Copenhagen’s footprint


Who’s generating the biggest increase in carbon this week? The people who have flocked to Copenhagen to protest the world’s carbon footprint and its effect on climate change, according to a report.

The report was commissioned by Denmark:

Deloitte included in their calculations emissions caused by accommodation, local transport, electricity and heating of the conference center, paper, security, transport of goods and services as well as energy used by computers, kitchens, photocopiers and printers inside the conference center.

Accommodation accounted for 23 percent of the summit’s greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen, while transport caused 7 percent. Seventy percent came from activities inside the conference center, she said.

Dozens of people from Minnesota have flocked to Copenhagen. Terrapass’ carbon footprint calculator estimates that a non-stop roundtrip airline flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Copenhagen created 3,777 pounds of CO2.

How much would it take to offset that?

— You’d have to install 35 lightbulbs in place of incandescent bulbs.

— Someone with a 15 mpg car would have to drive a 30 mpg car for six months.

— Someone would have to replace an old water heater with a newer, more energy efficient model. You could also reduce your water temperature by 10 degrees for the next four years.

— You’d have to drop your home by 5 degrees for the next year.

— If you normally drive 75, you’d have to drive 65 for the next two years.

— Nine people who are not now car-pooling, would have to do so for the next year.

Meanwhile, a Brown University professor is trying to figure out where all the money goes that’s given to poor countries by rich countries to help them adapt to climate change.

He’s developing a database to track it all, the Boston Globe reports:

Perhaps you would think, with the billions of dollars in aid flowing back and forth between nations for generations, that there would be a highly evolved system to make sure the money gets where it’s supposed to go. No. Roberts says there are many reasons, including the reality that funding can be expensive to track and that some governments do not want it to be tracked. Regardless of why, he said, the result is enormous sums of money are swallowed up by consultants, middlemen, and corruption long before the money gets even part of the distance it needs to go.

  • Great article Bob. Couple of quick notes:

    Terrapass’ calculation is probably a bit under since it doesn’t appear to take into consideration the additional radiative forcing of releasing water vapor at that height. The IPCC estimates that the global warming potential of total air-flight emissions (since water is a potent greenhouse gas) are a few % points higher.

    For example, takes this additional aspect into consideration and comes up with more than 4000lbs of CO2 equivalent – 4.17 tons to be exact for a MSP to CPH flight.

    The best bet for international travelers is to invest in a direct offset – something like methane destruction from landfills or reforestation.

    That being said, the above number for your air travel emission is only useful as a personal moral number. Think of it this way: would your 815 to Boston *not* take off if you didn’t buy a ticket?

    The report should take into account how much extra fuel was burned for full flights or how much air service increased to Copenhagen to get a more accurate number.

    Alas, couldn’t have all this unnecessary travel been avoided with Skype and a shared Google Doc? 😉

  • BJ

    good point – Alas, couldn’t have all this unnecessary travel been avoided with Skype and a shared Google Doc? 😉

    At somepoint people do need to get in a room and talk to get things done.

  • Al

    I like the purple sequins. Politicians (and the general public for that matter) are more likely to consider the opinion of a person wearing purple sequins over their winter coat. It gives them an air of credibility.

  • bsimon

    On the one hand, the carbon calculations are a little ridiculous, other than for the air travel, given that the attendees would presumably be generating a carbon footprint wherever they happen to be. On the other hand, the calculator starts to demonstrate just how daunting a task we face, if we want to solve this problem.