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Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is an estimate of the climate impact of an activity – such as making a product, living a lifestyle or running a company.

Typically, a carbon footprint is calculated by estimating not just the CO2 emissions that the activity in question causes, but also any emissions of other greenhouse gases (such as methane and nitrous oxide) and in some cases other types of climate impacts as well, such as vapour trails from aeroplanes.

For simplicity, all these impacts are added together and expressed as a single number in terms of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e): the amount of CO2 that would create the same amount of warming.

The traditional way of estimating a carbon footprint – so-called ‘lifecycle assessment’ – involves adding up as many of the emissions pathways as is feasible.

An alternative approach is to use so-called ‘input-output’ analysis. This aims to avoid missing out pathways by taking the total emissions of a country or region, dividing it by lots of sectors (e.g. toy manufacturing, food growing, freight, etc.) and estimating the total emissions that each sector accounts for. Those figures can then be used to estimate the footprint of, say, each dollar spent on toys.

This year, Australia emitted around 546 million tonnes of greenhouse gas. We just divide this number by the current population (22,784,686) and that gives us the average emissions per person: 24 tonnes per year – simple.

Story by Judith Bence, Story source: www.yonderr.com.au

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