What does Carbon Reduction and Decarbonization Mean?
Nice question, we're glad you asked.
These two terms are how we turn the tide in The Climate Crisis*. They represent the largest chunk of effort humanity needs to acomplish to limit anthropogenic* (caused by human activity) climate change.
They just mean to reduce the Greenhouse Gas* emissions from everything we do. To take the hidden carbon out of everything we make, buy, use and do. They mean the same thing.
Our best path to preventing (and hopefully reversing) the likely effects of continued global warming is to reduce (aka decarbonize) as much as possible from what humans do. That's at the huge scale of countries and companies all the way down to the level of us individual people tryinng to live our best climate lives.
We currently emit about 50 gigatonnes* (billion tonnes) of Carbon Dioxide and Equiavelents* per year into the atmosphere, which traps energy from the sun, heating everything up. This amount is simply too large an amount for us to stay close to the global target of keeping the average global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
It's such a huge, unfathomable amount of gases and there are no silver bullets to removing that huge scale of emissions.
We can't plant enough trees (we don't have enough land) and the technologies to remove emissions are only just gaining momentum (they also aren't likely to be able to pull down enough of what we currently pump out anytime soon). Both of these solutions are important tools in starting to better manage the climate from now onwards, though they aren't a replacement to decarbonizing all we can.
In fact, nature based solutions like tree planting and tech based ones will become more effective when we have decarbonized all we can. If we're reducing our emissions we will reach a cross over point when our tools to remove emissions overlap and we can strike a balance. In honesty, though, we're still a long way from that point. We need to do more.
The good news is there's loads we know how to do and the science says we can make a lot of progress reducing our emissions. Yay!
This said, we do need to up the pace of reducing emissions from everything we make, do, buy and use if we want to stay below a 1.5 to 2 degree celsius increase (this level is what the science recommends as being a lot less dangerous and damaging for us and everything else on the planet).
If we're to get to Net Zero* by 2050 that means reducing about 90-95% of our present annual emissions. It's a big challenge, but a challenge we believe we can rise to.
Want to find out more?
If you're just starting out on your journey, try our Intro to Climate 14-day email course to take your first leap by connecting all the dots. It starts every Monday and you'll be joining other awesome humans learning on it from over 50 countries all around the world.
Or, if you're more interested in the importance and actions companies of all sizes need to take to. decarbonize you'll love our free Climate Companies 3-day email course to take your next step.
Want to find out more on climate terminology? Check out our quick guide on what the difference is between Net Zero, Carbon Neutral and Climate Positive in this blog post.
Have hope, make progress! 💚
Climate Buzzword Dictionary
Carbon Dioxide and equivalents - bundle of main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane & nitrous oxide. Abbreviated CO2e.
Greenhouse Gases - Abbreviated to GHG. 98% made up of Carbon Dioxide, Methane or Nitrous Oxide. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. See Carbon and Equivalents
Decarbonize - disconnect all the things humanity does from creating carbon emissions. The process to stop emitting Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. To decarbonize = remove hidden or embodied carbon emissions from everything humans make, buy, use and do
The Climate Crisis - the accelerating heating of our planet due to human activity, mostly due to our use of fossil fuels
Anthropogenic - fancy science word that just means "caused by human activity"
Gigatonne - a billion metric tonnes of something, in all things climate related this usually means the weight of gases emitted
Net Zero - a target to stop producing Greenhouse Gases from human activity by 2050. It combines reducing, removing as well as offsetting hard to eliminate emissions. Also called Net-zero 2050