Carbon accounting is a thing I've had to learn about because I've gone and been foolish and applied for a job. In my summer holidays. Working for the local council. For the government.
Ack! How could I have been so foolish.
Admittedly, a holiday job with a government body looks really good on your resume. Especially if the job will affect their environmental policy for the next 50 maybe years.
Carbon accounting is the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions for a given organization, region, country or other sociopolitical entity. It involves collecting vast amounts of data, crunching the numbers, and creating an emissions inventory. Often this involves factoring in economic and social variables such as growth, output, and increased efficiency. Carbon accounting is often the significant part of a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
Carbon accounting also involves making comparisons of periods of time for any patterns or 'undesirable' trends in the data. From this you are supposed to make hypothetical statements about how to deal with these, or even if they are good or bad. a bit like Santa Claus, really.
To me, personally, the topic can appear as either completely nuts, or completely sane and worthwhile. On the one hand, inventorising gross emissions from the city is a good thing. But on the other hand, to make a balanced picture, you would also need to make an inventory of the carbon sinks in the city. Sinks and sources, sources and sinks. In compliance with the first law of Thermodynamics, the carbon has to go somewhere. Where? To the trees, of course.
But can you imagine counting every plant in the city and trying to calculate how much carbon it can assimilate through photosynthesis? Far easier is to be so terribly Gaussian and make assumptions about it.
I hope I get the job. And then again, maybe it should go to a more qualified student.
I'm not sure I completely understand why the focus is on carbon dioxide emissions. I know why, but, it doesn't make that much sense. Carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas is the most prominent emissions candidate. But is increased carbon dioxide levels in the air really that bad. A few years ago, some reserch was done to see the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
This was done in greenhouses, fittingly enough. Now the 'normal' atmosphric carbon dioxide concentration is about 300 parts per million (ppm). The researchers doubled this amount to 600 ppm. they discovered that the plants exposed to higher levels of carbon dioxide were 9-11% more efficient in terms of water use than their control counterparts. How cool is that?
So agriculture will have some advantages in a greenhouse world. It's just a tiny bit ironic (word usage may be slightly off) that agriculture is a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. Livestock and rice are the two agricultural conributors for the massive amount of methane vented into the atmosphere. How? Livestock have fermentive digestive systems. In the process, methane is produced. Humans like meat, so there are lots of livestock on the planet, all producing methane. Rice paddies provide an anaerobic environment ideal for methanogenic bacteria. lots of rice is grown, meaning a significant amount of methane.
Humans also contribute with flatulence and heavy industry.