What is carbon emission and why do companies talk about it so much?

by George Philip
Published: Last Updated on 0 comment

Turns and moves, technology companies and several other sectors talk about reducing carbon emissions. It just seems like an ecologically correct speech. But the truth is that this kind of goal is really important. You will discover the reason below. In addition, you will understand concepts such as carbon offsetting and carbon footprint.

Carbon emission is an expression that refers to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, mainly carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) — or carbon dioxide. However, there are other gaseous substances as or more harmful, such as nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and methane (CH4).

Greenhouse gases are so called because they retain part of the solar radiation that reaches the planet, making it hotter. The organization WWF Brazil explains that this phenomenon, in itself, is natural and I hope. The problem is the volume of gases from human interference in the environment. The excess makes the Earth’s temperature rise worryingly.

Global warming can (and does) have numerous consequences, such as an increase in extreme weather events. Tsunamis, prolonged periods of drought and out-of-season floods are some examples. The increase in respiratory illnesses is also a possible effect.

You may have already guessed it, but it is worth noting: carbon dioxide is precisely the gas that most contributes to this scenario. Although the increased generation of CO2 is an effect of fires or exaggerated deforestation, most emissions are the result of industrial activities.

Note that carbon dioxide itself is not a problem. This gas is important for plant photosynthesis, for example. Without it and other greenhouse gases, life on Earth would likely be unviable. What brings bad consequences is excessive amount of gases.

This is where the so-called carbon offsetting starts to make sense.

What is carbon offsetting?

Also called decarbonization, carbon offsetting corresponds to efforts that try to reduce the consequences of excess greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.

You already know that the excessive generation of CO2 is closely related to industrial activity. But how? In many ways. For example, when burning fuel to manufacture certain products or transporting those items from the factory to a warehouse.

Want an example (albeit a bit controversial)? Apple claims that providing iPhones without a charger in the box has cut the emission of more than 2 million tons of CO2. That’s just in 2020.

Generally speaking, the adoption of modern technologies or the optimization of the production process can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, but it is difficult to solve the problem. The alternative, then, is to implement measures that offset the generation of these gases as much as possible.

This can be done through, among many other initiatives, the following:

  • use of recycled materials;
  • campaigns to reduce energy consumption;
  • water reuse systems;
  • recovery of degraded areas;
  • encouraging tree planting;
  • environmental preservation programs.

An interesting detail is that companies that plan to do carbon offsets do not need to work directly with these or other initiatives. They may hire organizations or services for this purpose.

Here’s an example: in May 2022, Lenovo brought a carbon offset program to Brazil for customers who buy ThinkPad, Legion or Yoga computers.

Upon subscribing to the service, the customer pays an additional fee that is directed to a Lenovo partner organization. This organization has a duty to apply the value to a carbon offset project.

Another example comes from Google. The Google Cloud platform has a tool that measures the carbon footprint (you will already know what that is) related to cloud services. This is one of the company’s several initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

And carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint, also known by the English expression carbon footprint, is a way of measuring the emission of carbon dioxide by a person or organization.

Makes sense. How can a company adequately offset carbon if it is not aware of the number of greenhouse gases generated in its activity? The carbon footprint can also be useful for governments and specialized organizations to assess the impact of emissions.

Various methodologies can be used in measuring the carbon footprint. Some organizations even offer online tools that help with this task. The startup calculator Moss is a good example. Another is the calculator available on the Carbon Footprint website.

An interesting detail is that, normally, the carbon footprint measurement considers not only CO2, but also other gases. In this circumstance, the numbers obtained are converted to their carbon equivalent.

And what is a carbon credit?

A carbon credit is a document that describes that a certain amount of CO2 — usually a ton — is no longer released into the atmosphere. This occurs, for example, when a factory replaces one type of fuel with another resulting in less gas.

There is a kind of carbon credit market. A company that generates a very large amount of greenhouse gases, but has few actions to offset them, can buy carbon credits to balance this situation.

By purchasing such credits, this company starts to support one or more carbon offset projects conducted by another entity.

It is no exaggeration to speak of the credit market. This and the other concepts discussed here make it clear that the subject is not a mere fad. The carbon issue arouses the interest of companies from various segments, in all parts of the world.

There are several reasons for this. Among them is the concern of consumers, who tend to prefer products or services from companies that do not ignore environmental problems.

This aspect is so important that Samsung announced that in the year 2022 TVs of the Neo QLED line leave the factory with a seal that attests to the presence of CO2 reduction efforts in their production.

It is also worth noting that many governments create programs that encourage carbon offsetting by companies.

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