Sunday, 29 November 2015

Everyday Carbon Footprints in Response to COP21 Paris

As an engineer , I have listened carefully to the global and local environmental challenges from colleagues, friends, holistic leaders,  intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations with avid interest. Moving forward, the environmental threats to society and economy has led several environmental governance efforts starting from The Stockholm Conference in 1972 to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris starting from today. The Paris meeting held between November 30-December 11, 2015 shall chart the way forward in adoption of a new climate agreement to be implemented post 2020. 

It is interesting to see our many harmless everyday actions contribute to emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate altering greenhouse gases. The information below is extracted from Times of  India and gives a great Monday start with understanding how best we impact the environment and natural resources, prompting in improved synergies in lifestyle.   

Digital footprint

1. A short email adds 4 gm of CO2 equivalent to (gCO2e) to the atmosphere. 
2. Hitting "send" on 65 mails results in carbon output equivalent to driving an average sized car for a kilometer. 
3. Email with large attachment puts 50 gCO2e into air, ten of such messages are equivalent to burning 1.2 kilograms of coal. 
4. Receiving a spam message-even if you dont open it-has an environmental impact of 0.3 gCO2e. 
5. A web search on an energy efficient laptop leaves a footprint of 0.2 gCO2e, for an old desktop this is 4.5 gCO2e. 
6. Annual global carbon footprint from spam = Greenhouse gas out of 3.1 mn passenger cars using 7.6 bn litres of gasoline in a year. 

Paper OR Plastic

1. Plastic grocery bags have a carbon footprint of 10 gCO2e, paper is even worse at 40 gCO2e each. 
2. Bottled water has nearly 1150 times the emissions attached to it than a glass poured from tap. 
3. A 500 mL bottle is responsible for 160 gCO2e compared to 0.14 gCO2e for tap water. 
4. A large cappuccino comes with a footprint of 235 gCO2e, partly from raising the cow which produced the milk. For a black tea or coffee for which just enough water was boiled, the figure is 21 gCO2e. 


1. Watching two hours of TV on a 24-inch plasma screen pumps out 440 gCO2e-about the same as driving car for 1.6 km.
2. The footprint is 68 gCO2e and 176 gCO2e respectively for two hours watched on a 15- or a 32 inch LCD screen. 
3. A mile of cycling fueled by a meal of bananas would be responsible for 260 gCO2e for a mile powered by cheeseburgers. 

There is no such agreements for such basic modern services or products, except that our own adaptation to low carbon lifestyles. In a world, where over 70% of population will reside in urban areas  by 2050, our lifestyle choices shape the future of human advancement and civilization.