March 1, 2022

Carbon Reduction

Carbon Emissions in the Atmosphere and the Methods of Abating Emissions

Carbon Emissions in the Atmosphere and the Methods of Abating Emissions
Contents

What is emissions abatement?

Emissions abatement means curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to reduce the amount of GHGs contaminating the atmosphere. 

If you want to learn how your business can start abating emissions in different areas and what the costs of emissions abatement are, then this is for you. We'll tell you about GHG abatement, what gases should be in the atmosphere, why the planet is overheating, and give you some practical tips and examples of emissions abatement.

What is in the atmosphere?

Approximately 78% of the earth's atmosphere is nitrogen, 21% is oxygen, and 1% is made up of other gases like neon, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide. Imbalances in substances can harm the environment. Too many of certain elements can intoxicate the environment while not enough of the ones needed in the atmosphere can lead to deprivation of food supply and more.

gases in earth's atmosphere pie chart

The sources of GHGs go beyond just CO2, which makes up 76% of all GHG emissions globally, which is the reason we are concentrating on eradicating CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

global ghgs percentage pie chart

Economic sources of carbon emissions

Almost all global warming since 1850 is the result of human activities. And still, global emissions haven't yet peaked in most places. While nations are striving to achieve policies that combat pollution in many forms, CO2 has its own sphere of acts attempting to control quantities produced per year with carbon credits.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and hence global warming. Heat, electricity, and transportation are the main reasons for most fossil fuel burning by human beings. We'll look at some United States 2020 statistics from the US EPA to show the main sources of carbon emissions.

usa ghg emissions by economic sector pie chart
  • Transportation makes up 27% of GHGs which is the largest part. More than 90% of fuel for various transportation is from petroleum, like gasoline and diesel. Coal combustion is even worse than burning natural gas or petroleum which aren't good either.
  • Electricity accounted for 25% of emissions in the form of coal or natural gas.
  • Industry causes 24% of emissions from using energy.
  • Commercial and residential sources are 13% of the problem from using heat and handling waste.
  • Agriculture makes up about 11% of emissions from livestock, mostly cows but others as well, soils that aren't regenerative, and rice production.
Related content

Please check out our other free resources from our academy to learn more about GHGs and how to reduce them:

• Article: GHG Reporting: Everything You Need to Know
• Article: Carbon Emissions and Mitigation Strategies
• Article: Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States

Effects of GHG emissions

Anytime burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) or biological materials like trees or waste happens, CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere and along with methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and water vapor, and traps heat from the sun causing global warming. Climate change is the result of this causing unnecessary warming to polar ice caps which kills entire ecosystems, affects food for wildlife, contributes to severe droughts, wildfires, and even tropical storms.

Some of the specific effects include but aren't limited to:

  • Crops lose necessary nutrients like zinc and protein when the atmosphere has imbalances in nitrogen and carbon.
  • Endangered and extinct animal species from lack of food (plants and animals in the food chain) due to hotter temperatures and dying ecosystems that cause starvation.
  • Higher risk for respiratory diseases from smog and pollution from low air quality in certain regions.
  • Floods have killed hundreds of people this year alone from extreme rainfall that happened as a result of overheating the atmosphere.
  • Heatwaves in regions not equipped to deal with hotter weather are harming ecosystems and making high-risk people like infants and the elderly sick and sometimes causing death.
  • The polar ice caps are melting which causes sea levels to rise (7-8 inches since 1900), losing the Arctic sea rate of 13% by decade, the oldest and thickest ice decreased by 95% in the past 30 years and if we don't stop global warming now, the Arctic will have no ice by 2040.
  • Since the Arctic cools the world from over warming by reflecting heat back into space and it has been disrupted, the heatwaves will intensify worldwide and the winters will be colder from Arctic winds.
  • The Greenland Ice Sheet melted at 1 million tons per minute in 2019 which means sea levels will continue to rise.
  • Storm surges and hurricanes are destroying coastal cities and fishing communities that thrive on island life.

Methods for abating emissions

Every economic sector is adjusting to policies that are put in place to get to net zero by 2050 or earlier. Part of those policies is allowing carbon credits that decrease every year to abate emissions. Since each nation, company, and person is responsible for their CO2 abatement strategies, Net0 can be used by anyone to measure, track, analyze, reduce, offset, and report emissions. Net0 does it all with the data that is input by the reporting company's colleagues and vendors. Any sector can benefit from the platform because we use more than one type of emission on a day-to-day basis. Net0 is designed with that in mind so the data received is measured accurately and companies don't need to go out finding agencies in order to search for offsetting projects.

Net0 also gives insight as to emissions abatement in the future based on data you give, with its intuitive AI core. It goes beyond a system of record to be flexible as you go on the journey to net zero. Some of the things different sectors can do to achieve GHG abatement in the long term could be:

Electricity 

  • In the electricity sector, improving efficiency by using less energy and materials is one way to abate emissions. 
  • Another way is to switch to renewable energy sources for CO2 abatement. 

Food and agriculture

  • Food production and agriculture can decrease CO2 emissions by reducing meat and dairy, especially beef. 
  • Eating and processing less meat is also efficient for methane abatement.
  • Substituting with chicken or fish still emits carbon, but less.
  • Regenerative agriculture with regenerative soil usage improves the environment drastically and is a great help in combating global warming. Sequestering massive amounts of CO2 emissions, it is an inexpensive and organic way to change the atmosphere for the better. 
  • Sustainable intensification for increasing crop production without damaging the environment with strategic planning. This prevents deforestation and improves ecosystems while using less land.
  • 6% of GHG emissions are caused by food waste. While much of it is from the end-consumer, a little over half of that is lost in supply chains. Spoiled food in processes or waste in restaurants and hotels could be improved for a more sustainable future. Transparency in the supply chain, especially regarding food, has been in increasing demand lately not only for health purposes but for best working practices regarding the environment and the workers. Regenerative agriculture, transparency, and not throwing away undesirable-looking fruits and vegetables because of their shape will be helpful in the process. 

Transportation

  • Using electric transport or running off liquid natural gas (LNG) emits less carbon than traditional petroleum gasoline and diesel. 
  • Electric vehicle sales will account for 73% of CO2 abatement in the USA in the future. They plan on decarbonizing new transportation in the future by not selling petroleum-burning vehicles anymore. They will have to do it soon to get to net zero by 2050.

The costs of emissions abatement

Carbon abatement costs will look like they cost more upfront, like when investing in anything, but will bring a return on investment in the long run. 

Let's use a wind farm as an example: 

The cost of setting up wind farms will look steep in the beginning. Since we can contribute to offsetting projects that build wind farms, we are already investing in the future as we remove carbon from the atmosphere. In turn, our CO2 abatement cost is lower in the long run because the wind project will already have been funded.

costs of abating emissions economy graph
Image source: Penn State


In the chart above, William Nordhaus, Environmental Economist, compares the abatement cost to the emissions control rate but of course, this will vary with emission abatement amounts and projects.

Marginal abatement costs

Reading a marginal abatement cost curve (MACC) isn't hard if you know how to do it. It is measured by dollars over metric tons (tonnes) of CO2 equivalents ($/tCO2-e).

Image source: City Switch

Each different opportunity box is an action, sitting above or below the horizontal axis. 

Boxes above the axis mean there is a cost to that action – the higher the box is, the higher the cost is. 

Boxes below the axis mean there's savings from that action – the lower the box is, the greater the savings are.

Actions can be compared annually. 

The box width indicates the action’s potential volume of abatement per year, expressed in tCO2-e.

The curve shape is made by ordering the actions from lowest cost (the most savings) to highest cost, left to right.

To conclude:

Knowing what your carbon footprint is, is the first step to creating an emissions abatement strategy. Net0 even has a simulation tool within the platform to show you what your carbon footprint would look like after making reductions to help you abate emissions more effectively.

Request a demo today with Net0 and see how simple it is to achieve carbon neutrality. We can help you measure, track, analyze, reduce, offset, certify, and report on emissions all in one accurate emissions management platform.

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FAQ

What’s the difference between gross zero and net zero?

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.
How soon can we start?

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.
Do you help with setting up the processes?

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.
What type of clients have you successfully helped?

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.
What sets Net0 apart from others on the market?

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.
Why do companies choose to work with Net0?

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

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