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What does a tonne of CO2 look like?

What does a tonne of CO2 look like?

Wondering how much volume 1 metric tonne of CO2 takes?

The art installation was created by Millennium ART in partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information, Google and YouTube. The 3-story-tall cube was made from used shipping containers and had two sides covered draped with screens projecting images and videos. The idea was to help people visualize exactly what one tonne of CO2“looks like” in volume: 27 feet or 8 m cubed! (Photo above by PUSH_ARCHITECTURE.)

Interesting facts:

  • The government of Canada has pledged to reduce national emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 – that is, to 524 megatons (Mt) of CO₂ emissions annually by 2030 (compared to 732 Mt of CO₂e emissions in 2014).
  • U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions increased by 0.9% in 2014 to 5,406 Mt of CO₂.
  • Every year the United States emits a 30.5 cm (1 ft) high blanket of carbon dioxide over its land area.
  • The U.S. economy is 10 times larger than the Canadian economy in terms of GDP and releases 7 times as much GHGs than its counterpart.
  • The U.S. economy grew from 16.77 T (trillions) in 2013 to 18 T in 2015, while the Canadian economy shrank from 1.83 T to 1.55 T in the same period, most likely due to the drop in oil prices.

One tonne of greenhouse gas emissions is equal to:

  • Heating a home for 4 months – By far the single biggest emissions source in Canadian households is for space heating. It accounts for 63% of all household energy use. The high demand for heat means a single Canadian household will produce 3 tonnes of GHG emissions in a year from space heating alone. Canadian residential space heating accounts for 39 Mt of CO₂e emissions in a year, mostly over the winter months.
  • 7 months powering a home – In Canada, households rely heavily on electricity. One of the biggest single electricity users is water heating systems which accounts for approximately 50% of an average Canadian’s household electricity. Big household appliances, like refrigerators and clothes washers, use almost as much. Collectively they contribute 4.4 Mt of CO₂e emissions in a single year.
  • A year’s trash from 1 household – Compared to other countries with similar levels of disposable household income and urbanization, Canada has one of the highest levels of municipal waste production per capita. This is the result of two significant factors: the increase in the overall waste Canadians make and the lack of comprehensive municipal waste diversion programs. Organics waste is one of the biggest contributors to municipal waste GHG emissions especially when sent to landfills. About 35% of Canadian waste, measuring up to 10 Mt of CO₂e emissions annually, comes from food waste alone.
  • Driving 4500 km – Transportation is the second biggest GHG contributor in Canada. Within the sector, 53% of emissions are produced by personal vehicles. In 2012 the Pembina Institute estimated that Canadians living in metro or suburban areas (the majority) commute an average of 45 km a day for work. At that rate, Canadian drivers produce 1 tonne of GHG emissions from just four and a half months of commuting. Personal vehicles driven in Canada contribute a yearly total of about 70 Mt of CO₂e emissions.
  • Raising a cow for 6 months – Cows produce an exceptionally high level of GHG emissions. Canadians also consume more beef than almost any other type of animal protein. This means cows are a big part of Canadians’ GHG footprint. GHG emissions associated with beef are 4 times those associated with chicken, and 18 times higher than for beans and lentils. Cheese production contributes double the emissions of chicken and 9 times the emissions of beans and lentils. The emissions equivalent of raising a cow for 6 months is enough to produce beef and cheese to satisfy the average consumption of one Canadian for a year. The total emissions of cattle raising in Canada contributes 24 Mt of CO₂e emissions in a year.
  • Manufacturing 46 bags of cement – Cement is the binding ingredient of concrete. Concrete is used in a multitude of ways in urban and industrial development. 46 bags of cement is enough to construct about 40 meters (or 125 feet) of concrete city sidewalk. The average concrete and steel commercial building, the predominant choice for most mid- and high-rise buildings constructed in the last century, uses 200 times that much cement. In Canada, the energy intensive cement industry contributes 10 Mt of CO₂e emissions annually.
  • Extracting 15 barrels of oil – Extracting oil from the ground produces emissions even before it is refined, transported, and used. The Canadian oil and gas sector produces 1.6 billion barrels of oil a year which is estimated to produce 104 Mt of CO₂e emissions at the point of extraction. These emissions are in many ways unaccounted-for life-cycle emissions for any oil based energy or products (which includes many daily-use household items), essentially doubling actual emissions for things like gasoline used in a car.
Water Technologies Canada Inc.

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