Carbon Footprint

The Concept of Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact of our activities on the environment, and in particular climate change. It is the total GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by the activities.

A carbon footprint is only one component of the broader ecological footprint. An ecological footprint compares the population's consumption of resources and land with the planet's ability to regenerate. 

The CO2-eq units

Each GHGs—CO2, CH4, N2O, etc.—has a different global warming potential. Emissions of different gases have to be converted to CO2-eq units so they can be added together to get a picture of total emissions.

Biogenic CO2

The CO2 generated by agriculture is often considered to be biogenic in nature or “carbon neutral” (as contrast to CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion, which adds new carbon to the atmospheric-biospheric circulation system), and therefore sometimes is excluded or deferred in accounting of total GHG emissions.

GHG emission inventories

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has developed guidelines for estimating and reporting emissions of GHG from agricultural sources (IPCC, 2006). Official GHG inventories are reported annually by each country to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Kyoto protocol restricts the total GHG emissions of each signature country and the protocol provides an opportunity for emission trading within signature countries. 

Comparison of Carbon Footprints of Dairy and Cars

Carbon footprint of production of a gallon of milk is comparable with burning a gallon of gasoline.