In the last year I have really focused part of my work into looking at ways in which nature can play a role in climate mitigation.
If you remember, I spoke on a podcast about the role of shellfish and wrote a piece about carbon credits , and natural capital or better 'how nature can enter economy'. I would suggest to start there if you haven't already, to grasp some of the concepts.
This week, I was trying to calculate the amount of CO2 that would be 'offset' if we took better care of particular coastal habitats that are great at capturing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing this in their biomass and soil. Of course, this is mostly from an ecological perspective, and it's quite a challenging task, as it depends on a variety of factors - some of which intrinsically depending on climate itself (temperature and sea level), so it's a matter of complicating simple math and hoping to solve the equations in the right way. But I am going off on a tangent here..
I am saying this, because I wanted to put some of these numbers in perspective, and I asked myself how many hectares would be necessary to offset my own yearly emissions?Thankfully, to answer this question there is no need to make a model from scratch and there are no equations to write, as somebody has already done it and there are plenty of carbon footprint calculators. I used this one .
Warning: before using make sure you have some time, and have some household bills ready. And I hope you have a good memory of your past year, what you did etc.
Well, I am unbelievably shocked. Despite 2 months in lockdown (so no travelling, no nothing) - my footprint appeared quite massive. Bigger than average from my country. I felt offended. Can that really be my footprint? Mine!? The girl who cares a lot and tries everything possible to minimise it. The girl who used to fly a lot and now really reconsiders and has switched to trains. The one who only buys loose fruits and vegs, buys only what's local even if it means eating courgettes for a week in a row, the one that only buys vintage clothes and goes to clothes exchange markets, or splash on something new but only if it's made by an artisan.
Yes, ok, I may go away at weekends and I have friends and family quite far, so some travel is necessary. But hey, travels when done right enhances ones lives, and to me it holds a huge value that is very important. A weekend hiking in nature (if respecting it and not disrupting it) is always gonna be better than a weekend slumped on the sofa. There is no co2 calculator that could convince me otherwise.
Let's go back to the CO2 calculator, and why i think it must be taken with a pinch (or two) of salt.
(1) It works by putting estimated consumption of electricity and gas. Says nothing about the provenance of these (maybe it uses a country average), but surely it's an important aspect - for example you may be using mostly green energy or mostly fossil fuels (although, as I am trying it's hard to switch to full on green energy if you are a private).
(2) It works by putting the number of km travelled by various transport modes. For cars it says little about how efficiently one drives, or how many people the car is shared with. So if you do a lot of km in blabla cars versus a lot of km alone it gives you the same value...
(3) You must estimate how much money you spend on things, from groceries to clothes, electrics and even phone bills. But surely, it's much different if I spend 100 euro on a handmade jumper from a local artisan made only from wool than if i spent 100 euro at a fast fashion shop (H&M, Zara, Primark and all the rest..) which uses artificial fabrics, right? Same for food. You can choose whether you are high, medium, low meat or pescatarian, veg.. I said low meat as I do consume it sometimes, but only get it from the butcher and perhaps i spend a little more on it compared to cheap supermarket ones that are pumped and imported... And same for fruit and veg, actually they can be more expensive if you get them local (or not, it depends where you go and what you buy), but basically - money spent on something are not equivalent to co2 print.
Perhaps I am saying this because I want to find some reasoning for that huge number (that would require quite a big area of wetland, really, if calculation on that front are right....), or perhaps as a warning that one has to take a more holistic approach to it.
Yes, is undoubtedly true that co2 and greenhouse gases are at the base of climate change, but there is much more at play here and a complete approach should be taken to change society.
And if you know of better designed calculators, please do let me know. I am curious...
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