Ecological footprint concept

carbon footprint | ecology and conservation
June 29, 2013 – 09:31 am

Tianjin: commuters resting at a traffic light [Credit: Saurabh Das/AP]Carbon footprint Tianjin: commuters resting at a traffic lightSaurabh Das/APamount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with all the activities of a person or other entity (e.g., building, corporation, country, etc.). It includes direct emissions, such as those that result from fossil-fuel combustion in manufacturing, heating, and transportation, as well as emissions required to produce the electricity associated with goods and services consumed. In addition, the carbon footprint concept also often includes the emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, nitrous oxide, or chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The carbon footprint concept is related to and grew out of the older idea of ecological footprint, a concept invented in the early 1990s by Canadian ecologist William Rees and Swiss-born regional planner Mathis Wackernagel at the University of British Columbia. An ecological footprint is the total area of land required to sustain an activity or population. It includes environmental impacts, such as water use and the amount of land used for food production. In contrast, a carbon footprint is usually expressed as a measure of weight, as in tons of CO2 or CO2 equivalent per year.

Carbon footprint calculation

Carbon footprints are different from a country’s reported per capita emissions (for example, those reported under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Rather than the greenhouse gas emissions associated with production, carbon footprints focus on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with consumption. They include the emissions associated with goods that are imported into a country but are produced elsewhere and generally take into account emissions associated with international transport and shipping, which is not accounted for in standard national inventories. As a result, a country’s carbon footprint can increase even as carbon emissions within its borders decrease.

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