Please Explain: Carbon Footprints

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Carbon footprint" has become a catchphrase in the last year or two. We find out just what a carbon footprint is, how it’s calculated, and how much it matters. Mark Z. Jacobson is Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and Catherine S. Norman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Weigh in: Do you have any idea what your carbon footprint is? Would knowing your carbon footprint make you change your daily habits?


Mark Z. Jacobson and Catherine S. Norman

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Comments [19]


1)Whai is Carbon Footprint?
2)Is Carbon Footprint beneficial or harmful to the environment?
3)Why is Carbon Footprint being talked about now?
4)How do you calculate Carbon Footprint?
5)Is it difficult to calculate Carbon Footprint?
6)What calculator do you use to calculate Carbon Footprint?
7)What is the second most important component of global warming?
8)Is Ozone a global warming pollutant?
9)What is first order impact?
10)What is second order impact?

Mar. 18 2008 10:46 AM

1. Why has the carbonfoot print just become popular?
2. What exactly do you do to receive a carbonfoot print?
3. How do you calculate a carbon footprint?
4. Is a carbonfoot print harmful to the environment?
5. Do carbonfoot prints hurt the ozone layer?
6. Are there other forms of energy that could be a great asset to carbonfoot prints?
7. What is cellutic ethanol?
8. What is a carbon footprint a product of?
9. Could carbon footprints hurt a human or animals heath?
10. Does carbon footprints effect the greenhouse affect?

Mar. 17 2008 06:50 PM
Mike Robinson from N.Y.C. ()Manhattan)

Geo8rge's comment about the value of the heat given off by incandescent bulbs is ridiculous. The heat given off is insignificant in terms of heating a room. The significance is that it's a mark of the high inefficiency of the bulbs in converting electricity into light. Fluorescent bulbs are much more efficient; that's why a lower-wattage fluorescent bulb gives of the same amount light as an incandescent (though the quality of the light is often less than that of incandescents and, depending on the maker, can be downright poor), and that's why hotel and some home bathrooms use infrared bulbs as an added heat source.

Also, my experience is exactly the opposite of Geo8rge's: my incandescent bulbs consistently burn out much sooner than my compact fluorescents; in fact, I've replaced the incandescent bulb in my kitchen several times in my kitchen, but none of the compact fluorescents I installed elsewhere a good while back.

Feb. 29 2008 04:44 PM
Geo8rge from Brooklyn NY

Fluorescent bulbs are BS because:
1) The quality of the light is not as good.
2) While I admit that incandescent put out more heat, during the winter the heat is offset by less need for other indoor heating. During the summer there is less need for lighting in general. The math does not work as cleanly as propents claim.
3) My experience is that fluorescent bulbs fail much sooner than predicted. They also do not work in enclosed lighting fixtures due to heat build up.
4) Incandescent bulbs are optimal for temporary applications like construction sites, and exhibitions.
5) I once vacuumed a broken flourescent bulb and the chemicals inside shorted out the electric motor of my vacuum.
6) Environmental impact calculations need to go beyond watts used. Flourescent bulbs require a lot more material and processing to produce.
7) The reason people do not use fluorescent bulbs is they do not work as claimed. People are not stupid. They understand the pros and cons and choose incandescent. Angry enviro-nuts hate this so they want the police to enforce their delusions.

Finally I suspect that fluorescent bulb makers are really the ones lobbying for a change in laws. They cannot compete with incandescent, and they see LED bulbs in the near future so they need a government program to save their investments.

Feb. 29 2008 02:10 PM
Mike Robinson from N.Y. C. ()Manhattan)

What is cellutic ethanol? Is it ethanol from sugar cane? If not, what does the latter do in terms of carbon footprint? And is forest land in Brazil being destroyed to plant sugar cane for ethanol?

Feb. 29 2008 01:53 PM
ericf from jersey city

any comments on use of bio-reactors to process exhaust gasees from carbon-fueled power plants etc?

Feb. 29 2008 01:51 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

I think wind turbines can be a great asset but they need to be redesigned so that the land around them is can be used, they have a large footprint because of the blades!

Howa about assuming that many change to CFLs, they will end up in landfills no matter what and also what about their life-cycle footprint when they are tossed?

Feb. 29 2008 01:48 PM
Hal from Astoria, New York

Ive heard that becoming vegan or vegetarian greatly decreases your carbon footprint because of the huge environmental impact of producing meat and dairy products. How much can you reduce your footprint by going vegan?

Feb. 29 2008 01:48 PM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

there's a store on 60th st called just bulbs - they take used fluorescents for a fee

Feb. 29 2008 01:47 PM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

How about the footprint of the entire agribusiness nitrates - corn - beef - as described in The Omnivore's Dilemma? Why does nobody talk about the fossil fuels involved in cow towns?

Feb. 29 2008 01:44 PM

I have heard that when a tree is cut it releases all the carbon dioxide it has absorbed during its life. If true then how is this addressed by firms claiming to offset carbon usage by planting trees?

Feb. 29 2008 01:41 PM
Mia from Brooklyn

I've heard that the manufacturing of electric or hybrid cars, such as the Prius, takes more energy than producing regular gas cars because of the special battries that have to be made. Is this true, and if so would be better to convert an older car to run on vegetable oil or biodiesel for example? Thinking of the previous segment on cars and consumers, perhaps we need to encourage the ideas of "reduce, REUSE, and recycle"?

Feb. 29 2008 01:38 PM
Richard Sumner from Pomona, NY

Regarding living in a cave and cooking over a fire from sticks.

That is carbon neutral. The problem carbon comes from the ground, fossil fuel. Burning it adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere that was previously buried (or sequestered). The sticks burned to cook with are made from carbon recently removed from the atmosphere.

I'm surprised that your guest did not mention this.

Feb. 29 2008 01:38 PM
Harry from Manhattan

2 pounds of nuclear fuel yields approximately the same amount of energy as 300 tons of coal. You can do allot of mining and processing with that many BTUs. What is the carbon foot print of a Prius How does that compare to keeping your older 24mpg car for 100k more miles?

Feb. 29 2008 01:38 PM
Joshua L.

In my personal thumbnail carbon footprint calculation (which I do make, even when I am cooking) I reserve special guilt for buying products made in China. I know the unregulated pollution there and fuel used to deliver it to me is especially horrid.

Feb. 29 2008 01:38 PM
World's Toughest Milkman from the_C_train

Carbon offsets sound like a complete scam, pay to pollute.

I agree that we should reduce any emissions but what about the outside possibility that the global warming concept is not true; how did the previous ice ages come to end?

Feb. 29 2008 01:37 PM
Nikola Berger from Brooklyn

I have yet to find a calculator that asks if you eat local food or food from far away. While the calculators ask for how often i fly, it doesn't ask what and how much has to fly FOR me (e.g. kiwis from new Zealand, etc.)

Feb. 29 2008 01:34 PM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Considering that global populations are increasing exponentially, does it truly matter what any individual does to reduce their Carbon Footprint? With all of the intellectual conversations about living greener, it seems to me that population growth is almost never introduced into the conversation as the main proponent of why our planet is heading towards the “greenhouse cliff”. What then is the solution, since it is unrealistic and unfair to tell people how many children they are allowed, or if they will be allowed to have children at all. It has not worked for China.

Feb. 29 2008 12:53 PM
hjs from 11211

what is the true carbon footprint of nuclear energy, from mining, refining, transportation and waste disposal. is nuclear energy really carbon neutral as some say?

Feb. 29 2008 12:31 PM

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