The Carbon Footprint Calculator (Version: 2.1 as of this post) is a small and simple tool that helps act as a rough guide to how much Carbon Dioxide emissions a person or household is responsible for.
Environmental concerns and the issue of climate change are often debated and mentioned, even here on RGdot.com, and some of us believe that the time for debate has long passed and we must act quickly to ensure a better and healthier future. That debate aside, The Carbon Footprint Calculator provides rough estimates and is educational at least.
It asks and uses numbers for fuel efficiency of owned vehicle(s), total distance driven, flown, traveled by rail and by bus in one year. Other numbers used for the calculation are the amount of electricity, gas and oil used. More curiously it also asks about the types of bank accounts one uses, the type of clothes one buys and also about the types of appliances purchased and recreational and food eating habits too. The final result is given in the standard unit for emissions, tons. The program is free of spyware – this can be checked on softpedia.com for example – and it does not ask any personal details so it is safe to just play around with it.
Reports can be printed and/or saved in its own cfc format and a details or summary pie chart is generated too. The Carbon Footprint Calculator is good for a simple look at what harm each of us do to our planet.
Burning fossil fuels has contributed immensely to the problem of climate change or global warming as some call it. It is clear that some countries have contributed far more in terms of pollution and emissions. One of the big political debates hampering progress in the ‘climate debate’ is the acceptance of the share of responsibility and any extra costs for those more responsible. In the final analysis important conferences like the upcoming Copenhagen 15 or COP15 need to produce near term and tangible results if we are to survive.
The Washington Post science section has produced an interactive global emissions chart. Using the chart it is possible to visualize pollution levels per country or region since 1950 and track changes through the decades to the present time by using a slider. No prizes for guessing the present top 2 or top 3 polluters.
Click to view the chart: Explore changes in carbon emissions from fossil fuels for G-20 countries, selected developing nations and others critical to the climate debate.
One of the important but yet incomplete moves towards reducing harmful emissions has been the advent of the hybrid electric vehicle. Those include the now famous Honda Insight and Toyota Prius for example, running on a combination of the old and outdated propulsion system plus different forms of rechargeable batteries. Recently Honda Insight has for the first time been a best selling car in Japan and that in itself is an important indicator of the mood and the need of the population. While hybrids of different kind contribute well to the low emissions needs of our planet ‘full’ electric vehicles can and certainly have the potential for even better results. For the time being, although not scientifically limited, the number of choices for full electric vehicles are more limited and not fully supported by the traditional big auto makers.
Two companies that do manufactures the vehicles and are slowly gearing towards providing cars for everyday use are Miles Electric Vehicles and Tesla Motors. The former has begun launching the Coda Automotive brand which, while expensive, is targeted at the no-frills environmentalist. The company is trying to get a 5 star highway safety rating from the US government agency National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and sell the cars online. Tesla Motors has taken a more luxurious and high performance route with the likes of Tesla Roadster.
With the bigger traditional companies manufacturing their own or investing in startups, legislative bodies taking the lead in making sure cars can be made available in the market and barring ‘outside’ destructive propaganda against the developing technology the future is looking clean (poor pun intended) for electric vehicles and the health of the environment.
Svante Arrhenius (Feb. 19, 1859 – Oct. 2, 1927) was a Swedish scientist and Nobel Prize winner in 1903. His earliest works were on electrolytes and later in life he turned to astronomy and origins of life but along the way he worked on predicting the effects of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) on the Earth’s atmosphere.
He studied the works of French scientist Joseph Fourier, who had earlier predicted surface temperature increases, and worked on predicting how much they would affect the Earth. He even went as far as saying that it may possible to prevent the next ice age with the increases in emissions. One of his main conclusions was that doubling CO2 levels, plus the water vapour that will be held in the atmosphere partially as a result, could cause a 5 to 6 degree centigrade rise in surface temperatures. His conclusions were long term, he had cited 3000 years as a time line for example, and he even viewed it as a positive because the Earth’s climate would be less harsh or cold as a result. In the late 20th century his work has had him called the father of climate change for the predictions that he made and is one of the basis for the more modern and accurate climate change models.
Read more about him at his entry at the Britannica online encyclopedia, at the Nobel Prize site, wikipedia and a feature article on the guardian newspaper website.