Carbon Footprint

Global climate change is one of humanity’s greatest challenges and one of the most important indicators that we are in ecological overshoot. Since the carbon footprint is 50 percent of humanity’s overall Ecological Footprint, reducing our carbon footprint is essential to ending ecological overshoot.

Today the spotlight is on carbon, but climate change is happening as we approach other critical limits in fisheries, forests, cropland, and water. Unless we focus on ending overshoot as a whole-systems problem, some of our solutions to global warming could cause large, unintended impacts. In the rush toward biofuels, for example, we are in many cases shifting pressure to cropland and forestland.

Associated Graph

Today, the term “carbon footprint” is being used as shorthand for the amount of carbon (usually in tonnes) being emitted by an activity or organization. The carbon component of the Ecological Footprint goes beyond this definition and translates this amount of carbon dioxide into the amount of forest area required to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. This tells us the demand on the planet that results from burning fossil fuels.

Note: This doesn’t mean planting forests is the solution to climate change. It shows us the planet doesn’t have the capacity to sequester all the carbon dioxide we are emitting.

The Ecological Footprint ensures that we can identify the best long term solutions and that our solutions truly “add up.” Whether we are deciding which carbon offsets are the most effective or which energy sources will lead us into the future, the Ecological Footprint tells us whether our solutions lead us out of overshoot and toward one planet living.