Our carbon footprint has a negative impact on the environment in multiple ways: It is the main cause of human-induced climate change, it contributes to urban air pollution, it leads to toxic acid rain, it adds to coastal and ocean acidification, and it worsens the melting of glaciers and polar ice.
How to limit one’s individual Carbon footprint
The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Usually, the bulk of an individual’s carbon footprint will come from transportation, housing, and food. Below are a few ways individuals can begin to offset their own carbon footprint:
- Consume local and seasonal products
- Limit meat consumption
- Select fish from sustainable fishing
- Bring reusable shopping bags and avoid products with excessive plastic packaging
- Make sure to buy only what you need to avoid waste
Benefits of reducing Carbon Footprint
Reducing one’s carbon footprint is important because it mitigates the effects of climate change and has a positive cascade effect on public health and plant and animal diversity. In addition, this boosts the global economy and leads to innovative, more environmental-friendly solutions.
CO2 Emissions by Country
Carbon emissions affect human life directly by causing more respiratory complications due to the increase in air pollution. Even worse, carbon emissions kill some animal species and destroy food, which directly affects humans. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. In 2020, CO2 accounted for about 79% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
- China – 29.18%
- United States – 14.02%
- India – 7.09%
- Russia – 4.65%
Carbon negative means, in effect, that a person, business, or country emits less than zero carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gasses. However, since it is impossible to emit a negative amount of carbon (or any other physical substance), being carbon-negative refers to the net emissions that a person creates. Thus, being carbon negative means we offset or remove more carbon from the atmosphere than we emit.
- Bhutan became the first carbon negative country in the world in 2021. It also produces more oxygen than it consumes.
- Suriname (Tuvalu) became the second among the carbon negative countries
- Panama’s forest land (approximately 65%) captures more carbon gas than the total gas emissions, thus making Panama a carbon negative country
Below are the countries which achieved carbon emissions of only 1 Mton since 2019:
- Saint Helena
- Wallis and Futuna Islands
Carbon neutrality is a state of net-zero carbon dioxide emission which means no carbon is emitted from the get-go, so no carbon needs to be captured or offset. Carbon neutrality also means the same amount of CO2 that a person, business, or country emitted has been removed through carbon removal activities. In other words, the carbon accounting balance is zero. For example, a company whose building runs entirely on solar and uses zero fossil fuels can label its energy as “zero carbon.”
The below six countries have passed their carbon neutral targets into law:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Measuring a Company’s Carbon Footprint
Companies release greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons into the atmosphere during manufacturing, transportation, or other business activities. The carbon footprint of a company accounts for both the direct and indirect GHG emissions of the company.
- Direct GHG emissions: GHG emissions can be the result of company actions that come from facilities owned by the company. For example, if a fossil fuel power plant burns coal to generate electricity or a factory releases CO2 while producing goods as a by-product these count as direct GHG emissions.
- Indirect GHG emissions: The companies that use intermediate or final goods for their operations indirectly cause GHG emissions because the production and transportation of these goods emit a certain amount of GHG. Supplier emissions, electricity consumption for the company’s operations, and waste disposal all fall into this category.
The carbon footprint of a business is the measurement of a company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in units of tons. 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. An organization can estimate its carbon footprint by multiplying the unit of business operation (e.g, gallons of gasoline) with the operation-specific emission factor (which is equal to 8,887 grams CO2/gallon for gasoline according to the US Environmental Protection Agency). So, for instance, a field sales team that consumes 13,503 gallons of gasoline per month for transportation purposes creates a carbon footprint of approximately 120 tons per month.
Five steps to calculating your carbon footprint
- Understanding why you are doing it
- Defining your emissions
- Reducing your emissions
- Verifying your footprint
- Reporting on your emissions
Scientists estimate that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the odds of initiating the most dangerous and irreversible effects of climate change. The 1.5 °C target is the goal of the Paris Agreement, which calls for countries to take concerted climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming.
It will be impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors. The global temperature will stabilize only when carbon dioxide emissions reach net zero or below. For 1.5°C (2.7°F), this means achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally in the early 2050s. For 2°C (3.6°F), it is in the early 2070s. To achieve the 2°C (3.6°F), target with a probability of around 70%, it is estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease by 50-60% from the year 2000 to 2050, and by almost 100% by 2100. To achieve a 1.5°C target with a probability of around 70%, zero emissions are needed globally as early as 2050s.
Aiming for carbon neutrality is important because it mitigates the effects of global climate change, improves public health, boosts the global economy, and maintains biodiversity. When we cut carbon emissions, we help ensure cleaner air, water, and food for our generation and for generations yet to come. Industrial businesses have the opportunity to make a substantial impact on global GHG emissions and can play a major role in achieving carbon neutrality.