Why is Carbon Profiling so important?

by James Lea, 28 September 2005

CarbonView from an aircraft 35,000ft above Crete.  Aviation emissions are causing sea levels to rise - how will the world's coastlines be affected?...

... is the stuff of life (and climate change).

Our energy-intensive 'modern' lifestyles are responsible for the emission of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere every year. As has been widely reported, an unprecedented number of scientists are unanimous in their conclusion that anthropogenic (man-made) emissions of CO2 are now destabilising our weather systems, with ever-rising CO2 levels.

Economic losses

The insurance industry is taking the threat of climate change seriously - and publicly. For example the chairman of one of the world's largest reinsurance firms recently stated on national television that hitherto freak weather events are becoming the norm. Homeowners in flood zones are now finding their properties uninsurable.

Humankind is just starting to face up to the impacts of climate change. As the topic becomes more mainstream (it has even appeared in the Daily Telegraph, although as yet, apparently not in The Sun) it commands more attention. Economic losses from climate change are rising, and as the cause of these losses become more carefully attributed, governments will start to win or lose elections based upon their climate policies and practice.

The topic is being raised at the G8 Summit to be held at Gleneagles, Scotland in July 2005. The British government hopes to persuade the US Administration of the importance of signing up to Kyoto.

Tiger Economies

China's appetite for oil and raw materials is growing fast, and will soon match that of the United States. Politicians agree that bringing China, India and other growing economies into global agreement on emissions reductions is vital if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Personal responsibility for action

However, the ultimate responsibility for action rests with you, the individual. We are all contributing to the problem, and we cannot wait for our electoral systems to creak into action.

As a first step in the right direction, I believe that carbon profiling can help us. By understanding which actions in our lives cause the greatest CO2 emissions, we can act to curb those first.

For example, many people recycle their newspaper, glass, cans, plastic etc., either via council kerbside collection, or by taking those materials down to the local recycling bank. This entails some effort, but undoubtedly leads to a saving in carbon emissions, since those resources can be more effectively recycled than harvested anew.

However, the same people who invest their energy in recycling on a regular basis might not be aware that their annual holiday abroad, entailing a flight from London to Malaga in southern Spain (a comparatively local destination these days) will liberate around 600kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for each person. Worse still, a return trip to Brazil from London will pump out over two and a half tonnes of carbon dioxide - a good twenty five percent of the average annual carbon output of each UK individual.

This completely overwhelms the benefit of recycling on a carbon basis - although there are many other benefits to recycling.


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-- (c) James Lea, www.GreenLiving.co.uk, 2005 - 2007 --