How many planets do we need?

What do 236 cylinders of propane and the weight of a female African elephant have in common? Answer: they’re both equivalents of the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the average American car in one year.

So are you any the wiser on exactly how much 12,500 lbs of CO2 really is? Or how this relates to the (far, far) bigger picture of climate change?

Probably not. Imagining elephants and propane tanks doesn’t really get to the concrete implications of our daily consumer decisions. Even this page of emissions data equivalents lends itself to John Nash style mathematical ponderings, rather than clear understanding and action. And yet waking people up is precisely the goal of the calculations.

So I was excited to find the Consumer Consequences calculator today. It works on this premise:

The Earth couldn’t support its 6.6 billion residents if everyone lived like a typical American. Consumer Consequences will tell you how many planets it would take to support your lifestyle on a planetary scale.

It’s a fun calculator with some interesting ideas in it. Although you don’t get an accurate carbon footprint reading (it doesn’t pretend to give you one, to be fair), it will tell you how many times over we’d use up the earth’s resources if everybody lived like you. Or me.

NB: Screen grab of the game not with my own numbers!

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pete

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  1. RAS - February 5, 2008

    I did the calculation and want to know at what percentage of CO2 is the earths atmosphere changed to allow global warming.
    5 height of car
    5 width of car
    5280 mile in feet
    18 avg mile per gallon
    2,376,000 cubic feet in the area the car travels in one mile.
    7.48 cubic feet to a gallon
    317647.0588 amount of gallons of gas that will fill the area
    0.8 percent of C in gasoline
    254117.6471 Carbon percentage
    0.333 C is 1/3 of the CO2 equation
    84621.17647 Amount of carbon that will be in the area. the other 2/3 is Oxygen.
    22000 average miles per year
    18 avg mile per gallon
    1222.222222 average gallons used by 1 car.
    69.23550802 Cars per year to fill the 18 mile stretch of 5 ft by 5 feet
    250 5280 1320000 feet N-S
    250 5280 1320000 feet E-W
    15000 15000 feet into the sky
    2.6136E+16 Cubic space in arkansas
    2.1384E+13 Cars per year that would take to fill space in arkansas with co2 using the above assumtions.
    0.001 Change of .1percent
    21,384,000,000 Cars per year that would take to fill space in arkansas with co2
    400,000,000 people in the US and all drive 22k per year in arkansas
    53.46 With no change in any weather it would take 53.4 years to replace the area with 00.1% of CO2 to arkansas
    53,460 years to fill the area with CO2

  2. RAS - February 6, 2008

    Sorry i had a bad calculation i used 7.48 cubic feet to a gallon. It is 7.48 gallons to a cubic feet. Had to multiply not divide.
    For some of you calculating people
    5 height of car
    5 width of car
    5280 mile in feet
    18 avg mile per gallon
    2,376,000 cubic feet in 5ftX5ftX18miles
    7.48 Gallons in 1 cubic foot
    17,772,480 Total Gallons to fill area
    0.8 percent of C in gasoline
    14,217,984 80% of the Gas is C
    0.333 carbon is 1/3 of the CO2 equation
    4,734,589 Gallons of gas to create CO2 to fill this area
    22,000 average miles per year
    18 avg mile per gallon
    1,222.2222 average gallons used by 1 car.
    3,873.75 Cars per year to fill the 18 mile stretch
    1,320,000 feet Long
    1,320,000 feet Wide
    15,000 feet High
    2.6136E+16 Cubic feet of space in Arkansas
    1.95497E+17 Gallons of gas to fill area
    0.8 Percent of C in Gas
    1.56398E+17 80% of gas is C
    0.333 The area would be 1/3 C if full of Co2
    5.20805E+16 would take This much Gasoline to fill the area with C02
    4.26113E+13 Cars per year to fill space in Arkansas with co2
    0.0004 Change of .04 percent
    17,044,519,219 Cars per year to make area .04% co2
    400,000,000 people in the US and all drive
    42.61 Years to make the Area .04% CO2
    106,528 Years to fill the area with Co2
    3,790,000 US Square miles
    27,878,400 square Feet for Square Mile
    105,659,136,000,000 US Square Feet
    Assumtion for coal
    59 cubic-ft/ton
    4,663,000,000 tons of coal per from the top 15 countries
    2.75117E+11 Cubic feet of coal per year
    15,000 Height in the air
    1.58489E+18 Cubic feet in the US
    0.333 only 1/3 can be carbon year for the world
    5.27767E+17 This much carbon is needed
    1,918,338 Years to fill the US only area with the Carbon from world
    0.04%
    767.34 Years to fill the US only area with .04% CO2

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