Hiding in plain sight: The carbon cost of everyday products
The targets set in the Paris Agreement on climate change are ambitious but necessary. Failure to meet them will lead to widespread drought, disease and desperation in some of the world’s poorest regions. Under such conditions, mass migration by stranded climate refugees is almost inevitable.
Yet if richer nations are to be serious in their commitment to the Paris target, then they must begin to account for the carbon emissions contained within products they import.
Heavy industry and the constant demand for consumer goods are key contributors to climate change. In fact, 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (PDF) are produced through the process of converting metal ores and fossil fuels into the cars, washing machines and electronic devices that help prop up the economy and make life a little more comfortable.
As one might expect, the wealthier parts of the world with their higher purchasing power do more than their fair share of consuming and polluting. For every item bought or sold there is a rise in GDP, and with each 1 percent increase in GDP there is a corresponding 0.5 to 0.7 percent rise in carbon emissions. The growing demand for day-to-day conveniences exacerbates this problem. For metal ores alone, the extraction rate more than doubled between 1980 and 2008 (PDF), and it shows no sign of slowing.