What Are CO2 Emissions and Why Are They Bad?

Carbon dioxide, also known as CO2, is a greenhouse gas. While a certain amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is normal, our reliance on burning fossil fuels (among other changes humans are making to the environment) is greatly increasing CO2 levels. CO2 is the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect, which is causing rapid climate change.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States’ CO2 emissions have increased by about 10 percent since 1990. Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by over 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution.

While the largest source of CO2 emissions is the burning of fossil fuels (especially coal) to create electricity, transportation isn’t far behind.

From EPA:

“The combustion of fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel to transport people and goods is the second largest source of CO2 emissions, accounting for about 31 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 26 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. This category includes transportation sources such as highway vehicles, air travel, marine transportation, and rail.”

Reducing your consumption of gasoline and oil can help reduce CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. Buying a lower-emission, fuel-efficient vehicle is a good start. Keeping it well-maintained with regular tune-ups, and keeping the tires full and the trunk emptied of unnecessary cargo (this will increase your vehicle’s fuel efficiency) are more steps in the right direction. Considering alternative fuel sources (like biofuels) can also help. Practicing green driving by carpooling and avoiding hard braking, rapid acceleration, and idling will make a difference.

In the end, the most effective way to help is to support public transportation initiatives and avoid driving whenever possible.