One of the most useful and fairly recent ways to understand the impact of human commerce and lifestyles on the biological and material resources and processes of the planet is to express that use in terms of a carbon or water or energy or soil “footprint.”
But up until now it has not been possible to express with precision the impact of human carbon footprints on Arctic sea ice. It’s one thing to have a number for your shoe size, but another thing altogether to know what you’re stepping on in the real world.
As you can see from the illustration in the Guardian, the consequences of my energy needs, transportation needs, and the externalized carbon production that results from the things that I eat, things that I purchase (CO2 production at the point of their manufacturer or growth and in their transportation thousands of miles to my front door or table) equates to about 50 square metres of melted sea ice each year. Keep in mind that on average, Arctic sea ice is about 8 feet thick.
I’m probably not going to do the math, but thirty square meters down 8 feet (to get cubic meters) will melt due to my contribution to greenhouse gas over the poles in one year. Then this volume of ice will become how many gallons of water to contribute to sea level rise? Multiply this volume in gallons times the average CO2 production per person in the developed world.
There is no denial that the human economic engine has contributed mightily to the far-reaching impacts of carbon dioxide rise over the past century. There is also no doubt that we can and must change the size of our usage-and-waste footprints.
Just knowing is first step.