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Monday, April 28, 2008

Carbon footprint – Its reduction means to tackle global warming:


Carbon footprint – Its reduction means to tackle global warming:

A carbon footprint is a ‘measure of the impact of human activities leave on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide’. It is meant to be useful for individuals and organizations to conceptualize their personal or organizational impact in contributing to global warming.

Reduce your carbon footprint. Whether in coal, oil or gas, carbon is the essential ingredient of all fossil fuels. When these fuels are burned to provide energy, carbon dioxide (CO2), a "greenhouse gas", is released to the Earth’s atmosphere.

As we’ve become more dependent on carbon-based fuels, we’ve seen a rapid increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; from around 280 parts per million (ppm) before the industrial revolution, to 370 ppm today. If current trends of fossil fuel use continue the concentration of CO2 is likely to exceed 700 ppm by the end of this century. According to experts, this could lead to global warming of between 1.4 and 5.8°C, which may results in more frequent severe weather conditions and damage to many natural ecosystems. Many believe that it is realistic to promote actions that ensure stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at around 500-550 ppm. This is a considerable challenge, given that global energy demand is expected to double between 2000 and 2050.

To achieve carbon stabilization, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions:

a. What exactly is our current relationship with carbon?

b. How can we reduce our dependency on carbon emitting technologies and fuels - our carbon footprint?

c. What steps are others taking around the world?
As carbon footprint is the measure of carbon dioxide during the life of a particular industry, ‘life cycle’ concept of carbon footprint is familiar.
The life cycle concept of the carbon footprint means that it is all-encompassing and includes all possible causes that give rise to carbon emissions. In other words, all direct (on-site, internal) and indirect emissions (off-site, external, embodied, upstream, downstream etc.) need to be taken into account.

The carbon footprint can be efficiently and effectively reduced by applying the following steps:

(a) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to accurately determine the current carbon footprint,

(b) Identification of hot-spots in terms of energy consumption and associated CO2-emissions,

(c) Optimisation of energy efficiency and, thus, reduction of CO2-emissions and reduction of other GHG emissions contributed from production processes,

(d) Identification of solutions to neutralise the CO2 emissions that cannot be eliminated by energy saving measures,

(e) The last important step includes carbon offsetting; investment in projects that aim at the reducing CO2 emissions, for instance bio-fuels or tree planting activities.

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