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Is It Time To Consider “Embodied” Emissions?

Using the Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment model developed at Carnegie Mellon, a VentureBeat article estimates the total amount of carbon that was emitted outside the U.S. (ie ‘?out of sight’) to make all the IT, telecom and consumer electronics imported into the U.S.

The U.S. imported $84 billion of computers and related equipment in 2006, and an estimated 66 MMTCO2 (million metric tons of carbon dioxide) at least were emitted outside the U.S. to produce these products, according to the article. These emissions are said to be “embodied” in those imported products. If imports of semiconductors, and consumer electronics (including electronic components and audiovisual equipment), are included, the relevant numbers are $261 billion of imports embodied with 151 MMTCO2.

To put this data in perspective, 151 MMTCO2 is roughly two thirds of the 228 MMTCO2 emitted by transportation in California.

The arguement against embodied emissions is that these emissions are calculated in the numbers from other countries, so if U.S. companies began to also count them they would be counted twice.

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