July 1, 2012

What is a Carbon Footprint?

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to support a specific activity, and is usually equated as tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) (other greenhouse gases are included as part of this total and are weighted according to their carbon content).

A specific activity, like catching a flight, can have its own carbon footprint. It is also possible to approximate the carbon footprint of a person for an entire year. This would be done by adding up the collective greenhouse gases that all of your yearly activities produce, be they caused by the car you use to drive to work, the energy production required to heat and light your home, the power needed to produce the food you eat, and so on. Typically, we calculate a perons’s carbon footprint over a year.

Australia actually has one of the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world, and the highest of any OECD nation. In 2006, our per capita emissions were 28.1 tonnes of CO2 (or equivalent), with only five other counties in the world ranking higher – Bahrain, Bolivia, Brunei, Kuwait and Qatar. Not great company to be in, to be sure. Taking a look at the chart below, we can see that our per capita carbon footprint is twice the OECD average and more than four times that of the world average!


Source: Syed et al. (2007).

One of the primary reasons for the high level of our greenhouse emissions is due to electricity consumption. In fact, we utilise more than 3 times the OECD average – juse take a look at the graphic below.


Sources: IEA (2007a); DCC (2008b).

There are of course many ways of reducing our carbon footprint. Numerous government programs have been enacted to incentivise the installation of solar panels on houses and businesses around the country. Solar power, of course, being completely clean (the production process for the system aside). Unfortunately many of these assistance packages have been rolled back, as ultimately they are not as cost effective as large-scale renewable energy efforts such as solar thermal power plants, and wind farms.

  • Brenton

    So why has no one been talking about the sly way the government is making money out of the carbon tax?

    We run a small business and have just been informed by our gas supplier that gas will go up 4c a litre ‘plus GST’ a tax on a tax…. It’s the same with the power, and the flow on will be through all of our suppliers. Therefore our prices have to go up, how far is the subsidy going to stretch? 

    Gillard is trying to make her mark, a permanent note in history, sort of like a dog cocking his leg on a visitors car tyre. Someone needs to yank this bitches lead, smack her on the nose and tell her ‘No’!

    If you are so sure the country wants this call an election (with a referendum on boat people). Australians don’t hate much, just liars, cheats, and thieves.

  • Sugarbabey54

    i dont understand, why peopel want carbon tax in my eyes i think its a stupid thing

  • Mario Catalano

    for my concern, why on earth would carbon tax be implemented in a town of just over 7 people??

  • Anonymous

    I think what people don’t see is the effect of carbon emission in years to come. People react negatively because they lose some money.. But they are not the only ones who does. Every day, people lose money in different sorts of conventional and unconventional ways. But in this sense, we get to have a greener and more sustainable future. Not for us, but for our kids. I would spend as much as I can if it means that my kids could live a couple years more because of a cleaner environment. What this just needs is some monitoring and regulating on both sides. People can be so selfish. You don’t really care what happens outside of your backyard, as long as it does not affect you..

  • jpjpjpjoj

    carbon footprint doesnt matter…