How do personal activities contribute to carbon dioxide emissions?
Personal activities emit carbon dioxide in small units and the little things add up. Activities like eating a cheeseburger generate 3 kg of carbon dioxide and leaving the oven on for 2 hours produces 20 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.
How are bigger scale emissions and activities reported?
Carbon dioxide emissions are usually reported on an annual basis. Significant activities are grouped together For example, an annual train commute generates 130 kg, and purchasing a new laptop emits 250 kg of carbon dioxide.
In northern Europe, the biggest contributors to a household's carbon emissions are annual household electricity use, generating 1.3 tonnes, and annual car mileage, which emits 1.7 tonnes. The largest contributor, however, is burning gas in boilers for heating and hot water, producing 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
What scale do big emitters operate on in terms of carbon dioxide emissions?
Big emitters operate on a much larger scale, in thousands and millions of tonnes. For example, an airport might generate 10 thousand tonnes, while bigger businesses like a global pharmaceutical firm might produce 100 thousand tonnes. The emissions of big companies or even whole countries are measured in millions of tonnes (M tonnes) of CO2e, where e indicates that other greenhouse gases like methane have been converted into equivalent carbon dioxide emissions.
Scope 3 emissions account for the impact of a company's products. When included, it can significantly increase the carbon footprint. For example, an oil and gas company emitting 40 million tonnes from its operations might produce 400 million tonnes when accounting for the impact of its products.
What is the key to tackling carbon emissions?
Making small changes is crucial to addressing carbon emissions. Starting with smaller things like shifts in diet or travel plans helps people understand carbon accounting concepts and the carbon budget, leading to larger changes. Switching to a vegan diet could save 8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, almost a quarter of global man-made emissions. A flexitarian diet, where 75% of meat and dairy are replaced by cereals and pulses, could save 5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.