“Carbon” emissions

I do wish people would stop talking about “carbon emissions” when they mean “carbon dioxide emissions”. Carbon is not a greenhouse gas. It is a solid, usually black, and harmless except in a relatively minor way when emitted as black smoke. Carbon dioxide is not even mainly carbon – by weight it is more than twice as much oxygen as carbon, so it would make (very slightly) more sense to talk about “oxygen emissions”!

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2 thoughts on ““Carbon” emissions

  1. Carbon emissions’ may be more appropriate in many cases, since the figures people often work with are CO2 equivalents. What we need to address are *all* greenhouse gases, including important ones like methane, NOx, etc. ‘Carbon emissions’ may then be the best shorthand to cover this. So i think the challenge for us all is to be aware of what the data actually *is* behind the words/figures we bandy around, and to use appropriate shorthand terms that will form the right impression in more casual/less-informed readers’ minds.

  2. I certainly agree that all greenhouse gases are important, and that a standard such as CO2 equivalent is useful, but I do not agree that “carbon” is a sensible choice. If we mean CO2 equivalent, why not say so, instead of attempting to relate to something which is not a greenhouse gas at all. There is carbon in methane, too, far more by weight than in carbon dioxide, so talking about carbon or carbon equivalent is misleading and nonsensical.

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