Behold: two very different ways of looking at U.S. climate-warming emissions, thanks to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (pdf presentation here). First, the geeky view, with emissions broken out by the specific activities and economic sectors that directly account for emissions:
In this view, electricity and transportation dominate—suggesting that those are pretty good places to look for emissions reductions.
But here’s another, somewhat more personal view—one that fits our “carbon footprint” into the context of our daily lives.
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This chart shows that it is our stuff that carries the biggest carbon footprint. Emissions related to buildings (heating, cooling and lighting) are a close second.
Interestingly, the two charts rely on the exact same underlying numbers. Yet they present completely different perspectives on the best leverage points for reducing GHG emissions. Which view is more helpful to keep in mind, for someone trying to fight climate change? I’m not sure. Perhaps neither—since the real key to curbing climate change isn’t finding where emissions are most abundant, but finding where they are most easily curbed.
That said, as someone who’s used to thinking about the first chart—where electricity and transportation dominate the picture—the second chart comes as something of an eye-opener. How we get around town is certainly a big deal. Yet as harmful as personal vehicles are to the climate, I probably should be paying a bit more attention to my stuff.