The Carbon Footprint of Human Activity

…is a measure of the CO2 emissions that this activity directly and indirectly generates.

Some (incomplete) statistics measure the carbon footprint only in relation to energy consumption and only in the consumer’s country. They indicate a consumption of about 4.5 tons of CO2 per year and per person. But to get the full picture, you have to add the CO2 generated by imported products and you have to consider not only the energy consumption. This results in a footprint of 13 to 14 tonnes of CO2 per person per year in Switzerland (source: Federal Statistical Office and RTS).

The WWF’s ecological footprint calculator (which also takes pollution into account) allows for individual calculations. If you select the extreme choices for each of the options offered to you, you get the two extremes:

  • The « consumption addict » emits 58.35 tonnes of CO2 per year
  • The « environmental Spartan » consumes 3.12 only tonnes.

According to the WWF, the Swiss average is 13.7 tonnes of CO2 per year as well.

The proportions are similar in neighboring countries and this graph shows how this consumption is distributed:

Causes of carbon footprint between 2015-2016

Another method of calculation also takes into account the time factor and allocates half of a child’s emissions to each parent, as well as a quarter of the emissions of that child’s offspring (the grandchildren) and so on. According to this calculation method, the decision to have a new child increases the annual carbon footprint by 58.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (source: Environmental Research Letters 2017 article which ranked 216 measures according to their impact in reducing its carbon footprint. Having fewer children, giving up the car and giving up transatlantic flights would be the three most effective measures, according to this article).

All these values are to be compared with the objective of around 2 tonnes of CO2 per person per year to be reached by 2050 to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100. It is this huge difference between our current level of consumption and the level of consumption to be reached that explains the vision defended by arboRise: to fight global warming, it will not be enough to restrict CO2 emissions, but it will also be necessary to absorb the excess CO2 emitted. This is what trees do with photosynthesis.

It is as simple as that: the forest is The solution.

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