Norwegian scientists have created a new method of calculating carbon footprint that allocates the carbon produced in the country of consumption, not just in the country of production, bringing up some interesting issues and possible solutions to the difficulties of combating climate change.
This revised carbon footprint study makes it possible to calculate the carbon cost of imported goods accurately. The new study by Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Centre of International Climate and Environment Research in Oslo and published at carbonfootprintofnations.com – incorporating these numbers – is important as we start to consider carbon reduction legislation.
While high consumption nations remain in most of the same positions relative to others, under this new calculation method, some of the changes are interesting.
The US still leads the world, but now tops the scale at 29 tonnes of carbon emitted per capita. Australia and Canada are next at about 21 tonnes. Malawi and Mozambique had the lowest per capita figures. Germany, Denmark, Norway and the UK were 10th at 15 tonnes per capita, but they did better than Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Belgium that came in between 16 and 18 tonnes.
For rich nations; transport and manufactured goods provided most of the carbon footprint. Most of their consumption is produced in China. China’s own carbon footprint for its own consumers figured relatively low on these 2001 based figures, at just 3 tonnes per capita.
By 2050 we will all need to have moved to a 1 tonne per capita average, something that is not as hard to achieve as many imagine. Technically we could achieve it now, with current technologies.
The obstacle is the political difficulty of justifying such a radical switch from the traditional source of energy to the new sources from renewable energy. In already developed nations, an entrenched existing energy sector works to make the problem political rather than technical. And because it costs money to build any new energy infrastructure, existing infrastructure (that was paid off long ago) seems cheap by comparison.
But nations that have yet to build most of their energy infrastructure, like China present an opportunity for a more level playing field. China is now investing $9 billion every month on renewable energy.
For example, if every manufacturing plant in China were solar powered instead of (70%) coal powered as now, that would also reduce the carbon footprint of the high consumption nations, whose carbon footprint largely comes from manufactured goods mostly made in China. Even CCS in China could reduce rich nations carbon footprints by cutting carbon emissions from coal plants in China.
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