Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
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GLRPPR Sector Resource: On carbon footprints and growing energy use

Title:
On carbon footprints and growing energy use

Abstract:
Could fractional reductions in the carbon footprint of a growing organization lead to a corresponding real reduction in atmospheric CO{sub 2} emissions in the next ten years? Curtis M. Oldenburg, head of the Geologic Carbon Sequestration Program of LBNL's Earth Sciences Division, considers his own organization's carbon footprint and answers this critical question? In addressing the problem of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change, it is essential that we understand which activities are producing GHGs and the scale of emission for each activity, so that reduction efforts can be efficiently targeted. The GHG emissions to the atmosphere of an individual or group are referred to as the 'carbon footprint'. This terminology is entirely appropriate, because 85% of the global marketed energy supply comes from carbon-rich fossil fuel sources whose combustion produces CO{sub 2}, the main GHG causing global climate change. Furthermore, the direct relation between CO2 emissions and fossil fuels as they are used today makes energy consumption a useful proxy for carbon footprint. It would seem to be a simple matter to reduce energy consumption across the board, both individually and collectively, to help reduce our carbon footprints and therefore solve the energyclimate crisis. But just how much can we reduce carbon footprints when broader forces, such as growth in energy use, cause the total footprint to simultaneously expand? In this feature, I present a calculation of the carbon footprint of the Earth Sciences Division (ESD), the division in which I work at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), and discuss the potential for reducing this carbon footprint. It will be apparent that in terms of potential future carbon footprint reductions under projections of expected growth, ESD may be thought of as a microcosm of the situation of the world as a whole, in which alternatives to the business-as-usual use of fossil fuels are needed if absolute GHG emission reductions are to be achieved. Originally published in: Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, 1(1).

URL:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ghg3.8

Source:
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Resource Type:
Article/report

Date of Publication:
2011

Associated Sectors:

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