, there has been a shift in how businesses are expected to operate. Firms are beginning to realise that they must show environmental responsibility. 


Carbon emissions and their increasing harmful effects call for immediate action. By being aware of the causes and consequences of carbon emissions, we can take action to lessen our carbon footprint and inspire others to do the same. This could involve taking steps to conserve energy, convert to renewable energy sources, or back organisations and businesses that are committed to sustainability.

On a broader scale, governments and corporations have a crucial role in lowering carbon emissions and combating climate change. New Zealand is already making significant strides in this direction with the help of initiatives like the ETS and investments in renewable energy. To fulfil the objectives of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming safe, however, there is still more work to be done.

The good news is that each and every one of our efforts, no matter how modest, can have an impact. By cooperating and adopting collective action, we can contribute to building a more sustainable and just future for present and future generations.