Carbon FootprintsA Few Examples

The fight against global warming will finally always have to end up in reducing GHG emissions. This can be partly achieved by measures at the source of the emissions (direct emissions), for example, by increasing efficiencies of fossil-fired power plants to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of electrical power produced. Another lever is to influence the demand side that causes indirect emissions, for example, by applying more energy efficient devices, by avoiding or dispensing energy consuming activities. The goal of a CO2 balance is to illustrate and quantify the overall impact of a certain activity or action.

As the example in the previous section shows, we do not only have to calculate the impact of a GHG emission (although it always goes back to this basic calculation) but carefully analyze the activity with respect to related and allocatable emissions. We have so far used the term CO - balances. Popular expressions with a similar meaning are carbon footprint, CO2 footprint, or carbon balance. All these mean balances of GWPs with a unit of measurement expressing mass of CO - e. There are multiple attempts and initiatives in the community to make formal definitions for a carbon footprint. Standardization is highly desirable given the diverse meanings and possible breadth of interpretations in this field. Hence we frequently find comparisons of apples with oranges.

Carbon footprints are used in the public domain for various activities, mainly driven by the increasing public demand to understand the impact on global warming. Intensive efforts are under way to determine carbon footprints for all kinds of activities and entities like companies, production and power plants, entire products, food, farming, logistics and transportation, consulting services, insurances, and so on. Some are more meaningful and reasonable than others. In the following we give a few examples which are of interest with a particular focus on the chemical industry.

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