Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Five Degrees difference changes our landscape

New York Under Ice - global warming effects

It is estimated that the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will almost certainly lead to a 2 Degree rise in global temperatures. It has been suggested that because the consequences of a 2 Degree rise are already certain, it would be better to invest in preparing for the consequences of more extreme weather events and rising sea levels rather than reducing emissions.

However, if mankind does not change it’s appetite for fossil fuels then average temperatures will rise by more than 2 Degrees. As Bill McKibben of 350.org said, there are different degrees of hell. The consequences of a 3 Degree rise are much more severe than 2 Degrees, and 4 Degrees is even worse.

For those who say that the world has survived greater variations in average temperature, they are right. Over the last 5 billion years temperatures have been more extreme and the world has kept turning. But is has a devastating impact on mankind and all biodiversity.

The last time the global average temperatures were 5 Degrees different from today was during the last ice age, when temperatures were much cooler. As a result, New York was under 15 meters of ice. The impact of a similar rise in global average temperatures would be different but just as catastrophic.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The big carbon footprint in food

Household carbon emissions per activity shows food is the largest contributor
Everything has a carbon footprint. But when most of us think of our carbon footprint we think in terms of the carbon emissions from energy, such as electricity or transport. Few people would consider the large contribution to the household carbon footprint of food. However, a recent study by Taverner Research (commissioned by Willoughby Council on Willoughby residents), looked at the holistic carbon footprint per household and found that almost half the emissions, 47% on average, are a result of the food we buy.

The study shows that a household of three people is responsible for 38.7 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum on average, with food being the largest contributor (47%), then travel (27%), Household Energy - including electricity, gas, heating and cooling (24%) and Waste (2%). Table 1 shows the household carbon emissions per activity in tonnes of CO2e.

Table 1: Carbon Emissions per household activity
Household tonnes of carbon emissions by activity
Interestingly, but not unexpected, the research showed that carbon emissions per occupant decreases as the number of people living in the household increases. Because occupants share some energy consumption and therefore each occupant is responsible for fewer carbon emissions. The study found that an individual on their own is responsible for 14.9 tonnes of carbon emissions on average, which is much higher than the average carbon emissions per individual across all research participants of 11.97 tonnes.

Carbon emissions are almost one-third lower per occupant in a household of five people compared to a household with a sole occupant.

Carbon Footprint per household occupant decreases as the number of occupants increases
This research clearly shows we need to consider more than just the energy we use when considering our impact on the environment. While there is merit in cohabitation in order to reduce the carbon emissions per occupant, the real opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint appear to be found in what we eat. A big part of an individual’s carbon footprint comes from food. Our next article looks at ways to reduce your carbon footprint from food.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Effective Carbon Offsets are an Answer to Climate Change

Climate Change Scam Question

The Australian Government has delayed the implementation of an Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) until 2013. This failure at the political level has severely retarded the ability of Australia as a nation to effectively combat climate change. With no framework to regulate the reduction of carbon emissions in Australia, the onus is now on individuals and organisations to voluntarily reduce emissions in order to help drive the transition to a low-carbon future.

So how does an organisation or individual most effectively reduce global carbon emissions? Certainly, the need to avoid and reduce energy use is necessary and financially beneficial, but more is needed to achieve the deep cuts in carbon emissions required to reduce damaging climate change.

We need to reduce the amount of carbon mankind emits to the atmosphere. One way to achieve this is through effective carbon offsets.

Carbon offsetting allows you to reduce carbon emissions by a cheaper and more convenient process elsewhere than you can achieve yourself.

Forestry and renewables have been common offset solutions. About half of Australia’s offsets are created through forestry; the rest is mostly renewables with some greenhouse gas trapping projects (mostly methane).

However, many of these schemes deal with the symptom and not the cause - they do not directly promote the reduction of carbon emitted by industry. They are reactive. Worse still, the lack of an ETS in Australia has serious implications for the use of Australian projects as voluntary carbon offsets for Australians, as they may not be additional.

A more effective carbon offset, which is measurable, verifiable and additional, is the internationally recognised carbon emission credit from a carbon market such as the European ETS. Paul Gilding, ex-CEO of Greenpeace International, referred to buying and voluntarily cancelling the rights of industry to emit carbon dioxide from a limited pool of carbon emission credits as the ‘most pure’ form of carbon offset.

Do international offsets have a positive effect on countries who do not have a carbon market? Yes, because climate change is a global problem. Reducing carbon emissions anywhere in the world will help save the future as we know it for the entire world.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What makes a tonne of carbon emissions?

To help you understand how your everyday activities add to the changing climate we have created a table showing what makes a tonne of carbon emissions.

Each of these activities results in 1 tonne of carbon emissions on average.

  • Travelling in a plane for 5000 kms / 3100 miles (about 3.5 return trips Sydney/Melbourne; 3 return trips New York/Chicago; 11 trips London/Paris)*
  • Driving a car with petrol/[US gas] about 4100 kms / 2500 miles
  • Using a clothes dryer for 15 hours
  • Turning on 10 light globes (100 Watts) for 68 days
  • Using a window air conditioner for 75 days
  • Staying 34 nights in a hotel

* for more detail on the carbon emissions from flying visit Travel Math

If you have any examples of an activity that results in approximately 1 tonne of carbon emissions please add it in a comment!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are Deep Cuts In Carbon Emissions Optional?

Most people consider sustainable initiatives a necessity, but some believe that carbon offsetting is optional. It is important to consider why carbon offsetting is any more optional than the sustainable initiatives to measure, avoid and reduce carbon emissions. If the answer is the cost to offset carbon and the Return-On-Investment, then the time has come to change our way of thinking.

The current scientific evidence on climate change indicates there is a drastically urgent need to make deep cuts in carbon emissions immediately.

Reducing energy consumption alone will not achieve enough. For as we reduce energy consumption, the energy we save is being consumed by an increase in consumer demand and an increase in global population.

The real solution is to encourage industry to invest in alternative low-carbon solutions. This requires an increase in the price of carbon so that low-carbon solutions such as renewable energy appear economically attractive.

Reducing carbon emission credits in a carbon market can achieve this goal, because it helps speed up the transition to a low-carbon future. Climakind gives organisations access to cancel carbon emission credits (CECs) and works with them to ensure their efforts to the right thing and help stop damaging climate change are recognised. Find out how at http://www.climakind.com/.

Image credits flikr missallphoto's

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Climate Change Failure

Australia's delayed action on climate change is an 'absolute failure of leadership'. Those were the words Kevin Rudd uttered only months before declaring this week that the Australian Emissions Trading Scheme (the CPRS - Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) would be delayed until 2013 at the earliest.

No wonder the people of Australia are frustrated. The Prime Minister was adamant that the CPRS was the "most important structural reforms to our economy in a generation" and branded climate change as "the great moral and economic challenge of our time".

Lenore Taylor sums up the political back-tracking and side-stepping in The Sydney Morning Herald article "Rudd's ETS flip-flop sparks climate chaos" as does Paul Kelly in The Australian, "Rudd's dangerous climate retreat".

However, the failure to adopt and Australian ETS does not stop Climakind but rather strengthens the initiative. While Australians have been denied the opportunity to act directly to conclusively reduce carbon emissions in Australia they can still have an impact on the reduction of global carbon emissions.

If you are frustrated by the inaction on climate change and want to reduce global carbon emissions then do something about it by following simple tips to reduce your carbon footprint and by joining Climakind to cancel carbon emission credits!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What are the alternatives to carbon offset / carbon neutralise emissions?

In our last blog “What’s in a carbon offset” we looked at the value of neutralising carbon emissions. We concluded that more and more people are using carbon offsetting, believeing that it will reduce carbon emissions. But the question still remains, does a carbon offset really help to reduce carbon emissions. The fact is, the degree of success depends on the type of credit used. Let’s look at the types of credits available.

Basically there are three types of carbon credits used to offset carbon emissions. For the sake of this blog I am going to refer to them as Tree Credits, Renewable Energy Credits and Carbon Emissions Credits. Though technically speaking when most people think of offsets they are referring to Tree Credits and Renewable Energy Credits. Carbon Emissions Credits offer a powerful and effective alternative because they can be used to actually reduce carbon emissions. But more about that soon, for the moment let’s look at the three options:

Tree Carbon Offsets1. Tree Credits. These credits are generally made from growing forests or stopping forests being cut down. The trees sequester (suck) the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Now, while we love trees and always need more of them there are issues with using them as carbon credits. The band Cold Play found this out recently when their efforts to neutralise their concerts backfired. Their credits were based on mangrove plantations. The mangroves died.

The issues also include the centuries-long management processes required to ensure the trees live healthily. As a purchaser it is difficult to police how the money spent and whether the trees actually survive long enough to suck up the carbon dioxide you paid for. But most of all, it is reactive. It deals with the carbon emissions after they have occurred rather than stopping them from ever occurring.

The reality is we already emit more carbon dioxide that we can plant trees!

2. Renewable Energy Credits. These credits are created from projects to produce renewable energy or trap greenhouse gases. The carbon credits represent the emissions that would have been caused had the renewable project not occured. Ie if the hydro dam was not built a coal fired power station would have been. The money from the carbon credits is used to fund the project. The idea is that carbon emissions have been avoided and therefore can be made into credits and used to offset emissions somewhere else in the world.

This is a noble cause as a large number of these projects occur in developing countries. The poor living standard and fast paced growth in these countries requires enormous amounts of energy. Renewable Energy offset projects help fund this low carbon growth. That’s why they are an appealing option because you are helping to fund a project that reduces emissions, gives power to communities and creates employment.

Renewable Energy and Greenhouse Gas Trapping Offets
However, there are risks with creating carbon credits from these projects. Mostly the question of additionality; would the project have occured without the carbon credits? If so the carbon credits have no value as offsets because they have not actually reduced carbon dioxide. International Rivers has been reporting on this for years. There is also the question of the impact on the environment on the value of the credits. Ie. If a hydro dam is built what is the impact on the people, the forests that were in the valley (a carbon sink) and the downstream community reliant on the water?

3. Carbon Emissions Credits. These credits are created by schemes to limit the amount of carbon emissions from industry. These schemes, often referred to as cap and trade or emissions trading, provide a limited pool of carbon credits, credits that industry requires in order to legally emit carbon dioxide. The credits are regulated by the government. In a well designed scheme like the European Emissions Trading Scheme, emitters are heavily penalised if they do not have sufficient credits. The idea is that each year fewer and fewer credits are issued so that the emissions reduction targets are met.

While these carbon emissions credits are required by the regulated industries they can also be used voluntary, providing an alternative to the classic carbon offset of Trees and Renewable Energy above.
Carbon Emission Credits - a better carbon offset
The advantage of voluntarily cancelling carbon emission credits is that it reduces the credits available to emitters. This encourages emitters to be innovative and to develop low-carbon solutions.

Think about it this way, cancelling carbon emissions credits is proactive emission reduction, because the right to emit carbon is cancelled before it is used. Using these credits voluntarily also provides certainty and security because the transaction is transparent and can withstand the scrutiny of market regulators.

As Paul Gilding, ex CEO of Greenpeace, said in his recent article “How to carbon offset your family holiday”, retiring carbon emissions credits may not be the most exciting form of reducing emissions but it is the most pure.

More and more individuals and businesses are using carbon credits to neutralise their carbon emissions. There are several carbon credits to choose from. The characteristics of these carbon credits can be represented by a spectrum of quality.

Hopefully as people become acutely aware of the issues surrounding damaging climate change, and as they become more educated about the different types of carbon credit, more people will choose to use the most pure form of reducing carbon emissions by cancelling carbon emission credits.

What’s in a carbon offset?

Carbon offsetting is seen to provide a way to help reduce global carbon emissions. Yet, does it really?

If you have been following the world’s leading scientists any time over the past twenty years you would have heard that we urgently need to reduce global carbon emissions to avoid the consequences of severe climate change.

If done correctly a carbon offset does reduce carbon emissions. It allows you to act on your concern for the rising levels of man made carbon dioxide and empowers you to help stop damaging climate change.

The number of people using carbon offsetting is growing rapidly, with 87% more carbon offsetting in 2008 than in 2007. But what’s in a carbon offset? Does it really help to reduce carbon emissions? What are the alternatives?

Everyday, more people and businesses are becoming aware of the impact of their everyday activities on the environment. When we use electricity or transport we are producing carbon dioxide somewhere! Reducing our energy demands helps reduce the amount of carbon emissions for which we are responsible. For instance we can do simple things like turn off unused lights, use less heating and cooling, and drive less. Reducing our demand on energy has a double win; not only does it help reduce carbon emissions but it also saves you money through reducing your bills.

However, is a reduction in energy demand enough? The risk is that the energy you save may be used somewhere else. That’s where carbon offsetting comes into the equation.

Captain Carbon Neutral - Helping Reduce Global Carbon Emissions and Stop Climate Change
To voluntarily carbon offset is to go the extra mile. After reducing our energy demands it is possible to cancel out (carbon neutralise) the emissions that are unavoidable. Many businesses are seeing the benefits of leading the way to cancel carbon emissions. Some businesses have committed to cancelling all of the carbon emissions for which they are responsible and becoming carbon neutral, such as AGL, ANZ, Dell, Goldman Sachs JBWere, Hydro Tasmania, ING, KPMG, Melbourne Water, NAB, and News Limited.

Now, the question remains; does carbon offsetting really help to reduce carbon emission? The answer depends on the type of credit used to ‘offset’.

In our next blog we will look at “What are the alternatives to carbon offset emissions”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Is this why people do so little for climate change?

For a long time I have tried to figure out the reason why people do so little to reduce carbon emissions and help stop damaging climate change. Sure it seems a lot of the answers are found on sites like how to talk to a climate sceptic, Climate Myth Busters, or Global Warming FAQ. But there was something more that eluded me, until now…

The enlightening moment came during a recent email conversation.

It all started with my request to make a sustainability event carbon neutral. I sent an email to the person in charge of sustainability outlining how it was necessary to 'walk the talk' and account for the carbon footprint of the event. The names of the event and person are withheld to protect their privacy.

Here is their response:


Thank you for your emails. In response:

1. [The] event - I believe the majority of our carbon footprint for this event will come from electricity. We also actively encourage participants to walk/ride/public transport to the event. As [we] already purchases 25% GreenPower for our high profile facilities... I don't think we'll need to spend more to further 'neutralise' the event.”

Can you see the answer? Do you start to see why people do so little?

I responded as nicely as possible, trying to mask my frustration!

“Hi xxx

Okay. But you see how hard my job is?

You can tell people that human carbon emissions cause damaging climate change.

You can tell them we have already emitted so much carbon dioxide that there will be unavoidable consequences.

You can tell them it is urgent that we do everything we can to reduce emissions to minimise the consequences.

And yet people, included those who work in the area such as you, believe that doing a little bit is enough. They don’t think that it is important enough to do everything they can.”

Is this why poeple do so little for climate change? Do most people believe a little bit is enough? Do most people think it is not important we do everything we can?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What is My Carbon Footprint?

A Goal to Cancel Personally Controllable Carbon Emissions

In this article we will look at the benefits of using an individual’s average controllable carbon emissions as a goal to reduce carbon emissions credits as opposed to reducing a carbon footprint. If every individual in the developed world cancelled 12 tonnes of carbon emissions credits it would amount to about 14.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is about half the world’s total annual carbon emissions!
Measuring Carbon Footprint
There are many definitions of a carbon footprint. In general, it provides a measure of the annual carbon emissions for which something is responsible. A carbon footprint can be calculated for many things, such as an individual, family, business, group, product or an event. A carbon footprint can serve as an indicator to measure the progress of emission reduction efforts or as a goal to neutralise by cancelling carbon credits.

Knowing and reducing your footprint is an ideal goal but does it really reduce the dependency on fossil fuels? Until we find a way to make low carbon solutions economically attractive fossil fuels will continue to appeal to those who are not convinced by the need to act now.

Cancelling genuine carbon emissions credits provides a more conclusive solution to help drive the change to low carbon solutions. It helps reduce the supply of credits available to emitters of carbon dioxide. If the number of carbon emission credits is limited, then the reduction in supply will tend to put upward pressure on the price of the remaining carbon credits. In doing so it increases the cost of fossil fuel energy. That helps change the balance in favour of low carbon solutions. Most people accept that low carbon solutions are the only way to a sustainable future.

Knowing that buying and cancelling carbon emissions credits can make a difference is the first step, next we need to know how many to buy and cancel. This is where the idea of controllable carbon emissions comes into play. By calculating the average personally controllable carbon emissions we arrive at a goal that individuals can aim for that will help reduce carbon emissions and help stop damaging climate change.

Your personally controllable carbon emissions are those over which you have control. They result from your daily activities. There are many ways to calculate an individual's controllable carbon emissions. Here we look at the carbon emissions from the main energy consumption activities which include, household electricity, vehicle travel, waste, air travel, and other. Table 1 shows the personally controllable carbon emissions equal 12 tonnes for an individual on average.

Personally Controllable Carbon Emissions - Carbon Footprint

A bit less than half an individual’s carbon emissions come directly from electricity; of which a large part goes in heating water and household heating/cooling. Vehicle travel is responsible for about a quarter of emissions. Other includes natural gas, public transport and community infrastructure.

These are averages, meaning some people will consume less and some more. For example, private vehicle emissions can vary based on the size of the car and the conditions that the car is driven. There are also areas we have not covered such as carbon emissions from food, clothing and education.

What is important is that you as an individual now have an understanding of where your emissions are likely to come from. With some more information and a few tips you can start to reduce them.

It also provides a goal for the cancellation of carbon emissions credits. A goal that is internationally comparable across developed countries. A goal that is easily recognised and indentified by the Climakind levels of participation.

If every individual in the developed world cancelled 12 tonnes of carbon emissions credits it would amount to about 14.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is about half the world’s total annual carbon emissions!

Climakind provides an interface to simplify your emissions reduction efforts through cancelling carbon emissions credits. Visit http://www.climakind.com/ today.

Make a difference. Cancel Carbon Emissions Credits.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Climakind.com is a CO2NeutralWebsite


The internet is a good thing for the climate. It reduces the need for transportation. It reduces the need for printing brochures and leaflets. But the internet also causes carbon emissions due to the electricity consumption.

The use of the internet today is estimated to cause more carbon emissions than airfreight! This is due to the electricity used to run the servers behind websites as well as the computers and monitors of the visitors.

If the electricity is generated from fossil fuels such as carbon then the website is responsible for a "carbon footprint".

CO2NeutralWebsite have created an algorithm to calculate the CO2 emissions generated by the traffic on your site. Now you can estimate the carbon emissions and match them with genuine carbon credits, effectively neutralising the websites carbon footprint.

Climakind.com is proud to be the first Australian based website to join the voluntary initiative CO2NeutralWebsite.

Both large and small companies from many different countries participate in the initiative. In total more than 800 companies have joined.

A website is a very visible part of your business. Neutralising the carbon emissions created by surfing your site can appeal to your visitors. It can help position your brand as environmentally concerned and visibly active in reducing carbon emissions credits. CO2NeutralWebsite believes your "company gets a good profile that is far bigger than the cost of joining."

Normally the cost of participating is 31 AUD per month (the algorithm is based on site traffic).

Please find further information regarding the CO2 initiative at the official website.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Make low-carbon solutions attractive

Welcome back from the festive season. I hope everyone had a good break and is enjoying a positive start to the new year.

We all have high expectations of what 2010 will bring. Of one thing you can almost be sure, in 2010 the world will make big advances in low-carbon solutions.

But the question will remain, "how do we get people and business to shift from high carbon fossil fuels such as coal and oil to low-carbon solutions"? To do that we need to make low-carbon solutions more economically attractive!

One way to achieve the transition is to change the equilibrium of energy by Making low-carbon solutions such as natural gas, wind and solar more economic attractive. It makes a lot of sense. Rather than waiting until “E-day” (the 'End' of easily accessible high grade oil) we can slowly wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

How do we achieve this? We use an already established pricing mechanism to slowly change the price differential between oil and low-carbon energy.

One such pricing mechanism is the European Emissions Trading Scheme. The price is the value of a carbon credit. A carbon credit puts a price on a tonne of carbon dioxide. By purchasing and cancelling a credit you are removing it from a limited pool of credits before it can be used to emit carbon dioxide. The price of the remaining credits will likely rise as a result of the diminishing supply. Emitters will be forced to invest in low-carbon solutions making them more economically attractive – the only way to a sustainable future!

There is a reason that this sounds like simple, transparent and effective way to make low-carbon solutions attractive. It is.