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Greenhouse Gases

In 2008, the City measured its municipal greenhouse gas emissions to be able to forecast our targeted emission reductions. In 2013, we remeasured our emissions and saw a decrease of 11%! As one of the oldest cities in South Florida, we want to lead by example. Our City operations have targeted reductions of:

  • 19% reduction in GHG emissions by 2018
  • 32% reduction in GHG emissions by 2025
  • 37% reduction in GHG emissions by 2035

Getting to the Root of the Greenhouse Effect.

Why is it important?

"Greenhouse Effect" has been part of our vocabulary for decades, but how much do we really understand it?

Although most of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of oxygen and nitrogen, a small part of it is made up carbon, methane and nitrous oxide that work like a blanket around the Earth, trapping in heat that radiates off the surface of the planet. Like the glass in a greenhouse, they trap the energy beneath it. Without these greenhouse gases, the Earth would be a frozen ball in space. Since these elements have a direct impact on the temperature of the planet, a change in the balance of the elements results in a change in climate.

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that human activity has significantly contributed to or caused the current warming trends being experienced on our planet today. One of the major contributors is the burning of fossil fuels.

Why is burning fuel bad for the planet?

Fossil fuels earned their name based on their formation from fossilized organic matter compressed by the Earth’s crust for 300 to 400 millions of years. The organic matter was comprised of lush, prehistoric plant materials and algae, all rich in carbon. Therefore, burning fossil fuels releases this carbon into the atmosphere. An excess of carbon in the atmosphere alters the natural balance, increases the greenhouse effect and results in warming the planet.
How do trees reduce the greenhouse effect?

Trees absorb carbon — acting as nature’s air purifier. Cutting down trees not only eliminates the number of trees absorbing carbon, but since carbon is stored in their trunks, cutting them actually releases this carbon into the atmosphere as well. Deforestation is the massive clearing of the Earth’s forests. Swaths of forests the size of Panama are lost each year. You've probably heard of the devastating deforestation happening in the Amazon Rainforest.                                                                 

How much carbon in the atmosphere is “safe”?
“Scientists say that 350 parts per million in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity,” according to In 2013, we reached 400. Find out more about what this means by clicking here.

Increased humidity
The warming of the planet causes the temperature of the ocean to rise and water to evaporate.  This not only creates a more humid global climate, but also puts more water into the atmosphere which increases the greenhouse effect.
Ocean acidification
The ocean absorbs about 25% of the carbon that we put into the atmosphere. Since the industrial revolution, carbon levels have significantly increased, resulting in a chemical change of the ocean’s seawater called “Ocean Acidification.”  A more acidic ocean could wipe out species, disrupt the food web and impact fishing and tourism.

It's not too late to make a turn for the better. The Office of Sustainability is committed to reversing the damage to the Earth we share — and we hope you are too.

See what the City is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Atmospheric CO2 data
 2013 Greenhouse Gase Emissions Update:

  • For government buildings and operations, emissions dropped by 11 percent, from 81,834 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e) in 2008 to 72,489 metric tons in 2013. This reduction is equivalent to the emissions from the electricity use in 1,285 homes. The City is well on track to meet or potentially exceed our reduction target of 19 percent by 2018.
  • At the community scale, emissions decreased by five percent, from 5,513,890 metric tons of CO2e in 2008 to 5,256,748 in 2013. This shows an overall improvement for West Palm Beach. In fact, all sectors decreased and community emissions are trending lower than forecasted compared to a Business As Usual (BAU) scenario from 2008. However, to meet the reduction targets established in the City’s Sustainability Plan, it is clear that the City will need to target improvements at the community scale, especially with regard to transportation, the largest source of emissions at the community scale.