Calculating Your Carbon Footprint

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Carbon calculators can be easily accessed on the Internet, are easy to use, and provide quick results. The following is an example of how they work:

1. Information: Your geographic location.

Reason: your carbon footprint is partially determined by where you live. Some areas rely on energy (such as electricity) generated mainly from coal (a dirtier fuel), others from cleaner energy sources such as wind energy.

2. Information: The size of your household.

reason: This helps differentiate you from other contributors.

3. Information: The amount of electricity used in the home.

reason: This calculates the amount of CO2 generated by taking the total electricity used and dividing it by the price of power in the area. This number is then multiplied by the area's emissions factor, which relates to the type of energy the area uses. It also factors in the use of natural gas, heating oil, or propane, and whether a household participates in any renewable energy programs such as wind energy or solar power.

4. Information: CO2 produced from transportation—the annual mileage and your car's make, model, and year. This is then multiplied tricity, the manufacture of products, or any type of transportation, the user of the intermediate or end product is leaving a carbon footprint. Of all the CO2 found in the atmosphere, 98 percent originates from the burning of fossil fuels.

Simply put, it is one measure of the impact people make individually on the Earth by the lifestyle choices they make. In order to combat global warming, every person on Earth can play an active role by consciously reducing the impact of their personal carbon footprint. The two most common ways of achieving this is by increasing their home's energy efficiency and driving less. A carbon footprint is calculated (carbon footprint calculators are available on the Internet), and a monthly, or annual, output of total CO2 in tons is calculated based on the specific by the emissions factor of gasoline or diesel fuel, which converts it to pounds of CO2. For air travel, mileage is assessed along with takeoffs and lengths of flights.

Reason: This calculates the car's fuel efficiency.

Once all the figures are compiled, a total CO2 output in tons is calculated—this is the carbon footprint. These can then be compared to national and global averages and used as a personal measuring stick to improve one's own efficiency in the use of carbon and contribution to global warming.

The following Web sites feature easy-to-use carbon footprint calculators:

(All have been accessed as of May 22, 2009.)

daily activities of that person. The goal then is to reduce or eliminate carbon footprints. Some people attempt to achieve "carbon neutrality," which means they cut their emissions as much as possible and offset the rest. Carbon offsets allow one to "pay" to reduce the global greenhouse total instead of making personal reductions. An offset is bought, for example, by funding projects that reduce emissions through restoring forests, updating power plants and factories, decreasing the energy consumption in buildings, or investing in more energy-efficient transportation. This can be an effective way to "plan" a carbon footprint.

In order to educate and make people more environmentally conscious, some companies now advertise what their carbon footprint is, drawing in additional business support because of their positive environmental commitments. Some commercial products now contain "carbon labels" estimating the carbon emissions that were involved in the creation of the product's production, packaging, transportation, and future disposal.

Carbon footprints are helpful because they allow individuals to become more environmentally aware of the implication of their own choices and actions and enables them to adopt behaviors that are more environmentally friendly—what is referred to as "going green." For example, transportation in the United States accounts for 33 percent of CO2 emissions. Ways to make a difference include driving less, using public transportation, carpooling, driving a fuel-efficient car such as a hybrid, or bicycling. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), home energy use accounts for 21 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. Therefore, cutting down in these areas by increasing energy efficiency helps lessen the carbon footprint. There are several practical ways to do this: lowering the thermostat, installing double-paned windows, and installing good insulation, to name a few. Using compact fluorescent lamps and using energy-efficient appliances (such as those listed on the ENERGY STAR® program) also increases efficiency and lowers the carbon footprint. Carbon footprints can be a helpful measurement for those who want to take personal initiative and do their part to fight global warming.

This is the time for individuals to become aware of their personal behavior and how it affects the environment. The atmospheric concen tration of CO2 has risen by more than 30 percent in the last 250 years. Based on a study conducted by Michael Raupach of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia, worldwide carbon emissions of anthropogenic CO2 are rising faster than previously predicted. From 1990 to 1999, the increase in CO2 levels averaged about 1.1 percent per year; but from 2000 to 2004, levels increased to 3 percent per year. For this research, the world was divided into nine separate regions for analysis of specific aspects such as economic factors, population trends, and energy consumption. The result of the study showed that the developed countries (like the United States), which account for only 20 percent of the world's population, accounted for 59 percent of the anthropogenic global emissions in 2004. The developing nations were responsible for 41 percent of the total emissions in 2004, but contributed 73 percent of the emissions growth that year. The developing countries, such as India, are expected to become the major CO2 contributors in the future. Today the largest CO2 emitter is China.

This study is significant because even the IPCC's most extreme predictions underestimate the rapid increase in CO2 levels seen since 2000. The scientists involved in the study believe this shows that no countries are decarbonizing their energy supply and that CO2 emissions are accelerating worldwide.

Also from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Josep G. Canadell calculated that CO2 emissions were 35 percent higher in 2006 than in 1990, also a faster growth rate than expected. Canadell attributed this to an increased industrial use of fossil fuels and a decline in the amount of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans or sequestered on land.

According to Canadell, "In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slowdown of nature's ability to take the chemical out of the air. The changes characterize a carbon cycle that is generating stronger-than-expected and sooner-than-expected climate forcing."

In response to the study, Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research said, "The paper raises some very important issues that the public should be aware of: namely that concentrations of

CO2 are increasing at much higher rates than previously expected and this is in spite of the Kyoto Protocol that is designed to hold them down in western countries."

Feedback on the study also came from Alan Robock from the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He said, "What is really shocking is the reduction of the oceanic CO2 sink," referring to the ability of the world's oceans to absorb great amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. He also said, "It turns out that global warming critics were right when they said that global climate models did not do a good job at predicting climate change. But what has been wrong recently is that the climate is changing even faster than the models said. In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than any models predicted, and sea level is rising much faster than IPCC previously predicted."

According to the Brookings Institution, a research organization in Washington, D.C., America's carbon footprint is expanding. As America's population grows and cities expand, people are building more, driving more, and consuming more energy, which means they are emitting more CO2 than ever before. The Brookings Institution believes that existing federal policies are currently limiting. They believe federal policy should play a more powerful role in helping metropolitan areas so that the country as a whole can collectively shrink its carbon footprint. They believe that besides economy-wide policies to motivate action, five targeted policies should be put in place that are extremely important within metro areas. They are identified as follows:

• promote a wider variety of transportation choices;

• design more energy-efficient freight operations;

• require home energy cost disclosure when selling a home in order to encourage more energy-efficient appliances in homes;

• use federal housing policies to create incentives to build with both energy and location conservation in mind;

• challenge/reward metropolitan areas to develop innovative solutions toward reducing carbon footprints.

The figure illustrates the results of the study conducted by the Brookings Institution. Of 100 metropolitan areas studied, the highest per cap-

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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