What Is Your Personal Carbon Footprint?

Total  CO2 Emissions by Nation (left) & Per Capita  (right)
One way of measuring a country’s economic growth is to look at their carbon dioxide emissions. For instance, China’s emerging economy in the past several years has placed it at the highest level of carbon dioxide production on earth. China emits more CO2 than the US and Canada combined, 170% above the levels in 2000. Along with China, India and Russia also account for a large portion of the planet’s CO2 emissions. 

These findings don’t factor in the population size of each region and looking at per capita emissions leads to a relatively different story. Some of the smallest countries and islands come out ahead in emissions per person. Gibraltar has one of the highest per capita emissions at 152 tons per person. Among big economies, The US remains number one with 18 tons per person. China, by contrast, emits about six tons per person and India emits less than 2 tons per person.

Looking at this data allows us to get a picture of how each country contributes to the overall greenhouse emissions. It would be easy to hold each country accountable for their share of greenhouse emissions and to individually place the responsibility to reduce those emissions, but is it fair to look at the data in such a simplistic way? If we look at the consumption of each region and track the source of those goods we get a clearer picture of how we in the United States contribute to other nation's overall carbon footprint.

2008 Global CO2 Emissions by Country (epa.gov)
 China emits approximately 23% of the overall global CO2 emissions and if we consider the numbers of US trade in goods with China, we get a clearer picture of how dependent on Chinese goods we in the US are. So far in 2013, the US has imported approximately 203 million dollars in goods from China alone (US Census). In 2012, imports form china were approximately 426 million dollars in goods. As the consumer of those goods, should we take a share of the responsibility of their overall greenhouse emissions?    

I certainly think we share some of that responsibility and why we should buy local whenever possible, recycle, and continue to integrate more sustainable practices.  There are various tools to help you find out what your overall carbon footprint is based on what you eat, buy, how you travel, etc. We should strive to educate ourselves on how our choices affect the world around us and how our choices can also lead to change at the local and global level. The lack of individual responsibility continues to halt progress and the more people educate themselves the sooner we can adopt more effective sustainable models. There are plenty of carbon footprint calculators that are easily accessible with a simple google search. The Nature Conservancy allows you to estimate your individual and household carbon footprint. Check it out and be an informed consumer!