Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are named as such because they act like a greenhouse by trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. The gases do this by allowing the ultraviolet light in sunlight to pass through and reach the Earth’s surface, but when the light is reflected back towards space as infrared energy (or heat) the GHGs absorb the heat and therefore contribute to the warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere.
The main GHGs are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons. GHGs have both natural and man-made sources. Human activities since the industrial revolution have increased the levels of both. An overwhelming majority of scientific research posits that over the last century, the burning of fossil fuels has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities have increased concentrations of greenhouse gases because the acreage of carbon-dioxide loving trees and plants has been reduced.
The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is the burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation. Whle the international community continues to debate the cause-effect relationship between emissions and warming, here in Fort Lauderdale, we can find common ground. Using electricity and other resources more efficiently lowers costs for individuals and businesses, and it makes us a more resilient community in the face of summer demand and the annual hurricane season. We get the similar benefits from reducing the amount of gasoline we use: lower costs and higher resiliency.
In 2013 the City’s electricity provider, Florida Power & Light, knocked down an old power plant from the 1960s at Port Everglades. The new power plant built in its place will run on clean natural gas, benefitting our health and the environment. The new plant will be more fuel-efficient, using 35 percent less fuel than the old plant. Employing natural gas will cut carbon dioxide emissions in half and reduce overall emissions by over 90 percent, which is the equivalent of taking 46,000 cars off the road in one year!
In 2009, President Obama made a commitment to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 (Whitehouse Climate Action Plan). The Fort Lauderdale 2011 Sustainability Action Plan Update makes a similar commitment by setting its air quality goal to reduce GHG Emissions by 20% below 2010 levels by 2020.
Find out what you can do to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at home, at the office, on the road and at school from the U.S. EPA.