Carbon Footprint Essay example

921 Words Apr 12th, 2011 4 Pages
The term carbon footprint, therefore, is a shorthand to describe the best estimate that we can get of the full climate change impact of something. That something could be anything – an activity, an item, a lifestyle, a company, a country or even the whole world.
CO2e? What's that?
Man-made climate change, or global warming, is caused by the release of certain types of gas into the atmosphere. The dominant man-made greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is emitted whenever we burn fossil fuels in homes, factories or power stations. But other greenhouse gases are also important. Methane (CH4), for example, which is emitted mainly by agriculture and landfill sites, is 25 times more potent per kilogram than CO2. Even more potent but
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These kinds of carbon footprint are actually more like carbon 'toe-prints' – they don't give the full picture.
Direct versus indirect emissions
Much of the confusion around footprints comes down to the distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' emissions. The true carbon footprint of a plastic toy, for example, includes not only direct emissions resulting from the manufacturing process and the transportation of the toy to the shop: it also includes a whole host of indirect emissions, such as those caused by the extraction and processing of the oil used to make the plastic in the first place. These are just a few of the processes involved. If you think about it, tracing back all the things that have to happen to make that toy leads to an infinite number of pathways, most of which are infinitesimally small. To make the point clearly, let's try following just one of those pathways. The staff in the offices of the plastic factory used paper clips made of steel. Within the footprint of that steel is a small allocation to take account of the maintenance of a digger in the iron mine that the steel originally came from … and so on for ever. The carbon footprint of the plastic toy includes the lot, so working it out accurately is no easy…

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