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What is Carbon Emission & How is it Measured

Your carbon footprint refers to the amount of greenhouse gases that you generate in the form of carbon dioxide.  The amount of carbon dioxide generated is expressed in metric tonnes (tCO2).

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities.  As well as carbon dioxide, there are other gases (most of which are hydrocarbons – such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) & fluorinated gases) which cause global warming.  Collectively, they are known as “greenhouse gases”.   In order to compare the global warming effects of each gas, we can convert other greenhouse gases into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).  Compared to CO2, methane has 21 times more warming effect, and nitrous oxide has 310 times more warming effect, when compared on a 100 year time frame.  CO2e is the equivalent warming effect if all emissions were CO2.

For each greenhouse gas, a Global Warming Potential (GWP) has been calculated to reflect how long it remains in the atmosphere, on average, and how strongly it absorbs energy.  Gases with a higher GWP absorb more energy and therefore contribute more to warming the earth.

The amount of carbon dioxide generated by direct emissions can be calculated through the use of emission factors.  An emission factor is the ratio of carbon dioxide generated for a given quantity of fuel.  Indirect emissions from electrical power consumption are estimated through the use of electrical emission coefficients.