Knowing the difference between CO2 and CO2e and how to calculate both figures is an important step in understanding your impact on the environment.
Most business owners and consumers are interested in knowing the difference between CO2 and CO2e when calculating their carbon footprint.
This article outlines the difference between CO2 and CO2e in an easy-to-understand manner. And check out our free discount to save money on eco-friendly products!
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What is the difference between CO2 and CO2e?
CO2 only measures Carbon Dioxide. However, CO2e stands for "Carbon Dioxide Equivalent" and measures CO2 plus all other greenhouse gases including methane, nitrous oxide, and more.
CO2e gives us a better view on the total environmental impact of our actions and operations.
What are greenhouse gas emissions?
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. They are often emitted by burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas during daily activities such as driving, flying on a plane, or using electricity and heat.
Why are greenhouse gases bad?
Greenhouse gases can remain in the atmosphere from anywhere from a few years to thousands of years. Too much greenhouse gas causes the planet to become abnormally warm which impacts the climate, our lives, and environment.
What is CO2?
Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a natural, colorless, and odorless greenhouse gas emitted when fossil fuels (i.e., natural gas, oil, coal, etc.) burn.
CO2 is the most prevalent greenhouse gas and has become the proxy by which we measure greenhouse gas emissions.
However, carbon dioxide is only one of many greenhouse gases emitted when humans undertake certain activities. Other greenhouse gases are methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone – all of which occur naturally in our atmosphere.
That is why we need to understand CO2e
What is CO2e?
CO2e stands for "carbon dioxide equivalent". It takes into account the emission of other greenhouse gases when calculating the level of greenhouse gas emissions.
How is CO2e calculated?
CO2e allows other greenhouse gas emissions to be expressed in terms of CO2 based on their relative global warming potential (GWP).
CO2 has a GWP of 1, methane has a GWP of approximately 25 (on a 100-year time horizon). In other words, for every 1 tonne of methane (CH4) emitted, an equivalent of 25 tonnes of CO2 would be emitted.
Why is CO2e important?
In this way, we can express greenhouse gas emissions as an equivalent of CO2 using the GWP principle.
So next time you see a carbon footprint expressed in terms of CO2e, you can know for sure that all greenhouse gases have been included for each activity in scope, and therefore a fuller picture of an organization's impact has been captured.
Note: Most greenhouse gas emission factors are expressed as CO2e. This means you don’t need to make the conversion from methane GWP to carbon dioxide GWP.