So much of the impact of global warming and carbon reporting is lost in the jargon around these issues. Yes, perhaps you’ve heard them before, whether in conversation or in the news, but how much of them do you understand?

We believe the first step in helping you measure, manage and reduce your carbon emissions is education so we’ve put together a basic list that should lift the fog on some of these elusive terms. Read on as we demystify the technical terms of the carbon sphere:

Greenhouse gas

A greenhouse gas (GHG) is an atmospheric gas that traps heat by absorbing the infrared radiation given off by the Earth. There are many greenhouse gases and they play an important role in regulating our temperature. Greenhouse gas emissions refer to the release of these gases into the atmosphere.

Global warming and climate change

Global warming is the increase in the average surface temperature of the Earth. The increase in temperatures we are currently experiencing is attributed to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states there is a greater than 90% probability that global temperature increases are directly related to human kind’s exploitation and burning of fossil fuels. Because of the influence of temperature on climate, climatic conditions such as precipitation and wind are changing. This is climate change.

Greenhouse gas inventory

An inventory is a listing of the GHG emissions and emissions sources of a company. The world’s most widely used GHG accounting standard dictates that seven Kyoto greenhouse gases are accounted for. These include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride.

Global warming potential

Global warming potential (GWP) is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas to the amount of heat trapped by the same mass of carbon dioxide. Therefore GWP is expressed as a factor of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide equivalent

Because there are a number of greenhouse gases that need to be measured in a carbon footprint exercise, being able to consolidate and report these gases into a common denominator reduces complexity and confusion. The global warming potentials are applied to the individual greenhouse gases so that they can be reported as CO2 equivalents (or CO2e).

Carbon footprint 

In the context of a company, a carbon footprint is the total GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by an organisation, typically over a period of 12 months.

If you want to know what your company’s carbon footprint is and how to reduce it, we can help you. Visit our website for details on our carbon footprint audit.

Offsetting and being carbon neutral

Offsetting is a means of ‘neutralising’ the emissions created through a particular activity by purchasing an equivalent carbon reduction. By purchasing a carbon offset, which is typically delivered in the form of a carbon emissions reduction certificate, you are essentially investing in a carbon reduction project such as renewable energy or reforestation.

When it comes to unclouding carbon jargon, these terms should keep you in the green for the most part. If you want to know more about how you can make a difference by reducing your carbon footprint, get in touch with one of our carbon experts.

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