At this point, you might think that your job of reducing the carbon footprint of your car is pretty much complete. But have you ever thought about the CO2 that was emitted in the production of the car? How far were the materials and components transported? Was the lithium in the batteries extracted in a high-altitude Chilean desert or in a remote part of China? Was the copper in the wires mined in Arizona or in Africa? Was the iron ore for the steel extracted in Australia and then processed in China, or was the steel made from recycled scrap metal?
It’s very likely that you can’t answer any of these questions; the embedded carbon content of any product is largely unknown to the final consumer. Very few consumers are aware of the carbon that has been generated in the production and delivery of products and, as a consequence, virtually nobody takes action to abate these emissions. This is a problem because only 9 percent of carbon emissions come from passenger fuels and 25 percent come from the generation of electricity, while 40 percent of emissions come from the production and delivery of commodities in industrial value chains (28 percent from the industrial activities themselves, and 7 percent from heavy freight transport).
What’s the direct consequence for your electric vehicle? The truth is that the accumulated carbon footprint of a newly bought gasoline-fueled car is the same order of magnitude as the footprint of its lifetime fuel consumption — so by buying an electric vehicle and securing green electricity, you might actually be only about halfway through abating your car’s total carbon footprint.
What can we do to change this? Because what is out of sight is often out of mind, the first step is to calculate and communicate the CO2 emissions that are inherent in produced goods. Until people know the CO2 footprint of the products they’re using, it will be impossible for them to demand lower-carbon goods.
Read the rest on CTL’s Medium blog.