Even though the little changes we make over the course of our day, like switching to low-energy light bulbs, driving hybrid cars, recycling waste, buying eco-friendly materials, and installing solar panels, may feel futile, a slowdown in the pace of emissions is proving that our individual actions are making a difference.
New data demonstrates that in 2012, rising CO2 levels tapered off, and the growth was only 1.1%. This is in comparison to 2000’s 2.9%. Significantly, the rise was not even a third of the 3.5% in global gross domestic product (GDP), indicating that economic growth is slowly decoupling from emissions. Local initiatives and individual actions are important factors in this decoupling.
The Nobel Prize winning economist, Simon Kuznet of Harvard University, argued that beyond a certain stage of economic development, despite the environment being in a dire state, countries will begin to start using resources better and cut pollution. The theory may seem overly optimistic, but the data is proving it to be true. In fact, China is slowing down the rate of emissions considerably.
Even without some sort of global mandate on climate change, over two-thirds of the Earth now operates under laws or strategies for limiting emissions. The unilateralism was discussed at the Cancun climate talks in 2010 and seems to have taken root.
The lowered emissions rate is great news. Don’t be fooled, however, there is a lot of self-interest involved. Countries are taking action because it makes economic sense – like cutting smog and increasing the security of energy supplies, pursuing renewable energy, or encouraging mass transit. But hey, at least it’s happening.