Should We Measure Emissions at Lower Limits?
Sep 12 2021
For many years, it has been abundantly clear that the industrial activity of mankind is having an increasingly detrimental impact on our planet. Climate change is contributing to global warming, rising sea levels and more frequent and more intense extreme weather events. This could have drastic repercussions for much of the world’s populace in the near future.
As a result, governments and regulatory bodies around the globe have imposed limits on the amount of emissions that industrial facilities are permitted to emit. In order to ensure compliance with these maximum thresholds, they are also tasked with regularly monitoring the performance of their site and the emissions it is responsible for. But should the limits be lowered in response to an issue that seems to be deteriorating by the day?
The case for the planet
For a long time, the scientific consensus seemed to be that we needed to reach net-zero carbon status by 2050, with “carbon” used as shorthand for a laundry list of pollutants and gases that negatively affect our environment. However, recent estimates predict that this target is not ambitious enough and that by the middle of the century, the tipping point may have already been passed with regard to climate change.
Instead, experts are calling for a much faster transition to cleaner forms of energy generation and reduced levels of pollution. This would necessarily entail the imposition of lower limits of permissible emissions from power stations, manufacturing plants and other major emitters of the contaminants in question. Some countries have taken this on board and published targets for reaching carbon-neutral status before 2050, though few of them have enshrined their objectives into law.
The case for industry
On the other hand, industrial stakeholders argue that enacting drastic targets too quickly would cripple entire industries and bankrupt countless businesses. While the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown restrictions designed to limit its spread demonstrated that a dramatic drop-off in emissions is achievable, it came at huge cost to the economy and the livelihoods of people all over the globe.
Instead, many companies and corporations are in support of a more lenient transition into a carbon-free society. With regulations already having been amended in the last few years to introduce stricter upper thresholds on concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and dust, the industry claims that it is already doing it all it can to comply.
The bigger picture
While those concerns may be valid, they could be accused of prioritising short-term stability over long-term survival. Unless sweeping changes are made to the way we live our daily lives with no small degree of urgency, climate change could cause the premature deaths of millions of people around the world. It could also make it harder to cultivate crops, prevent floods and protect critical infrastructure.
Therefore, it seems clear that while introducing lower limits for emissions from industrial sources might not be an ideal option – or, indeed, a politically popular one – it’s the correct call from an environmental perspective. What’s more, it’s eminently achievable if the relevant parties employ the latest technology and adopt best practices to reduce their footprint as much as possible. To learn more about how they might do so, please check out the helpful talk Achieve New Emission Limits by Taking Control of Your Processes.
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