What are Greenhouse Gases?
Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. These include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride).
What is carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)? This is a way to place emissions of various GHGs on a common footing by accounting for their effect on climate. It describes, for a given mixture and amount of greenhouse gases, the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming ability, when measured over a specified period (e.g., 100 years). International agreements usually define global greenhouse gas emissions as the basket of greenhouse gases (listed above) expressed as CO2e assuming a 100-year global warming potential.
Sustainable energy is the production and use of energy resources in ways that are compatible with long-term human well-being and ecological balance. A key environmental consideration is energy’s link to global warming through greenhouse gases (generated mostly by fossil fuel consumption). This was first recognized globally with the adoption in 1992 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and re-affirmed in 2015 by the Paris Agreement of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement, signed by 197 countries, sets the specific goal of holding global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) compared to pre-industrial levels, and of pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F).
Paris Climate Agreement, December 2015
In what could be a turning point, the world’s nations reached an agreement in Paris that would commit them to cutting emissions and keeping global warming below 2 degrees. Although the pledges are not binding, the deal includes a review process to determine if countries are meeting their commitments.
Goal: The agreement lowers the maximum global warming the world should allow, from 20C (3.60F) above pre-industrial levels to “well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F). Holding warming to 1.5°C might slow sea level rise and prevent the loss of south Florida, New Orleans, London, the Netherlands, Shanghai and island nations such as Tuvalu. The lower limit recognizes there is no safe level of warming: the higher the global average temperature, the greater the harms and risks. The Earth has already warmed about 1°C (1.8°F) since the Industrial Revolution. That warming may have already triggered the irreversible loss of Antarctic glaciers that will add more than three feet to long-run sea level rise, on top of melting in Greenland and around the world. Worse, the 1.5°C goal was not accompanied by stronger pledges for emissions reductions.
What are relevant activities in New Jersey?
The agreement maintains the voluntary system of pledges, known as "INDCs" (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions") under which each country submits its own goals and plan to limit its greenhouse gas emissions.
New Jersey enacted in 2007 the Global Warming Response Act (P.L. 2007, c.112) which addresses, among other things, the links between energy and carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. It includes as part of the implementation process the periodic inventory of GHG emissions. The State’s first inventory was issued in 2008 and several updates have been reported since then, with the latest report being for 2015. The trends in the State’s GHG emissions are also tracked by the Department’s Environmental Trends report at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/dsr/trends/pdfs/ghg.pdf .