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Is Carbon Neutral Possible?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 26 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
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Carbon Neutrality – the state where we’re not pushing out any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or at least offsetting what we do pump – is an ideal. It would mean we’re not adding to climate change.

It’s something you hear about often, as one company or another puts out a press release saying they’ll be carbon neutral by such-and-such a date. It’s a big step, and obviously, since firms are striving for it, it is possible.

Aiming for carbon neutrality means taking some drastic steps. If you measure your carbon footprint you’ll have seen that every single one of us creates CO2, more than we imagined. Eliminating all of that isn’t an easy business.

Companies Going Carbon Neutral
It’s simply not possible for every company to go carbon neutral. The ones who’ve announced their intention to do so are mostly supermarket chains and retailers, but even a giant bank has said it will work to that end, too.

The ideal is spreading, and that’s a good thing. Across Europe and in the US, more firms are saying that they want this and are trying to achieve it. In every case it requires putting together a complex plan and being certain to implement it. In the case of a popular Internet search engine, for instance, it was a strategy that covered every aspect of business, from where to locate servers to cut heat and energy to making sales calls on the phone rather than in person.

Families Going Carbon Neutral
It’s possible to cut your carbon footprint, but it’s really not possible to live a 21st century life and be carbon neutral, at least not without offsetting. In 2007 a New York family tried to go carbon neutral whilst living in Manhattan. It was a bold experiment, but it meant going without everything we deem a necessity, from hot water to a fridge. Even then, they were using electricity, by having one light bulb, although they used it sparingly.

However attractive it sounds, none of us can be truly carbon neutral in the way we live our lives.

Countries Going Carbon Neutral
When you consider that the UK puts 9.4 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year for every person – a figure half that of the US – then going carbon neutral as a country is simply a pipe dream. Countries like India emit far less CO2 per person than we do, but that figure is rising as the country develops.

Realistically, we can aim for a 90% decrease in CO2 emissions, but even that will require a lot of work, investment and planning, and it will take plenty of time to achieve. Eliminating 100% is impossible.

Some countries have shown a greater will to cut emissions than others. It’s much stronger in Europe than in the US or China, for instance. Carbon trading schemes can create the illusion of reduced emissions, but they’re really smoke and mirrors.

In a nutshell, then, widespread carbon neutrality can’t happen. But looking at it as a goal, however impossible, is what we really need to do if we’re to make sure we cut emissions to the bone.

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