What Carbon Emissions Are Part Of Your Footprint?
This was originally posted on April 9, 2021, on Visual Capitalist.
With many countries and companies formalizing commitments to meeting the Paris Agreement carbon emissions reduction goals, the pressure to decarbonize is on.
A common commitment from organizations is a “net-zero” pledge to both reduce and balance carbon emissions with carbon offsets. Germany, France and the UK have already signed net-zero emissions laws targeting 2050, and the U.S. and Canada recently committed to synchronize efforts towards the same net-zero goal by 2050.
As organizations face mounting pressure from governments and consumers to decarbonize, they need to define the carbon emissions that make up their carbon footprints in order to measure and minimize them.
This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council highlights the three scopes of carbon emissions that make up a company’s carbon footprint.
The 3 Scopes of Carbon Emissions To Know
The most commonly used breakdown of a company’s carbon emissions are the three scopes defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a partnership between the World Resources Institute and Business Council for Sustainable Development.
The GHG Protocol separates carbon emissions into three buckets: emissions caused directly by the company, emissions caused by the company’s consumption of electricity, and emissions caused by activities in a company’s value chain.
Scope 1: Direct emissions
These emissions are direct GHG emissions that occur from sources owned or controlled by the company, and are generally the easiest to track and change. Scope 1 emissions include:
- Company vehicles
- Chemical production (not including biomass combustion)
Scope 2: Indirect electricity emissions
These emissions are indirect GHG emissions from the generation of purchased electricity consumed by the company, which requires tracking both your company’s energy consumption and the relevant electrical output type and emissions from the supplying utility. Scope 2 emissions include:
- Electricity use (e.g. lights, computers, machinery, heating, steam, cooling)
- Emissions occur at the facility where electricity is generated (fossil fuel combustion, etc.)
Scope 3: Value chain emissions
These emissions include all other indirect GHG emissions occurring as a consequence of a company’s activities both upstream and downstream. They aren’t controlled or owned by the company, and many reporting bodies consider them optional to track, but they are often the largest source of a company’s carbon footprint and can be impacted in many different ways. Scope 3 emissions include:
- Purchased goods and services
- Transportation and distribution
- Employee commute
- Business travel
- Use and waste of products
- Company waste disposal
The Carbon Emissions Not Measured
Most uses of the GHG Protocol by companies includes many of the most common and impactful greenhouse gases that were covered by the UN’s 1997 Kyoto Protocol. These include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, as well as other gases and carbon-based compounds.
But the standard doesn’t include other emissions that either act as minor greenhouse gases or are harmful to other aspects of life, such as general pollutants or ozone depletion.
These are emissions that companies aren’t required to track in the pressure to decarbonize, but are still impactful and helpful to reduce:
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCS): These are greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigeration systems and in fire suppression systems (alongside halons) that are regulated by the Montreal Protocol due to their contribution to ozone depletion.
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx): These gases include nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and are caused by the combustion of fuels and act as a source of air pollution, contributing to the formation of smog and acid rain.
- Halocarbons: These carbon-halogen compounds have been used historically as solvents, pesticides, refrigerants, adhesives, and plastics, and have been deemed a direct cause of global warming for their role in the depletion of the stratospheric ozone.
There are many different types of carbon emissions for companies (and governments) to consider, measure, and reduce on the path to decarbonization. But that means there are also many places to start.
The National Public Utilities Council is a collaborative body of industry experts coming together to solve decarbonization challenges in the power sector and the proud sponsor of the Decarbonization Channel.
Unpacking Hydrogen’s Role in Decarbonizing the Electricity Sector
In this infographic, we discuss three ways hydrogen can support the decarbonization of the global electricity sector.
Hydrogen’s Role in Decarbonizing the Electricity Sector
Hydrogen constitutes 75% of the elemental mass in our universe.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), it could also play a pivotal role in global decarbonization efforts.
This infographic, created in partnership with the National Public Utilities Council, explores three ways this element could support the decarbonization of the global electricity sector.
First, let’s get a few basics about hydrogen out of the way.
While abundant in nature, hydrogen is rarely found in its elemental state (H2) on Earth, meaning that it needs to be separated from other chemical compounds, such as water (H2O). Once extracted, however, it becomes a versatile and energy-dense fuel source, containing approximately three times the energy content of gasoline or natural gas.
There are several methods to extract hydrogen from compounds. Depending on the production method and energy source, the resulting hydrogen is often categorized by color to show its emission impact.
|Hydrogen Production Method
|Coal or Lignite
|Steam Methane Reforming (SMR)
|SMR + Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)
*Purple hydrogen is also referred to as red or pink hydrogen.
Today, black, gray, and blue hydrogen are used in emission-heavy industries such as petroleum refining and ammonia production.
The technology and infrastructure for purple and green hydrogen, on the other hand, are still taking shape. As they progress, these emission-free sources of hydrogen are expected to play a pivotal role in decarbonizing many hard-to-abate sectors, including power.
Three Ways Green Hydrogen Can Help Decarbonize
Now that we’ve covered hydrogen basics, let’s dive into where emission-free hydrogen can fit in the race to decarbonize our global electricity system.
#1: Hydrogen and Natural Gas Blending
Hydrogen can be blended with natural gas in existing pipeline infrastructure for lower-emission power generation.
According to Jenbacher, a 20–30% hydrogen volume can lead to a 7–11% decrease in CO2 emissions, compared to natural gas on its own.
In 2022, U.S. electricity from natural gas generated 743 million metric tons in the United States. A 9% reduction in emissions through hydrogen blending lowers emissions by 67 million metric tons CO2, all without the need to build new infrastructure.
#2: Fuel Cells
A fuel cell generates electricity through an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with water as the only byproduct.
By using green or pink hydrogen, fuel cells can provide 100% emission-free electricity that is also efficient, reliable, and dispatchable.
#3: Energy Storage
Energy storage plays a pivotal role in decarbonizing the power sector by balancing the intermittent nature of renewables.
While other technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries, can also provide energy storage, hydrogen has a greater potential to offer both large-scale and long-term storage, up to several months at a time.
As technology advances, the IEA predicts that global underground hydrogen capacity will grow by more than 200,000% in the next 30 years, reaching 1,200 TWh in 2050. That amount of energy can power 70,000 U.S. homes for an entire year, underscoring the untapped potential that lies within hydrogen.
Learn how the National Public Utilities Council is working towards the future of sustainable electricity.
Mapped: Global Temperature Rise by Country (2022-2100P)
In this set of three maps, we show the global temperature rise on a national level for 2022, 2050, and 2100 based on an analysis by Berkeley Earth.
Mapped: Global Temperature Rise by Country (2022-2100P)
Many scientific authorities, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), often discuss the need to limit planetary warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
But did you know that this warming will not be evenly distributed throughout the globe due to factors such as geography, weather patterns, ocean currents, and the influence of human activities?
To discover the current and projected nuances of this uneven warming, these three maps created in partnership with the National Public Utilities Council visualize the global temperature rise by country, using new and updated data from Berkeley Earth.
Current State of Warming
The three maps above visualize warming relative to each country’s average 1850-1900 temperatures.
Looking at warming in 2022, we see that average national warming (i.e. warming excluding oceans) is already 1.81°C above those numbers, with Mongolia warming the most (2.54°C) and Bangladesh warming the least (1.1°C).
As the map depicts, warming is generally more accelerated in the Global North. One of the reasons for this is Arctic amplification.
Arctic amplification refers to the disproportionate heating experienced in the Arctic compared to the rest of the planet. This amplification is fueled by multiple feedback loops, including decreased albedo as ice cover diminishes, leading to further absorption of heat and exacerbating the warming effect.
Arctic amplification. Source: NASA
Aside from modern-day observations, the effects of Arctic amplification are also clearly seen in climate models, where accelerated warming in countries such as Russia and Canada is seen through 2100.
Projected Warming in 2050 and 2100
Moving over to the second and third maps in the slides above, we discover country-level 2050 and 2100 warming projections.
These projections are based on the IPCC’s “middle-of-the-road” scenario, titled Shared Socioeconomic Pathway (SSP) 2-4.5. Out of the various established pathways, this one is the closest to expected emissions under current policies.
Under the SSP2-4.5 scenario, average national warming is projected to be 2.75°C above average 1850-1900 temperatures in 2050. This includes Mongolia, with the most substantial warming of 3.76°C, and New Zealand, with the mildest warming of 2.02°C.
To put those temperatures into context, here are the risks that would likely accompany them, according to the IPCC’s latest assessment report.
- Extreme weather events will be more frequent and intense, including heavy precipitation and related flooding and cyclones.
- Nearly all ecosystems will face high risks of biodiversity loss, including terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.
- Accelerated sea level rise will threaten coastal cities, leading to mass displacement.
Let’s now take a look at 2100 projections, which would have significantly higher levels of risk unless fast and extreme mitigation and adaptation measures are implemented in the upcoming decades.
2100 projections under the SSP2-4.5 scenario depict an average national warming of 3.80°C.
More than 55 countries across the globe are projected to have warming above 4°C in comparison to their 1850-1900 averages, and nearly 100 above 3.5°C.
Here is what those levels of warming would likely mean, according to the IPCC.
- 3-39% of terrestrial species will face very high risks of extinction.
- Water scarcity will considerably affect cities, farms, and hydro plants, and about 10% of the world’s land area will experience rises in both exceptionally high and exceptionally low river flows.
- Droughts, floods, and heatwaves will pose substantial threats to global food production and accessibility, eroding food security and impacting nutritional stability on a significant scale.
Generally, warming at this level is expected to pose substantial catastrophic risks to humanity, necessitating swift and bold climate action.
Learn more about how electric utilities and the power sector can lead on the path toward decarbonization here.
Electrification1 year ago
Visualized: How the Power Grid Works
Energy Shift7 months ago
Ranked: The Cheapest Sources of Electricity in the U.S.
Clean Energy1 year ago
Breaking Down Clean Energy Funding in the Inflation Reduction Act
Emissions1 year ago
Visualizing Global Per Capita CO2 Emissions
Climate1 year ago
Visualizing the State of Climate Change
Energy Shift12 months ago
Animated: 70 Years of U.S. Electricity Generation by Source
Clean Energy1 year ago
The 30 Largest U.S. Hydropower Plants
Decarbonization1 year ago
The U.S. Utilities Decarbonization Index