Environmental Friday: How to start carbon budgeting


environmental fridays

Brianna Stanley

Creating a person carbon budget is great a way to figure out how many carbon offsets are appropriate for you to purchase to balance your carbon emissions (although, by all means, purchase as many carbon offsets as you would like).

The idea of personal carbon budgeting comes from the goal of each person doing their part to stick to the global carbon budget: How much carbon dioxide can be safely emitted by human activity without causing climate change to go past a point of “no return.”

The current global carbon budget is approximately 721,000 billion tons of CO2 per year. This may seem like a lot, but at current emission levels of 40,000 billion tons per year, we are set to exceed this goal in less than 20 years. Check out this cool and yet terrifying carbon budget countdown clock.

There are many online sites that will help you determine your carbon footprint, and from there go on to make your own carbon budget. One of these calculators, by the Nature Conservancy, will tell you your total output in tons, as well as a break down of carbon output in various parts of your life such as vehicle output, household and air travel. It then lists ways other than carbon offsets to reduce our emissions.

The average American citizen produces 36,000 pounds of carbon per year, which comes to about 3,000 pounds a month. These figures can be used as a bar to keep your carbon budget well under.

To calculate your footprint, all you need is your current electric, gas or oil bills, vehicle miles-per-gallon information, the average miles you drive or use public transport per week and your estimated pounds of recycling per year. The calculated tons of carbon can then be plugged into a carbon offset calculator. Personally, my entire 14,000 pounds of carbon emissions annually could be offset for only $68. Next year, my budget is 10,000 pounds.

The IPCC has stipulated in their 2018 Special Report that the global rise in temperature should ideally be kept under 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid devastating ocean level rises and many other calamities. We’ve already reached 1 degree over pre-industrial levels, so budgeting our own individual carbon emissions and taking action to, firstly, reduce them, and then offset the ones that we cannot reduce is important to keeping the critical 0.5 degree rise at bay.

Last week’s article mentioned carbon offsets as a way that students can be proactive in reducing their carbon footprint. They are a great way to partially compensate for the times that you may have flown on an airplane, eaten a burger or two, or emitted greenhouse gases in any other way. After all, even the most diligent environmentalist will probably contribute more CO2 then they want simply due to the way our society relies on greenhouse-emitting technologies.

Combined with your carbon budget, offsets are a great way to hold yourself accountable to sticking to a certain level of emissions and doing your part for your neighbors and the planet.