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carbon footprint

A carbon footprinting tool for a cool climate

Daniel Kammen's picture

More and more people are interested in carbon emissions analysis and management. You can see this in the growth of awareness-raising campaigns to promote lower-carbon lifestyle choices, as well as voluntary carbon offset programs and proliferating  online household carbon footprint calculators. 

 

Now that interest is being harnessed at the community and country level. At the World Bank, partnerships for low-carbon communities are underway with over a dozen cities, as well as several countries. These include efforts to analyze carbon emissions profiles. At the city level, it’s the first step to prioritizing action to not only reduce emissions, but also deliver better services to the poor.

 

Calculators and tools help people understand the greenhouse gas benefits of effective climate action, but not all tools are created equal. A good calculator should be comprehensive and sophisticated, but also transparent and user-friendly. The best ones not only calculate emissions, but help people manage them.

 

One example is the CoolClimate Calculator which was developed by a team of students under my direction at the University of California, Berkeley. Chris Jones, Mia Yamauchi, Joe Kentenbacher, and Gang He, among others, developed the tool at the University of California, Berkeley. It measures carbon impacts of specific transportation choices and of energy use, but also includes impacts of water, waste, food, goods and services for both households and businesses. These indirect sources of emissions account for more than 50% of the total carbon footprint of the typical U.S. household.

 

 

Carbon footprints: What you buy matters, but where you live is more important!

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Lots of people, companies, cities, and nations have started to calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since you can only change what you can measure. These measurements are starting to highlight some very interesting trends and show how complex the global results of our lifestyle are.

Blueprint for Green Schools

Sophie Bathurst's picture

The author, Sophie Bathurst of Australia, won first place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. She answered the question "How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.

Tree protection zone in Bradleys Head, Sydney
   Photo © Sophie Bathurst

My vision for Australia is that of a nation where healthy people live in a healthy environment.  I believe that Australia's future social and economic prosperity as well as the livelihoods of our Pacific Island neighbours depend on our response to the climate challenge. An effective response demands the engagement of all sectors of society and involves both responsible adaptation to existing environmental problems as well as the mitigation of further climate change.

If we ignore the warnings, we will not only damage our precious ecosystems and lose our water resources but will also have to contend with disruption of services; decline in key industries such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries; and increased health problems for society’s most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and remote indigenous communities.

If we think long-term and embrace the challenge, however, climate change can present an opportunity for youth. It can contribute to the establishment of an energy sector based on renewable and clean fuels, the development of world-class research centres and the implementation of globally recognised education programs in sustainability.

Education lies at the core of an initiative that I proposed recently. I envision a series of new projects for primary schools that will be led by a 'Green Taskforce' composed mainly of unemployed youth. The projects are designed to build confidence and to equip young people with some of the skills required for permanent employment in environmental trades. At the same time, these projects will create a culture of ecological awareness and healthy living within primary schools and teach students to reduce their carbon footprint.

Lessons from not so long ago

Kavita Watsa's picture

Even in the frugal India of the 1970s, where the idea of waste bordered on the criminal, I thought my grandfather was being excessively old-fashioned when he refused to use our indoor water-heater to take a hot bath in the cooler months.

Lessons from not so long ago
Photo © Cammeraydave | Dreamstime.com
Although we could quite easily afford our modest electricity bills, he would insist on staggering outside with a bucket of water and leaving it to grow warm in the afternoon sunshine for a few hours. Then he would struggle back indoors with it, and, presently, emerge from his bath to take his evening walk down to the railway station to watch the trains go by. My granddad was eighty years old at the time: a man of many interests, but very few needs.

Was it really just three decades ago that my granddad’s carbon footprint was barely visible? Today, as part of my job at the World Bank, I’ve been following climate issues closely, and am often struck by the difference between life in a big western city in the 21st century and in the small-town India in which I grew up. In my world today, many people are beginning to adopt “carbon fasts” during the Christian period of Lent, agreeing to a daily low-carbon action, say, unscrewing a light bulb and doing without it for 40 days. But in the small-town India of my childhood, my grandfather wouldn’t have installed—much less used—an electric light, unless he really needed it to begin with. 

Comparing the fuel efficiency of planes, trains, automobiles – and cheeseburgers?

James I Davison's picture

After East Asia & Pacific on the rise blogger and World Bank conservationist Tony Whitten recently questioned the morality of jetting off to Asia so often for work, this chart from GOOD Magazine – comparing (sort of) the efficiency of different modes of transportation – caught my eye.

Since the people who made the chart are considering gallons of fuel used per passenger to travel a long distance, Tony’s frequently used airplanes are far from being the worst offenders on the list, which is led by gas-guzzling SUVs and cruise ships. When it comes to realistically traveling 350 miles, your most efficient choices – in the following order, according to this chart – are to travel by bus, train, or (you guessed it) airplane.

If that doesn't cut it for you, however, and you are feeling particularly energetic, they made a conversion to human energy. In such a case, GOOD estimates, a person would have to consume approximately 16 Whoppers to complete the trip by bike and 48 of the mouth-watering cheeseburgers to trek the distance on foot (To be safe, I'll take a similar stance as GOOD in "neither endorsing or denouncing the consumption of Whoppers").

As an aside, I would have liked to figure out how many of the burgers it would take to fuel the number of air miles logged by World Bank Group's Washington, DC, staff (as Tony discovered, it equals at least 400 million miles each year) – were they to travel by foot. But seeing as my math skills were never too great, maybe one of you, dear readers, can help me figure out their equation?

(hat tip to FlowingData)

How windy is your neighborhood? Interactive map shows you

James I Davison's picture

Here’s a website that might pique your interest, even if you don’t plan on becoming the next T. Boone Pickens – a wealthy American businessman who is investing millions of his own dollars in wind energy. A site called FirstLook has a Google Maps mashup overlaying years of meteorological wind data onto an interactive map.

They’ve recently expanded their wind data to cover the entire planet, making it a really easy tool to see potential spots for future wind farms in Mongolia (pretty good) versus Indonesia (not so good). The website sells detailed site location information, which is intended for entrepreneurs looking to get in on the ground floor of alternative energy investments. Still, I think the free wind speed data is interesting by itself.

The FirstLook site also has a section to look at an area’s solar satellite data, but it unfortunately only covers the places in the United States.

(via Springwise.com)

Cities on the rise?

Alexander Lotsch's picture

The developing world is rapidly urbanizing, as a previous World Development Report noted. Low and middle-income nations are home to three quarters of the world’s urban population. Urban areas are likely to absorb almost all of the world’s population increase over the next two decades. The most populous urban areas tend to concentrate in coastal zones--China and India alone have more than a quarter of the world’s urban population and the world’s largest population living in low-lying coastal zones. Even Africa, generally considered a rural continent, has two-fifths of its population in urban areas, and a large concentration of coastal cities.

Burgeoning carbon offset industry in East Asia

Michael Figueroa's picture

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was at the World Bank’s Washington, DC headquarters last Thursday to speak on elements of the Big Apple’s success in attracting “the free, global movement of labor, capital and ideas.”  Bloomberg noted that New York has joined more than 700 other American cities in pledging to meet Kyoto protocol standards for carbon reduction – in sharp contrast to the current U.S.