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One of the key contributors to climate change is the ‘greenhouse effect’, a phenomena caused by rising levels of gases like carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Upon entering the atmosphere, these gases trap the sun’s energy and reflect it back onto the earth, akin to a greenhouse.

As such, the greenhouse effect causes the temperature of the earth’s surface, particularly its oceans to rise. Scientists, who have known about the process since the 19th Century, believe the greenhouse effect has directed over nine-tenths of trapped energy from the sun towards the earth’s oceans.

Since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide levels have increased by about 45% globally. During that same period, other harmful greenhouse gases have also increased by a similarly large amount. Unfortunately, all the evidence shows that this rise is almost entirely due to human activity. In particular, the three main causes are:

  • burning of fossil fuels for energy
  • agriculture and deforestation
  • the manufacture of cement, chemicals and metals

Currently, the global construction and building sector accounts for:

  • 42% of total energy consumption
  • 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions
  • 50% of extracted materials
  • 30% of water consumption*

Upon emission, around 43% of carbon dioxide produced goes into the atmosphere, with the rest absorbed by plants and the oceans. Therefore, in looking to solve the world’s greenhouse effect problem, we must also address the important role that deforestation plays. The harmful endeavour reduces the number of carbon dioxide absorbing trees, whilst also releasing the carbon contained in those trees back into the atmosphere.

* EC 2011. Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, European Commission, COM/2011/571.


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