04. December 2020
The good news first: today, many people are not only serious about climate change but are already taking action to tackle global warming (e.g. by changing their consumption behavior or by offsetting flights).
The not-so-good news: The measures taken are nowhere near sufficient. To ensure humanity does not completely lose control of climate change, it is important that so-called "tipping points" - such as the thawing of permafrost soils - do not occur. To prevent this, the world's leading climate researchers of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) recommend limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
This figure is very important. But many people ask themselves how they can contribute to limiting global warming to the 1.5°C target. With this blog article, we want to shed some light on the issue and introduce you to the concept of personal carbon neutrality.
Time is running out - we are the last generation that can stop climate change. However, the decisive factor for global warming is not only time, but above all the amount of greenhouse gases (measured in CO₂ equivalents or CO₂ₑ*) in the atmosphere. Every ton counts! Because: The IPCC assumes that humankind may not emit more than approx. 770 Gt CO₂ in addition to limit global warming to 1.5°C (for comparison: in 2019, approx. 50 Gt CO₂ were emitted globally). This means, that at the current level of emissions we could proceed for another 20 years before we would need to stop causing emissions entirely to not exceed the remaining CO₂ budget.
So much for theory - but is it realistic? To be honest: No. No serious scientist currently assumes that humankind will soon be able to manage completely without carbon emissions. But to ensure that we still reach the 1.5°C target, the IPCC has developed an alternative plan: carbon neutrality by 2050.
Aha! So the solution is carbon neutrality... But what does this big buzzword actually mean? Carbon or greenhouse gas neutrality refers to a state in which just as much greenhouse gas emissions are emitted to the atmosphere as are simultaneously removed from it.** The climate balance is therefore neutralized, or we achieve a state of "net zero" emissions. The CO₂ budget is then no longer burdened and the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere remains constant.
To ensure that this status is actually reached in 2050, the IPCC plan relies on two main measures:
The emission of greenhouse gases must be reduced significantly (from about 50 Gt/year in 2019 to about 9Gt CO₂ in 2050)
All greenhouse gases emitted annually must be removed from the atmosphere by so-called "negative emission technologies" (NETs)
To better understand why both "pillars" (reduction and compensation) are absolutely necessary, we should be aware of the following:
(1) Despite our greatest efforts, we will most likely not succeed in completely avoiding CO₂ emissions in all areas of life and the economy. This means that also in the future, a certain amount of so-called "unavoidable emissions" will continue to enter the atmosphere every year (e.g. through flights or agriculture).
(2) The amount of CO₂ that we can actually remove from the atmosphere using appropriate technologies (NETs) is finite. The potential for reforestation, currently the most effective "NET", is for example limited by the amount of land available on Earth.
By doing exactly what the entire world population is supposed to do by 2050: Become carbon neutral. Because if every one of us would live carbon neutrally, we would have reached the 1.5°C target already.**
But don't panic, we will not leave you alone with this undertaking! The following three steps should support you on your way to personal carbon neutrality:
Step 1 - Calculate your CO₂ footprint
The first step towards climate neutrality is to calculate your own footprint. Because: "You can`t manage what you don`t measure" ( click here ).
Step 2 - Find out how you can reduce your CO₂ footprint
After you have gained an overview of the CO₂ sources in your everyday life, you can consciously reduce your footprint by switching to more climate-friendly products and services. Tip: Our reduction planner will help you ( click here )!
Step 3 - Offset your carbon footprint
You can offset your CO₂ footprint by supporting internationally certified carbon offset projects that save the corresponding amount of CO₂ for you (e.g. through reforestation).
If you are wondering why you, of all people, should set a good example and live carbon neutrally, we can provide a few good arguments:
Argument #1 - The reduction potential: The average footprint of a German is about 11t, while the average footprint of a person in Nigeria is about 0.7t. At our level of prosperity (and CO₂) we simply have a much higher potential to reduce CO₂ emissions and also the purchasing power to push the development of climate friendly alternatives through our consumption behaviour.
Argument #2 - The financial resources: The average cost to offset one's own CO₂ footprint is about €15/month in Germany. For many of us, it is possible to make this contribution to effectively reduce the amount of CO₂ in the atmosphere and at the same time promote the development of NETs.
You are already a climate pioneer and want to do even more? Then we have two suggestions for you here:
Inspire others: With every friend you inspire to live climate neutrally, you double your personal impact. Pretty cool, right?
Support to create systemic changes: In order to reach the 1.5°C target, we must reshape our politics to being more aggressive in supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy (e.g. policies for clean mobility). How and where you can best get involved to bring about these changes you will find out in one of our next articles (Spoiler alert 😉)
Disclaimer: This article reflects our current position, which may change in the future due to new scientific findings or a re-evaluation of facts.
*In this article we use CO₂ synonymously for CO₂ₑ
**The term climate neutrality is also used when greenhouse gases caused are compensated. The impact of the process on the CO₂ budget in this case depends on the project behind the compensation. A blog article on this topic follows 😉
Calculate, reduce and offset your carbon emissions now