What the hell is low carbon ?

What are Carbon emissions ?
The greenhouse effect : Energy generated on the earth’s surface (like when you switch on your stove) would normally go out of the atmosphere, into space. However, there are gases in the atmosphere  called greenhouse gases which absorb a part of the energy, then radiate it back to the atmosphere towards the surface of the earth. This causes the temperature on the surface and lower atmosphere to be higher than it would be if the sun were to be the only heating mechanism.

Greenhouse gas :  The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.

Global warming : Warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect, caused by humans increasing the atmospheric greenhouse gases, mainly Carbon Dioxide ( CO2).

Carbon emission :  Carbon Dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere as a result of an activity. The amount of emission is easy to calculate for some activities like driving a car, using a gas stove, etc., but difficult to determine for others.

See : http://co2now.org/

Carbon footprint : The amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as a result of your activities.

See http://www.carbonfootprint.com/carbonfootprint.html

Carbon emission for various sources of energy

Energy source Units Kg. of CO2 per unit
Electricity from a coal-fired plant kWh 0.8
LPG Liters 1.497
Petrol Liters 2.331
Diesel Liters 2.669
Industrial coal Kg. 2.338

The CO2 per kWh of electricity varies based on the type of power plant.  It’s the highest for coal-based plants, lowest for hydro and wind.

Energy source Kg. of CO2 per kWh
Thermal power plant using coal 0.9
Thermal power plant using Oil 0.85
Thermal power plant using Natural Gas 0.6
Solar photovoltaic plant 0.05
Nuclear 0.006
Wind 0.005
Hydro 0.003

Example 1 : If you drive a car 20 km. and it gives you 10 km. per litre of petrol, you’ve used 4.66 kg. of CO2 for the 20 km. trip.

Example 2 : If you use 1 kWh (the kWh is commonly called a Unit) of electricity in your house from a coal fired thermal plant, your carbon emission is 0.8 Kg. If you use the the same amount of electricity from solar energy, your carbon emission is 0.05 kg.

Example 3 : When you buy an apple imported from Australia, what is the Carbon emission caused by shipping it across in an aeroplane, plus local  transport, packaging, refrigeration, etc. ? Tough answer, but you’ll find approximations on the web.

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  1. R V Ramani
    December 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Hi Das,

    I too believe in “less walls more windows” and its a feature in my home. Some of the suggestions on reducing carbon footprint have not been practicable in my house given the care one must take when you have elderly family members. We may balance the carbon account by having a thick green cover around the house – trees, creepers, tall plants etc, if possible But I am sold on the fundamental premise that the house should be built for 25 years!!! very true!. Thank you for sharing your innovative ideas…

    R V Ramani

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