Scaling Carbon Footprinting: Challenges and Opportunities
Keywords:Life Cycle Assessment, Carbon Footprint, Consumer Products, Climate
AbstractRapid and continuous increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is warming our planet at unprecedented rates. Consumer products and services, including all aspects of the corresponding supply chain, contribute to more than 75% of these emissions. Attribution of GHG emissions to each product will drive awareness and change from individual consumers to large corporations that produce and own these products. However, accurate and standards-compliant accounting of carbon emissions for millions of products is challenging as it requires detailed manufacturing and supply chain data, and subject expertise in life cycle assessment (LCA). We posit that ideas from computer science and machine learning can alleviate bottlenecks in LCA, and that research contributions from this community will accelerate solutions for accurate carbon-footprint estimation as well as carbon-abatement strategies at scale. We present the principal components of an LCA study with a step-by-step walk-through. We elaborate upon the challenges to scale LCA, and identify the opportunities to innovate in this space with techniques such as information extraction, personalized recommendations, and decision-making under uncertainty.
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