When the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, they sometimes left permanent footprints on land. Today this offers archaeologists a glimpse into their lives and plenty of insight to fill history books. But these footprints are nothing more than depressions on earth. The impact that these giant creatures left on the planet pales in comparison to the gigantic footprint we etch into this world. Our everyday actions mould the environment, disrupt ecosystems, and create ripples in the natural order of things. Measuring our carbon footprint can sometimes help us write our own book and instead of recording history it can help us write our destiny.
The future presents us with many challenges. Pakistan is struggling to build its foundation. It is vying for economic stability and gradually ascending as major geo-political player on a global scale. But the erratic climate presents a major threat. Many people fail to realize that Pakistan hosts an agrarian based economy. 46% of our labour force is employed by the agriculture sector and the rural industry contributes 25% to the gross domestic product (GDP). Food insecurity is not always perceived as a major threat but rising global temperatures are forcing us to embrace the grim reality: food and water may eventually run out. We must also bear in mind that countries lying along the equator are more likely to experience extreme temperatures. Emission of green-house gases is creating a permanent scar on the atmosphere and rampant industrialization will only extend the damage. Considering how sensitive we are to the nature’s fury we must have a plan in place or atleast the disposition to alter our hostility towards the environment.
The good news is that our concern for nature is growing steadily. With the advent of social media, we are frequently bombarded by messages encouraging us to respect the environment and honour its many gifts. Most of us are now aware of the ill effects of global warming. But for some reason our concerns are not translating into actions. This is largely due to uncertainty. Where do we start and what should we do? There is a simple answer to this question and it involves measuring our carbon footprint which is basically calculating the mass of all greenhouse gas emissions produced as a result of our activities in a given time-frame.
Individuals, households, and entire organizations should get accustomed to the idea of measuring the harmful impact of their activities. This would yield a numerical figure; a baseline which they can work with. Large scale companies should make this part of their sustainability program. Measuring carbon emissions is often perceived as painstakingly burdensome. The internet hosts plenty of free tools to help you achieve this. With these tools you just have to input values pertaining to consumption and production of resources and the software churns out the carbon footprint.
There are three main sources of carbon emissions that organizations should be worried about. The first source forms part of the core of their activities. This includes direct emissions from vehicles, generators and other assets which burn fossil fuels. If you own an agricultural land it may include tractors and other machinery. Farm animals also produce a potent greenhouse gas known as methane which is far more dangerous than carbon dioxide. The second source of carbon emissions is derived largely from purchase of electricity. According to International Finance Corporation, 37% of electricity generated in Pakistan is due to burning of fuel oil which produces carbon-based pollutants. Individuals consuming electricity are therefore indirectly responsible for the emissions. Large scale organizations should also be concerned about pollution contributed by their employees, contractors, suppliers, and all other players which are part of its supply chain. This may also include air-travel.
When all major sources of carbon emissions are identified, we can easily compute the carbon-footprint using software. Employing this practice on a regular basis can help us identify major areas of intervention and the means to reduce our burden on the environment. At an individual or household level, it can help us improve our consumption habits. Examples include carpooling, using public transport, recycling waste, avoiding electric or gas heaters, using energy-efficient light-bulbs, and employing renewable energy. Consumers and companies can also reduce carbon emissions by buying locally produced goods. Imported items have more carbon mileage attached to them. Changes in our dietary habits may also safeguard our environment. The production and processing of meat produces greater volume of greenhouse gases than production of vegetables.
Organizations and individuals must understand that controlling carbon emissions is essentially about reducing costs. These costs manifest in monetary terms and in terms of damage we do to the environment. While companies regularly disclose expenses in their financial statements and annual reports, a special section should be devoted to reporting cost to the environment. As we proudly display rising annual profits, the environmental cost of doing business should always go down.
The article was originally published in TheWeeklyPakistan on February 16, 2019. For original content click here.