The topic of carbon emissions waxes and wanes in the public consciousness but it hasn’t gone away. The amounts pumped into the atmosphere stayed fairly level for a few years but 2018 saw a large increase to the tune of 37.1 gigatonnes. That’s a huge, unsustainable amount but how do we combat the knock-on effects in a world with such huge population and industrial growth?
Many trials and research projects are investigating all different angles of tackling the problem but one area is available to us immediately. Heating and cooling represent about a third of our carbon emissions, that’s over 12 gigatonnes. The infographic below shows how the use of heat pumps could put a huge dent in that figure and buy some time to find better solutions for the other two thirds.
37.1 Gigatonnes Of CO2 was Released into the Atmosphere in 2018
This is the highest figure since records began. CO2 is released during the combustion process of organic materials like wood, coal and natural gas. The increasing demands on the world’s fossil fuel reserves have pushed the equilibrium of the carbon cycle towards a tipping point.
How Big is a Gigaton?
A Gigaton is big, very big indeed. Nearly half a million Olympic sized swimming pools big in fact. So we pump the equivalent of 15 million swimming pools of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. And that’s not the end of the story, CO2 is a gas and swimming pools are full of water which is heavier, so the volume of 37.1 Gigatons is over 8000 million swimming pools and we’re back to unimaginable numbers so let’s just say it’s a lot.
Around a third of all carbon emissions are produced from heating and cooling activities. So that’s about 12.5 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from producing a comfortable climate inside buildings and heating water to wash in. If we found a way to cut these emissions out the global emissions figures would be back to those of the 1990s.
Are Heat Pumps the Answer?
Heat pumps are around 4 times as efficient as heating and cooling via conventional methods. This represents a saving of nearly 10 gigatonnes each year especially if renewable energy sources provide the power to run the heat pumps. This is because heat pumps don’t produce their own heat, they move existing energy to where it’s needed. So in reality, not the whole answer but they’re a good start.