Thursday, October 15, 2009

What if…we could see our climate changing emissions??

What would be a good way of visualising exactly how much climate changing carbon dioxide we all produce*? Its easy to see all the waste that goes into our bins (and recycling boxes…) but carbon dioxide is a colourless and odourless gas presently emitted when we heat and light our homes, obtain and cook food, travel for work and leisure…We may read in the papers and hear on the news or see on the DEFRA website that on average each UK person emits a massive 12.5 tonnes per year of carbon dioxide equivalent – it sounds a lot but what does it mean? What would it look like if we could see it? (See picture of our daily production, per person, of 73 large black bin bags full).
If we could see and/or smell it would there be even more participants in today’s blog action day on climate change? Would there be more impetus take action on a scale that would reduce or avoid the worst effects of climate change, given that increasingly frequent news reports of rapidly melting arctic ice (from today) or news of how the world’s poorest are suffering most from the consequences of climate change don’t seem to be stimulating it??
*We can easily convert the 12.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to a volume. When this is done (see the calculation below +) we find that the average UK person emits enough carbon dioxide equivalent each day to fill 145 black bags (of the 120 litre type we all put our plastic rubbish in) – or 73 if you use the larger 240 litre black bags. That’s about 17,400 litres every day – not far off a whole streets worth of rubbish bins !!
Something like 23 black bin bags (120 litre size) per day (equivalent to around 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person per year) is an emissions level which would avoid the worst climate change.

+A mole of carbon dioxide (its relative molecular mass in grams) is 44 grams (12+16+16). One mole of gas at standard temperature and pressure occupies 22.4 litres.

12.5 tonnes x1000 = 12,500kg x1000 = 12,500,000g which divided by the mass of one mole, 44g, gives us the number of lots of 22.4 litres we produce in a year = 284,090.9 lots.

284,090.9 x 22.4 = 6,363,636.364 litres per year, which divided by 365 gives 17, 434 litres per day. Divide by 120 litres (black bag – or small rubbish bin – volume) and you get 145 bags full per day!! [Divide by the larger 240 litre bags and you get 73 bags full per day].


  1. Don't know about you, Glenn, but I can definitely smell some of my carbon emissions. And other people's too - which is far worse, of course.

  2. Farting, especially by humans, produces very few carbon emissions at all - its usually mostly nitrogen gas, which causes no climate change. The substances that produce the smell are in tiny amounts usually - and are mostly sulphur containing compounds like hydrogen sulphide and carbonyl sulphide!

  3. No surprise a climate change alarmist knows his guff!

    there is a particular smell to the vast majority of "evidence" on the issue!

    Cue - ...."If the UN say it....."
    ...." It's FACT, without proper consensus and open to revision but its still FACT"



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