Decarbonization Definition

Decarbonization is disconnecting all the things humanity does from creating carbon emissions. It is the process to stop emitting Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Decarbonizing everything humans do represents about 90% of the solution to combating climate change.

The vast majority of planet-heating CO2 is being released (aka emitted) into the atmosphere from humans use and burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural (fossil) gas.

At present we emit about 40 billion tonnes (aka gigatonnes or Gt for short) of carbon dioxide per year, every year and about 10 billion tonnes of other Greenhouse Gases.

Because of this pretty much everything humans do or make contains embodied carbon - those emissions it took to grow, make or transport a particular item or product. Everything from the food on your plate to the technology you use. Everything.

Decarbonization means reducing and then eliminating the associated carbon emissions in everything.

To be on track for a science-backed Net Zero this would be reducing global CO2 emissions from their present 40Gt to 4Gt by 2050 (and using high quality carbon removal for the rest).

Carbon Emissions by Sector - World in Data

Of course it's not just carbon dioxide that's heating up the planet. Other Greenhouse Gases also contribute. CO2 is about 70% of the heating and also the largest volume of emissions by far, so it's the main bulk we need to address.

Decarbonization involves finding cleaner and more sustainable ways to produce energy and carry out activities without releasing as much CO2. This can be done by switching to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, which don't produce greenhouse gases when generating electricity. It also involves improving energy efficiency, using cleaner technologies, and making changes in various sectors such as transportation, industry, and agriculture to reduce carbon emissions.

In simpler terms, decarbonization is like trying to make our daily activities and the way we get energy more sustainable, so we don't add as much of the harmful stuff (carbon dioxide) to the air, which helps to fight human-caused climate change.

Decarbonization is a complex challenge, but it is essential if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change. By taking action now, we can create a cleaner, healthier future for ourselves and for generations to come.

Demystify more climate-related terminology with our Climate Buzzword Dictionary (yes, it's more of a glossary, but hey, this is what it's called now!).

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