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Carbon Footprint

During your studies of GCSE Geography, you will learn much about how humans put pressure on the environment due to our needs for resources. Management of the environment appears in several different sections of the syllabus and will often refer to the 'carbon footprint' of individuals, businesses, industries and whole nations.

Carbon footprints for MEDCs are generally greater than LEDCs due to greater industrialisation, greater wealth leading to more consumerism and a ready access to motorised transport. Some people believe that MEDCs should assist emerging economies to manage their carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint is the term used to measure human impact on the natural environment.

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It works by calculating the greenhouse gases that we produce in our activities and has the units of kilograms of carbon dioxide per person. The carbon footprint of individuals vary considerably, some people make a big effort to reduce their carbon footprint for example, by using less energy, buying fewer consumer goods and using their motor vehicles less. In the UK, the average is about 10,000 kg of carbon dioxide per person but worldwide, the average is 4,000 kg of carbon dioxide per person.

The global search to satisfy the increasing demand for food can have positive and negative repercussions. Larger carbon footprints are one of the negative aspects due to the increasing number of 'food miles' travelled. In LEDCS, food production is usually local, often families grow their own. Transport is by hand and consequently has little impact on the carbon footprint of a nation.

As a country develops, the local production of food is less common, farmers seek new markets further afield in order to increase profits. Shops, particularly supermarkets, import foods from countries on the other side of the globe. Every mile that non-locally produced food travels requires transport, transport uses fossil fuels which releases greenhouse gases into the air. The greater the number of food miles, the greater the carbon footprint.

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  1. When a government, company or individual does something that compensates for their carbon emissions, it is called carbon offsetting. Effectively this reduces their carbon footprint. Which of the following is not an example of a method of carbon offsetting?
    The aim of carbon offsetting is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere. Flue gas desulphurisation helps to reduce acid rain
  2. For which of the following can a carbon footprint be calculated?
    You can have a carbon footprint for an event, product, netball team, school etc
  3. Which of the following is not a method of reducing a carbon footprint?
    Methods of reducing a carbon footprint involve the reduction of greenhouse gases
  4. A carbon footprint of a country is given in ...
    A carbon footprint is only a good approximation as there are too many variables and unknowns to enable an exact figure to be calculated
  5. Indirect carbon emissions are often overlooked when thinking about a personal carbon footprint. Which of the following is not an indirect carbon emission?
    Indirect carbon emissions are the release of greenhouse gases that have not been directly created by the person. Driving is a direct carbon emission, the others are indirect as they are created during the production of the items
  6. As a LEDC develops economically ...
    As the LEDC becomes more industrialised and the population has a greater spending power, the carbon footprint will increase
  7. The carbon footprint measures ...
    Reducing your carbon footprint will help the environment
  8. Which of the following activities does not contribute directly to a person's carbon footprint?
    Growing does not produce greenhouse gas emissions
  9. To which environmental issue is the carbon footprint linked?
    It is a measure of the level of greenhouse gases emitted
  10. The Kyoto Protocol is ...
    It was first agreed in 1997 and expired in 2012. A new agreement was made in 2012 but does not involve all of the world's countries

Author: Kev Woodward

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