OK, I’ll bite. What the hell is my carbon footprint?

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Q. Dear Umbra, How does one determine the carbon footprint of a specific product, service, or individual? –Curious About My Carbon A. Dear CAMC, The carbon footprint is the building block of climate understanding: If you begin to quantify your own contribution to the massive cloud of emissions trapping heat in the atmosphere, you can wrap your head around the importance of shrinking your little piece of it. But that doesn’t mean it’s exactly intuitive. What the hell does “carbon footprint” even mean? You don’t step on anything. I mean, you sort of step on the future, but that’s hard to visualize. The idea of an ecological footprint — which measures the land required to support someone’s lifestyle — more or less goes back to the ’70s. It was a way to conceptualize how your personal lifestyle took up a portion of a finite resource — that is, land on Earth. The carbon footprint is a similar concept, although some climate scientists agree that “footprint” is a confusing metaphor. Given that it’s measured in tons of greenhouse gases, carbon “weight” might be a more accurate term. But regardless, it’s meant to convey the same idea: You are creating x […]

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