Carbon footprint- an essential know how

The term ‘carbon footprint’ has become tremendously popular over the last few years and is now in widespread use across the media. ‘Carbon footprint’ has become a widely used term and concept in the public debate on responsibility and abatement action against the threat of global climate change. It had a tremendous increase in public appearance over the last few months and years and is now a buzzword widely used across the media, the government and in the business world.

The term itself is rooted in the language of Ecological Footprinting which was developed by William E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel in the 1990s. The common baseline is, carbon footprint stands for a certain amount of gaseous emissions that are relevant to climate change and associated with human production or consumption activities. That it is a measure of the exclusive total amount of carbon dioxide emissions that is directly and indirectly caused by an activity or is accumulated over the life stages of a product. The aim is to identify major sources of emissions in supply chains to inform relevant stakeholders so that actions can be taken to reduce emissions.

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are gases that increase the temperature of the Earth due to their absorption of infrared radiation. Although some emissions are natural, the rate of which they are being produced has increased because of humans. These gases are emitted from fossil fuel usage in electricity, in heat and transportation, as well as being emitted as byproducts of manufacturing. The most common GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and many fluorinated gases. A greenhouse gas footprint is the numerical quantity of these gases that a single entity emits. The calculations can be computed ranging from a single person to the entire world. Measuring it in this way address the climate change challenge in a holistic way that does not simply shift the burden from one natural system to another. The carbon Footprint is currently 60 percent of humanity’s overall Ecological Footprint and its most rapidly growing component. Humanity’s carbon Footprint has increased 11-fold since 1961. Reducing humanity’s carbon Footprint is the most essential step we can take to end overshoot and live within the means of our planet.

An individual’s, nation’s, or organization’s carbon footprint can be measured by undertaking a GHG emissions assessment, a life cycle assessment, or other calculative activities denoted as carbon accounting. Once the size of a carbon footprint is known, a strategy can be devised to reduce it, for example, by technological developments, energy efficiency improvements, better process and product management, changed Green Public or Private Procurement (GPP), carbon capture, consumption strategies, carbon offsetting and others.

According to The World Bank, the global average carbon footprint in 2014 was 4.97 metric tons CO2. However individually, the EU average for 2007 was about 13.8 tons of CO2 emissions, whereas for the United States, Luxembourg and Australia it was over 25 tons CO2e/cap. In 2017, the average for the USA was about 20 metric tons CO2e. The carbon footprint of U.S. households is about 5 times greater than the global average. For most U.S. households the single most important action to reduce their carbon footprint is driving less or switching to a more efficient vehicle.

The Paris Climate Agreement is a landmark environmental pact that was adopted by nearly every nation in 2015 to address climate change and its negative effects. The agreement includes commitments from all major GHG-emitting countries to cut their climate-altering pollution and to strengthen those commitments over time.

A major directive of the deal calls for reducing global GHG emissions so as to limit the earth’s temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels while taking steps to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The Paris Agreement also provides a way for developed nations to assist developing nations in their efforts to adapt climate control and it creates a framework for monitoring and reporting countries’ climate goals transparently.

Steps to reduce carbon footprint at home:

  • A July 2017 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that the most significant way individuals could mitigate their own carbon footprint is to have one less child (“an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent emission reductions per year, followed by living car-free (2.4 tonnes CO2-equivalent per year), forgoing air travel (1.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent per trans-Atlantic trip) and adopting a plant-based diet (0.8 tonnes CO2-equivalent per year). The choice of diet is a major influence on a person’s carbon footprint. Animal sources of protein like red meat, rice (typically produced in high methane-emitting paddies), foods transported long-distance or via fuel-inefficient transport (e.g., highly perishable produce flown long-distance) and heavily processed and packaged foods are among the major contributors to a high carbon diet. Scientists at the University of Chicago have estimated that the average American diet – which derives 28% of its calories from animal foods – is responsible for approximately one and a half more tonnes of greenhouse gasses.
  • Another option for reducing the carbon footprint of humans is to use less air conditioning and heating in the home. By adding insulation to the walls and attic of one’s home, and installing weather stripping, or caulking around doors and windows one can lower their heating costs more than 25 percent. Similarly, one can very inexpensively upgrade the “insulation” (clothing) worn by residents of the home. For example, it’s estimated that wearing a base layer of long underwear with top and bottom, made from a lightweight, super-insulating fabric like microfleece, can conserve as much body heat as a full set of clothing, allowing a person to remain warm with the thermostat lowered by over 5 °C. These measures all help because they reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the house.
  • There are many simple changes that can be made to the everyday lifestyle of a person that would reduce their GHG footprint. Reducing energy consumption within a household can include lowering one’s dependence on air conditioning and heating, using CFL light bulbs, choosing ENERGY STAR appliances, recycling, using cold water to wash clothes, and avoiding a dryer. Another adjustment would be to use a motor vehicle that is fuel-efficient as well as reducing reliance on motor vehicles. Motor vehicles produce many GHGs, thus an adjustment to one’s usage will greatly affect a GHG footprint.

Reducing Industrial carbon footprint:

The Industry sector produces goods and raw materials for everyday use, every single day. The greenhouse gasses that industrial production emits are split into two categories:

  • Direct emissions are greenhouse gasses produced at the facility itself.
  • Indirect emissions are associated with the facility’s use of energy but happen off-site.

Carbon Footprint from energy consumption can be reduced through the development of alternative energy projects, such as solar and wind energy, which are renewable resources. Measuring carbon footprint. By assessing how much pollution an organization’s actions generate, it has been observed that minor policy changes can significantly reduce a company’s overall carbon footprint.

  • Carbon capping: Emissions trading, sometimes known as cap-and-trade policies, puts a limit on carbon dioxide emissions. A government entity sets a “cap” on the emissions that can be produced in its jurisdiction, and companies are given carbon allowances. These allowances can either be used or traded to other companies.
  • Reducing energy use: The building industry now has multiple energy efficiency certifications. The standards help set measurable and achievable goals, reducing the amount of energy used from 12 percent all the way to 100 percent of typical building energy use. Some of the most common certifications include LEED Green Building certification, Energy Star, Net Zero Energy Building Certification, and High-Performance Building Program by ICLEI. The industry sector can ensure new buildings are energy efficient by earning any of these ratings.
  • Rewarding green commuters: Encouraging employees to switch to public transportation, carpooling, biking, telecommuting, and other environmentally-friendly commutes can add up and have tremendous effects. Employers can offer commuter benefits that address limited or expensive parking, reduce traffic congestion, improve employee recruiting and retention, and minimize the environmental impacts associated with drive-alone commuting.6
  • Reducing fossil fuel dependence. Burning coal to produce energy creates carbon dioxide emissions and contributes to irreversible climate change. Businesses that make a conscious effort to switch to sustainable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, can help to reduce their daily CO2 emissions.2
  • Reforestation: the restocking of existing forests or woodlands that have previously been depleted, is an example of Carbon Offsetting, the counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon offsetting can reduce a company’s overall carbon footprint by offering a carbon credit.
  • Voluntary offsets: If a company can’t afford to undertake new energy-efficient building initiatives or put solar panels on buildings, there are alternatives. Carbon offsets can be purchased from many third-party suppliers who then engage in these activities on behalf of the business.
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