Several airline booking sites tell you how much carbon dioxide your flight will emit. They even offer to plant trees to offset the carbon dioxide you will emit in your travel for a small fee. For example, a Delhi-Bangalore flight emits 194.5 Kgs of carbon dioxide, and a grown tree on average absorbs 20.3 Kgs of carbon in a year. Ofcourse many other everyday things we do emit carbon dioxide - we use electric appliances, drive cars, eat inorganically grown food, etc.
There are several carbon footprint calculators online including this one which is specifically made for people living in India. It seems the global average carbon footprint is 3.9 tonnes/annum and the Indian average is 1.6 tonnes/annum. And mine is 5 tonnes/annum. Ofcourse that is not counting the 4 trees I have planted in my lifetime so far :)
Anyway, is it really possible to reduce the average carbon footprint at an individual level? To see that I tried to see what is contributing to my 5 tonnes/annum output. I drive to office, I travel by air/train a few times a year. And it turns out driving to office and air/train trips are the major contributors to my carbon footprint. Without these two I am just below the national average at 1.59 tonnes/annum. Looks like I do most things other Indians do and additionally drive to work and travel by air/train more frequently.
As our economy grows, can we really cut down on travel? It seems natural to expect that there will be even more travel by more individuals. India has set a goal of 20 to 25 per cent reduction in carbon intensity by 2020, compared to the 2005 levels. In 2005 I am guessing the national average would have been close to 1.3 tonnes/annum per Indian. So India is committing to around 1 ton/annum/Indian.
In itself this is not a bad goal to have. But to get there are we up to the challenge of devising new technologies that allow us to grow but still have a smaller carbon footprint? Our schools and colleges are still hung up on teaching about old technologies and methods not catering to this green economy. A computer science course in IIT has no green computing methods in it. Graduates of our key institutions still come out having no knowledge about how to create the new technologies that will allow India to advance while still keeping our carbon commitments. We have many new IITs but all of them teach the same old courses in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering.
In the 90s we could get on the IT bandwagon because we produced computer science students and other technically qualified graduates in large numbers who could go out there and solve the problems in the IT area. But today we seem stuck on the model of creating more of these for a tomorrow that may require other skills.