Ecology And Environment

What would Replace Carbon Footprint Units

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"What would Replace Carbon Footprint Units"
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The Green Scale

What is a carbon footprint? What does it relate to? Who can say how much 30 tonnes of CO2 feels like or looks like much less describe your own carbon footprint in simple terms, except to be vaguely high or low. Most people cannot relate to the carbon footprint or measure it without an online calculator. And experts who try to define and relate the carbon footprint to Climate Change make it unnecessarily complicated. Carbon Footprint units are not needed. We need a new scale, a simpler Green Scale to make things more accessible to people so they can better understand how much CO2 is  being/has been used.

Carbon Footprint defined:

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities (mostly fossil fuel use) have on the environment. It measures all the greenhouse gases mankind produces in units of tonnes (or kg) of carbon dioxide. There are two types of carbon footprint: direct emission of CO2 (e.g. fossil fuels, energy consumption, and transportation, etc) and indirect emissions (e.g. emissions from the total lifecycle of the product).

But how is this calculated? Will every household have a user-friendly carbon footprint booklet? Even after begrudgingly logging in to a carbon footprint site and calculating your footprint, then what? No one else has bothered so you’re left in your own carbon footprint bubble. Also, and more importantly, the value of the amount of tonnes CO2 produced is meaningless without some context as to if that value is good or bad. So, again, you have a number, but no meaningful reference. There is no international, one-size-fits-all carbon footprint calculator.

The disadvantage of the carbon footprint unit is in having to comprehend the context of the calculating and relating it to everyday life. All you can do is calculate your CO2 lifestyle, but not individual, everyday events and product use.

The Green Scale defined:

The Green Scale would solve this with an international and industry-standard scale in line with many other global scales. We have the Richter Scale (where numbers 1 up to a nominal number denote the severity of an earthquake), the Mohs Scale (1 to 10 on the hardness of objects), different scales for temperature (Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin, etc), and the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, to name a few. And by another analogy there is even a countdown to the end of the world in the Doomsday Clock and its minutes to midnight. Everyone understands these. They are internationally known. So why not establish a new scale that emphasises the greenness or lack thereof regarding personal lifestyle, companies, cities, countries, regions, technology, etc.

It’s simple: Zero (0) would be the lowest point being carbon neutral. The upper point (for man-made emissions) would be 10 with decimal points in between. Factors would include carbon-producing gas/oil/electric/coal use, private and public transport, flights, food and drink industry, clothing, manufacturing, housing/building structures, recreation and leisure, financial issues, etc and how CO2 it is being tackled. The Green Scale could also be adapted to non-man-made emissions, like natural events such as volcanoes whose carbon emissions are hundreds of times what humans produce. Here, the Green Scale would continue past the upper (man-made emissions limit) of 10, showing the comparison between natural and man-made emissions.

Visually, the Green Scale would look like a simplified thermometer, but the ‘mercury’ would be coloured green up to the highest measured point of CO2. The lighter the green, the closer to zero carbon. Such a scale could be placed on vehicles, white goods, aircraft, throughout companies, and anywhere where carbon is produced as an industry-standard symbol denoting its environmentally-friendliness.

On maps, a number within a green symbol would denote the carbon emission level. The world would be split into a Greenscape and every country, region, city and parts thereof would have a number on the Green Scale as ascertained from existing and new investigations. So for instance, New York might have a rating of 6.0 on the Green Scale while Paris has 5.3 and so on for each city. After each city and area is factored in, the country would get an overall rating, thus the US may have a rating of 7.5 while China has 7.6, Iceland with 4.1, and so on.

The Green Scale would already be ‘preloaded’ with the indirect CO2 emissions (e.g. manufacturing process, product packaging, transport, recyclability, etc). So a car might have a value on the Green Scale of 2.0 with a preloaded value of 0.8 for its pre-use value and 1.2 for its usage, expected fuel use, mileage, and post-life use. Essentially, the Green Scale will account for CO2 cradle-to-grave and cradle-to-cradle usage in man-made products. The car, or any other product, would have a sticker or badge with the Green Scale value assigned to it. All these Green Scale values would have been pre-agreed by an international body with published data and resulting Green Scale values. Every company would be required to have a Green Scale value for their products, like a quality mark.

Monitoring-wise, the Green Scale would have to use recorded data from the now-defunct carbon footprint scheme and be translated/equated into Green Scale units. Open-air Green Scales could be straight-forward CO2 monitors placed in streets, open areas and the aforementioned features above producing a value for the regional Green Scale. They would be easily accessible and readable without unnecessary online calculations. Of course the Green Scale initiative will cost money and time to establish, but the Green Scale will be a truly global and innovative way to live a low carbon lifestyle and to tackle Climate Change.

The Green Scale would give people a quantitative and qualitative view on Climate Change, with a simple number they would be able to see, understand, measure, and change for their own benefit. The lower the number the better until carbon neutrality was achieved. The Green Scale would be a simple, user-friendly strategy and a sure-fire visual way to engage and educate people in understanding the effects of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.

More about this author: Ray Burke

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