How do we contribute to global warming?
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
a. How do consumers produce carbon dioxide? Emmission Production
  Direct Carbon Dioxide Emissions. When we consume energy derived from fossil fuels, the generation of the energy (whether using gasoline in cars, heating our houses with natural gas, or lighting our houses with electricity) produces greenhouse gases. In 2003, the average household produced 12.4 tons of carbon dioxide from its household operations and approximately 11.7 tons from its automotive uses.
  Indirect Carbon Dioxide Emissions. All remaining energy consumed in the economy, that is not directly due to the consumer, as above, results in indirect greenhouse gas emissions. When we buy a new product, that product has substantial embodied energy in it from its manufacture, packaging and delivery. Also, when we visit an air-conditioned store or eat an avocado in New York that was grown in California, we produce indirect carbon dioxide emissions. In 2003, total indirect carbon emissions per household were 35 tons.
  Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions. Across the entire US economy, total carbon dioxide emissions per household totaled a staggering 59 tons or 118,000 pounds in 2003. When compared to the rest of the world, US households account for over six times as much carbon dioxide emissions than the remainder of the world per year, on average.
b. What are the major sources of our individual emissions? Greenhouse Gas Emmissions
  All carbon emissions ultimately can be traced back to the consumer. A^šteam from the Union of Concerned Scientists allocated our indirect emissions to various consumer practices. They then combined the direct emissions and the indirect allocations for each functional consumer activity. The resulting analysis is shown at the right in the pie chart.

About 12% of total greenhouse gas emissions (or 14,160 pounds of carbon dioxide per household) result from just growing, preparing and shipping our food. And 6% of emissions (or about 7,080 pounds of carbon dioxide per household) derive from the delivery of medical services to consumers.

c. How does the level of US greenhouse gas emissions compare to other nations?

  The US is by far the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases compared to other industrialized nations. The US comprises about 4% of the earth’s population, but emits about 25% of the total global greenhouse gases.
  The chart on the right shows that US carbon dioxide emissions, at over 20 tons per person annually, are over six times that of the global average (ignoring the US).
  When compared to 1.3 billion people of China, the 290 million people in the US emit over seven times as much, per person. Viewed in aggregate, the 290 million Americans emit 65% more carbon dioxide annually than the 1.3 billion Chinese do in total. And when compared to the 1.1 billion people of India, the 290 million Americans emit over 20 times as much, per person. Again, looked at in aggregate, the 290 million Americans emit 5.5 times the amount of carbon dioxide that the entire Indian nation of 1.1 billion people does in total.
d. Is there a link between our production of greenhouse gases and the price of energy?
  Yes. Consuming energy produces greenhouse gases.The cheaper the energy, the more energy will be consumed and the more greenhouse gases will be produced.
  Electricity in the USA, per kWh, costs only 68% of what electricity costs in Europe. Not surprisingly, Americans use almost twice the electricity per person that the English do.
   
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  Gasoline in the USA costs only 44% of what gasoline costs in Europe. The British (as a proxy for the EU) drive cars that are 50% more fuel-efficient than Americans do, which means that in the end Americans and Europeans spend around the same amount on transportation costs. However, the Europeans are emitting half the greenhouse gases that Americans do.
e. Since no one is exactly the average person, can I figure out how much carbon I individually produce?
  Yes.There are many on-line carbon calculators that give a sense of your carbon (or carbon dioxide) emissions.
The two links below (in Section 2) each list a range of calculators from very simple to somewhat complex.
 
FULL REPORT
a. How do consumers produce carbon dioxide?
  Direct Carbon Dioxide Emissions. When we consume energy derived from fossil fuels, the generation of the energy (whether using gasoline in cars, heating our houses with natural gas, or lighting our houses with electricity) produces greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gas emissions from direct energy consumption are controlled directly by the consumer. We can drive less or heat our houses less, as we choose. In 2003, the average household produced 12.4 tons of carbon dioxide from its household operations and approximately 11.7 tons from its automotive uses.
 

Indirect Carbon Dioxide Emissions. All remaining energy consumed in the economy, that is not directly due to the consumer, as above, results in indirect greenhouse gas emissions. When we buy a new product that product has substantial embodied energy in it from its manufacture, packaging and delivery. Also, when we visit an air-conditioned store, eat an avocado in New York that was grown in California, stay in a hotel on vacation, or work in a heated office building, these and other activities produce indirect carbon dioxide emissions. Since the US economy is a net importer, virtually every pound of carbon dioxide emissions is ultimately due conceptually to consumer demand, though not immediately within the control of the consumer. In 2003, total indirect carbon emissions per household were 35 tons.

Environmentally responsible decision-making must include an understanding of embodied energy. The delivered cost (purchased, packaged and delivered) is sometimes a fair relative measure for an item's embodied energy when compared to another item. Everything we buy has a certain amount of embodied energy, even though not all products will directly consume energy through use. At one extreme, a car has substantial embodied energy. A typical midsized car that might weigh 8000 pounds has emitted over 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in its manufacture and delivery. For a luxury car, the greenhouse gases emitted per pound of work could be even worse. If you assume a 10-year useful life for the car, emissions from the embodied energy add over 30% more emissions to those required to operate the car each year. At the other extreme, decorative arts, jewelry, clothes, eating at a restaurant, and so on, produce no greenhouse gases during use, but do contain embodied energy from their creation and delivery. Across the whole range of products we use in daily life, we need to think of both the energy consumed directly in the product’s use and the energy already embodied in the product.

Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions. Across the entire US economy, total carbon dioxide emissions per household totaled a staggering 59 tons or 118,000 pounds in 2003. When compared to the rest of the world, US households account for over six times as much carbon dioxide emissions as the remainder of the world per year, on average.

It is important to note that the figures given here are for an average American household with median income of about $43,000 (the average income would be materially lower) and an average home size of 2000 square feet or less. An affluent American might typically live in a 3000+ square foot house, own 3 or more cars, purchase high-end consumer durables and non durable goods and enjoy vacations using jet travel. Obviously, we privileged, affluent Americans must generate substantially more greenhouse gases. It is not hard to imagine affluent American households being responsible for 200,000 lbs of carbon dioxide or more per year. In weight this is the equivalent to putting 25 mid-size cars' worth of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

Statistics on Emissions - EPA

b. What are the major sources of our individual emissions?
  It is tempting to say that consumers are only responsible for their direct portion of carbon emissions. But in truth, in the end, it all comes back to the consumer. Therefore, a team from the Union of Concerned Scientists attempted to attribute total carbon emissions, direct and indirect, to specific consumer activities. In doing so, they used a standard input-output analysis to allocate both emissions from the embodied energy of consumer purchases and all other indirect sources.

Their analysis is shown at the right in the pie chart. It differs from the breakdown shown above in 1a by having all the sources of indirect emissions allocated into consumer activities. For example, about 12% of greenhouse gas emissions (or 13,080 pounds of carbon dioxide per household) result from the growing, preparing and shipping of our food. And 6% of emissions (or about 6,540 pounds of carbon dioxide per household) derive from the delivery of medical services to consumers, for example from the operations of hospitals, nurses who drive to work, and the manufacturing of drugs.

Energy Information Administration

c. How does the level of US greenhouse gas emissions compare to other nations?
  As noted above, the US is by far the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases compared to any other industrialized nation. This is so whether absolutely, per capita or per household. The US comprises about 4% of the earth’s population but emits about 25% of the total global greenhouse gases. The chart on the right shows that the US carbon dioxide emissions, at over 20 tons per person, are over six times that of the global average (ignoring the USA). The closest fully industrialized emitter to the US is Germany at half the rate of the US per capita. When compared to 1.3 billion people of China, the 290 million people in the US emit over seven times as much, per person. Viewed differently, the 290 million Americans emit 65% more carbon dioxide annually than the 1.3 billion Chinese do in total. And when compared to the 1.1 billion people of India, the 290 million Americans emit over 20 times as much, per person. Again, looked at from national totals, we 290 million Americans emit 5.5 times the amount of carbon dioxide that the entire Indian nation of 1.1 billion people does in total.
d. Is there a link between our production of greenhouse gases and the price of energy?
  Yes. Consuming energy produces greenhouse gases. The cheaper the energy, the more energy will be consumed and the more greenhouse gases will be produced.

Electricity in the US, per kWh, costs only 68% of what electricity costs in Europe. Not surprisingly, Americans use more than twice the electricity per person that the English do. Together, these figures suggest that the average American and the average British citizen each pay about the same amount in equivalent dollars for their electricity, but because electricity is so much cheaper in the USA than Europe, Americans end up consuming over twice the electricity and producing over twice the greenhouse gases per person..

 
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  The situation is similar relative to gasoline. Gasoline in the US costs only 44% of what gasoline costs in Europe. Europeans drive cars that are 50% more fuel-efficient than Americans do. Again, the average American and European spend about the same for their automotive needs, but the Americans drive more miles in less fuel-efficient cars and thus produce much larger carbon emissions.
e. Since no one is exactly the average person, can I figure out how much carbon I individually produce?
  Yes.There are many on-line carbon calculators that give a sense of your carbon (or carbon dioxide) emissions. The two links below each list a range of calculators from very simple to somewhat complex. It is important to clarify that all of these calculators treat only direct carbon emissions tied to the individual’s direct daily energy consumption. They handle neither embodied energy nor emissions from across the economic pipeline that are ultimately attributable back to the consumer.

Several different Calculators

Calculators - EPA

 
NATURE'S ENVIRONMENT, HUMANS' INTEREST
Editorial by Chris Weisbrot

One of the books I read suggested ways to save money while also reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. Radical and politically motivated environmental movements of the past have led to a stigma attached to words like conservation, pollution, and environment in the American lexicon. If we can get over this stigma it becomes apparent that actions that benefit the environment also benefit our personal interests, financial and healthwise. When we buy a smaller car we save on gas, parking becomes much easier, and the ride is guaranteed to be more comfortable than that of an SUV. When we walk or bike downtown, not only do we save gas and pollute less but we gain the personal benefit of exercise. Eating less red meat can substantially help the environment while tightening our waistlines. With just a small amount of effort we can reduce our pollution, save money, get into shape and lead a healthier life. That's not so radical after all. – Chris

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