• Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted when you burn gasoline, diesel, coal and similar fossil fuels. An increase in these greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because of increased use of fossil fuels has been linked to global warming and climate change. And in York County, as part of the Charlotte metro region, that footprint is growing.
The Charlotte metro region -- including York County -- is growing its carbon footprint nearly three times faster than the national average for the country's top 100 metro areas, according to a study released last week by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., public policy nonprofit group.
The area's footprint from transportation and residential energy use increased by 3.08 percent between 2000 and 2005, compared with a 1.1 percent average for the top 100 metros. Nationally, an individual's carbon footprint increased 2.2 percent during that time.
The average resident in our area emitted about 2.8 tons of carbon in 2005, compared with the national average of 2.6 tons. That ranks 72nd out of 100 metro areas -- with 1 being the least emissions and 100 being the most -- according to the Brookings study.
In the Charlotte area, vehicle emissions make up about 60 percent of the carbon footprint. In 2005, the average resident was responsible for about 1.7 tons of carbon from highway transportation, 77th out of 100.
Cars are the main contributor, the Brookings report says, accounting for 1.3 tons of carbon emissions per resident. Trucks accounted for about 0.47 tons per resident. That ranks 79th and 73rd, respectively, among the top 100 metro areas.
On average, Charlotte region residents are responsible for about 1.03 tons of carbon emissions from residential energy in 2005, including electricity use and residential fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. That's better than the national average of 1.16 tons per resident, placing our area 50th out of the 100 largest metro areas.
Electricity use was the biggest culprit, contributing 0.85 tons of carbon per resident in the Charlotte area. Fossil fuels used in homes led to 0.19 tons of carbon per person.
The Brookings Institution recommends five policies to help control and reduce the carbon footprints in metro areas.
1. Promote more transportation choices that expand public transit and encourage compact development.
2. Develop a regional freight plan that encourages more energy-efficient freight operations.
3. Require energy costs to be disclosed when homes are sold to stimulate energy-efficient upgrades to older homes.
4. Create incentives for energy- and location-efficient homes.
5. Issue a challenge to the metro area to develop innovative solutions for reducing carbon footprints.
How Americans contribute to the global carbon footprint
The Average American adds 23 tons (more than 50,000 pounds) of CO2 to the atmophere yearly.