Phantm Measurement Focus & Rationale

There are seven potential metrics that are considered in a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

Life Cycle Analysis Indicators (LCA)

  1. GWP (Global Warming Potential)
  2. Fossil Fuel Use
  3. Water Consumption (with Scarcity)
  4. Freshwater Eutrophication
  5. Mineral Resource Use
  6. GWP (with C02 Uptake) Freshwater Ecotoxicity
  7. Human Impact (Midpoint)

From these seven potential metrics, Phantm concentrates on three key indicators.

By limiting the initial scope, we prioritise presenting clients with focused data review and interpretation. This approach empowers clients with actionable insights enabling them to make better-informed decisions regarding their product and or packaging.

Phantm's three key indicators

  1. GWP (Global Warming Potential)
  2. Fossil Fuel Use
  3. Water Consumption (with Scarcity)

1. GWP (Global Warming Potential)

Global Warming Potential (GWP) – is the first metric reviewed in Phantm’s Assessment Impact Report and is also referred to as Carbon (CO2).

Why Carbon Matters

Carbon is found in carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat near the Earth's surface. It plays a crucial role in retaining some of the Sun's heat to maintain a liveable temperature on our planet. However, when there's too much CO2, it leads to an excessive warming of the Earth's temperature.

Carbon is present in all living organisms, including us. As part of Earth's carbon cycle, we contribute to the balance of carbon distribution. However, this balance is shifting due to human activities, disrupting the natural equilibrium that has existed for a long time.

Human activities, like burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are altering the balance between the carbon in the atmosphere and the carbon stored in plants and oceans. This leads to a rise in CO2 levels in the air, which can have adverse effects on Earth's climate.

Vegetation

Vegetation absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change by reducing its levels. This process is crucial for maintaining the balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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Photo by Su San Lee

Fossil Fuels

Burning coal, oil or natural gas releases carbon stored for millions of years into the atmosphere, impacting climate and ecosystems.

Soils

As organic matter decomposes, carbon is absorbed into the soil, where it can be stored for long periods, while the rest is released back into the atmosphere as CO2.

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Photo by Glen Carrie

Fires

Fires, whether they're ignited by humans or occur naturally, release CO2 into the air. While ecosystems can absorb some of this carbon as they recover, the process doesn’t always happen quickly enough to restore balance.

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Photo by Max Kukurudziak

Understanding Carbon’s Impact

For the past 8,000 years, carbon dioxide levels have remained remarkably stable, contributing to a consistent climate. Prior to this stability, carbon dioxide levels were low, coinciding with an ice age. However, in recent history, particularly over the last century, human population growth and the development of industrial and technological advancements have led to significant changes. The widespread burning of coal, oil, and gas, coupled with deforestation at an accelerated rate, has resulted in the rapid increase of CO2 levels, surpassing 400 parts per million (ppm). This surge has created a thick blanket of CO2 not witnessed for hundreds of thousands of years, leading to the warming of our planet. This unprecedented shift threatens the stability of our climate, society, and the overall well-being of all life on Earth.

Greenhouse Gas numbers have changed

In the last 100 years, greenhouse gas emissions have undergone significant changes. Scientists have been able to track these changes by studying historical levels of carbon dioxide. This monitoring involves analysing samples taken from deep cores of ice in the Arctic. As at the start of 2024, the level was 425 ppm.

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Source: Berkley Earth

Most emissions come from just a few countries

The top five emitters – China, the United States of America, India, European Union and the Russian Federation – accounted for about 64% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2022

The Group of 20 – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States– are responsible for about 77% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2022

By contrast, least developed countries account for about 3.8% of global emissions, while small island developing States contribute less than 1% as at 2022

Limiting Global Warming – Our Actions

The 1.5°C and 2°C temperature thresholds represent critical limits aimed at averting the most severe and irreversible consequences of climate change. These targets were established within the framework of the Paris Agreement, a landmark international treaty adopted in 2015. Under this agreement, nations pledged to work together to limit global warming, striving to keep the temperature increase well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. The significance of these thresholds lies in the varying impacts they have on the environment, human health, and economies as global temperatures continue to rise.

Importance of the 1.5°C Limit

Scientific research, particularly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), underscores the critical significance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C. This narrower threshold promises significantly less severe impacts on ecosystems, human health, and economies. For instance, it substantially diminishes the risk of extreme weather events like heatwaves, droughts, and floods, along with mitigating the loss of biodiversity, including the extinction of numerous plant and animal species. Maintaining warming at 1.5°C rather than 2°C also translates to reduced sea-level rise, affording both people and natural systems greater opportunities to adapt and lessening the adverse effects on the millions residing in coastal regions. Furthermore, it lowers the probability of surpassing critical tipping points that could trigger irreversible changes, such as the melting of polar ice sheets.

The Carbon Budget

The carbon budget serves as a vital framework for quantifying the allowable amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that can be released into the atmosphere while still maintaining the possibility of limiting global warming to a specific temperature threshold, such as 1.5°C or 2°C. This concept hinges on the direct relationship between the cumulative CO2 emissions and the subsequent rise in global temperature. Therefore, staying within these temperature limits necessitates strict adherence to the carbon budget. The carbon budget has emerged as a critical tool for policymakers and researchers alike, guiding the development and implementation of strategies aimed at reducing emissions. It underscores the urgent need for drastic and immediate cuts in emissions to avoid surpassing these temperature thresholds. Notably, the carbon budget for the 1.5°C target is considerably smaller and more challenging to adhere to, underscoring the imperative for prompt and robust climate action compared to the 2°C target.

The Current Climate Landscape / Broken Records

  • In 2023 until early October, there were 86 days with temperatures exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, with September being the hottest month on record at 1.8°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions surged by 1.2% from 2021 to 2022, reaching a record 57.4 Gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (GT CO2e).
  • Similarly, GHG emissions across the G20 increased by 1.2% in 2022.
  • Emissions remain unevenly distributed within and between countries, reflecting global patterns of inequality.
  • Despite escalating climate disasters, inadequate mitigation efforts mean we're on track for significant temperature increases beyond agreed climate goals.

Every 0.1°C Counts

As of 2024, we are witnessing a significant rise in global air and water temperatures, surpassing earlier scientific predictions. This uptick can be partly attributed to the reduction in pollution levels, which had previously acted as a shield, reflecting some of the sun's heat away from the Earth's surface.

Our oceans have acted as sponges, soaking up much of the excess heat and carbon dioxide, but as they heat up, more carbon dioxide is released. Similarly, there are ‘tipping points’ that that if we cross them could create cascading and irreversible effects. For example, the thawing of permafrost in the Arctic, which has remained frozen since the ice ages, releases methane and other potent greenhouse gases, further intensifying the problem. These runaway effects pose a serious threat, underscoring the need for urgent action to prevent venturing too far into uncharted territories.

Sources and Sinks of Carbon Dioxide

The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are determined by a delicate balance between sources, such as emissions from burning fossil fuels, and sinks, like the absorption of carbon dioxide by plants and algae through photosynthesis, where carbon dioxide and water are converted into oxygen and plant sugars.

To visualise this, consider a bathtub: the water level remains balanced when the rate of water flowing in from the tap equals the rate of water draining out. Similarly, to mitigate global warming, we must "turn off the tap" on activities that emit greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels, while simultaneously safeguarding natural ecosystems to maximize their capacity to act as carbon sinks.

Progress has been made, but not enough

  • Policy progress reduced the implementation gap between current policies and full Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) implementation.
  • Projected GHG emissions for 2030 under existing policies have reduced from a 16% to a 3% increase since the Paris Agreement adoption.
  • The global implementation gap for 2030 is approximately 1.5 GT CO2e for unconditional NDCs and 5 GT CO2e for conditional NDCs.
  • Nine countries updated NDCs since COP27 in 2022, totalling 149 updated NDCs.
  • New and updated unconditional NDCs could cut GHG emissions by about 5.0 GT CO2e annually by 2030.
  • Accelerating low-carbon development worldwide is crucial for limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • High-income, high-emitting countries in the G20 must take rapid action and support developing nations financially and technically.
  • Prioritising low-emissions growth strategies is essential, considering low- and middle-income countries contribute over two-thirds of global GHG emissions.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

It's evident that systemic changes are necessary, and we need improved policies to incentivise a shift away from greenhouse gas emissions and towards renewable energy sources, rather than perpetuating our reliance on fossil fuels. However, the issue extends beyond just burning fossil fuels for transportation or electricity generation.

Energy consumption is intertwined with every aspect of our lives, from the production of goods and services to the amenities that contribute to our current standard of living. Therefore, addressing our carbon footprint requires comprehensive efforts to reduce energy consumption, adopt sustainable practices, and transition to cleaner energy sources across all sectors of society.

Transitioning to Low-Carbon Solutions

Despite challenges, transitioning to low-carbon energy sources offers opportunities for economic growth and environmental sustainability. Universal energy access, poverty alleviation, and strategic industry development can be achieved through embracing renewables. International financial assistance must align with countries' development and climate targets.

Extracting coal, oil, and gas from existing and planned mines and fields would exceed the carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C by over 3.5 times, nearly depleting the budget for 2°C. Despite facing economic and institutional challenges, low- and middle-income countries can leverage this transition as an opportunity for growth.

Energy transitions in these nations can provide universal energy access, alleviate poverty, and bolster strategic industries. Embracing low-carbon energy sources such as renewables, which are becoming more affordable, enables efficient energy production while fostering green job creation and improving air quality. To support these efforts, it's imperative to enhance international financial assistance through mechanisms like debt financing and concessional finance, ensuring that funding aligns with countries' development and climate targets outlined in their forthcoming NDCs.

Navigating Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) Challenges

As we delay stringent global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, our future reliance on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) increases. Pathways aligned with Paris Agreement goals stress immediate emission cuts and long-term CDR integration. Current CDR methods, like afforestation and forest management, remove an estimated 2.0 GT CO2e annually.

While least-cost pathways project significant increases in both traditional and innovative CDR methods, achieving higher CDR levels remains uncertain and poses various risks. These risks revolve around land competition, safeguarding land tenure and rights, and other factors. The upscaling of novel CDR methods introduces additional risks, including the possibility that the necessary technical, economic, and political conditions for large-scale deployment may not materialise promptly.

This underscores the need for decisive political action in four key areas:

  • Establishing and communicating CDR priorities, developing robust monitoring, reporting
  • Verification systems to enhance credibility
  • Leveraging synergies and co-benefits with other initiatives
  • Expediting the deployment of novel CDR technologies.

By taking decisive action in these areas, policymakers and stakeholders can navigate the challenges associated with CDR implementation and work towards achieving the ambitious climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Take Action Beyond Words

At Phantm, we believe in tangible solutions that go beyond rhetoric. By collaborating with amazing clients like you, we're actively gathering data on problematic materials, many of which are derived from fossil fuels. Our focus is clear – we're dedicated to delivering alternatives that not only reduce but also remove the negative impact of these materials, effectively shifting the needle toward a more sustainable future. With a commitment to action, Phantm is leading the charge to meaningful change.

Phantm Measurement Focus & Rationale

From the seven potential metrics considered in a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Phantm concentrates on three key indicators. By limiting the initial scope, we prioritise presenting clients with focused data review and interpretation. This approach empowers clients with actionable insights enabling them to make better-informed decisions regarding their product and or packaging.

2. Fossil Fuel Use

Fossil Fuel Use is the second metric reviewed in Phantm’s Assessment Impact Report. Fossil Fuels includes coal, oil and natural gas extracted from the earth and burned for energy.

Understanding Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels, including coal, oil, and natural gas, are the result of ancient organic matter decomposing over millions of years. Buried beneath layers of sediment, this organic material undergoes transformation through heat and pressure, eventually forming the energy-rich resources we rely on today.

Coal originates from plant matter in swampy environments, compacted over time by layers of earth. Meanwhile, oil and natural gas stem from microscopic organisms in ancient seas, with natural gas often found above oil deposits due to its lighter composition. Notably, natural gas primarily consists of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

These fuels serve as the cornerstone of modern civilisation, powering various industries and serving as raw materials for the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, and other synthetic products. However, their usage carries significant environmental consequences beyond contributing to global warming through carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Fossil fuels also pose challenges to environmental health on both local and global scales, impacting air and water quality, ecosystems, and human well-being. As we navigate the transition to sustainable energy sources, understanding the complexities of fossil fuels is essential for mitigating their environmental footprint and fostering a more sustainable future.

Fossil fuel consumption

The burning of fossil fuels for energy dates back to the Industrial Revolution. However, the patterns of fossil fuel consumption have undergone substantial changes over the centuries, both in terms of what and how much we burn.

The chart below depicts the trajectory of global fossil fuel consumption since 1800, segmented by coal, oil, and gas. Over the past few decades, fossil fuel consumption has increased significantly, with consumption levels skyrocketing approximately eightfold since 1950 and doubling since 1980. The types of fuel we rely on has also shifted from solely coal towards a combination with oil and gas. Presently, coal consumption is on the decline in many parts of the world, however the demand for oil and gas continues to surge, driving significant growth in these sectors.

The Environmental Impact of Fossil Fuels

Burning fossil fuels creates air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, contributing to air pollution. This pollution can cause significant health risks, such as breathing issues, acid rain, and smog, adversely affecting both human health and the environment.

A comprehensive 2021 Harvard University study revealed alarming statistics: more than 8 million deaths occurred globally in 2018 due to fossil fuel pollution. This figure, substantially higher than previous estimates, highlights the profound impact of air pollution from burning fossil fuels, accounting for approximately 1 in 5 deaths worldwide.

Moreover, the extraction of fossil fuels from the earth, through methods such as fracking for gas and oil or mining for coal, inflicts damage on water sources, soil, and wildlife. Fracking operations can contaminate underground water with chemicals, while coal mining alters landscapes and disrupts plant and animal habitats. These activities use a lot of water, exacerbating shortages in dry areas, and the residual wastewater can contaminate rivers and lakes with hazardous substances.

Furthermore, oil spills during drilling or transportation pose severe threats to ocean ecosystems and coastal communities. These spills have long-lasting repercussions, causing harm to marine life and ecosystems.

The environmental impacts of fossil fuels underscore the urgent need to transition towards cleaner, renewable energy sources. Embracing sustainable energy alternatives is essential to mitigate air and water pollution, safeguard ecosystems, and protect human health and well-being for generations to come.

Take Action Beyond Words

At Phantm, we believe in tangible solutions that go beyond rhetoric. By collaborating with amazing clients like you, we're actively gathering data on problematic materials, many of which are derived from fossil fuels. Our focus is clear – we're dedicated to delivering alternatives that not only reduce but also remove the negative impact of these materials, effectively shifting the needle toward a more sustainable future. With a commitment to action, Phantm is leading the charge to meaningful change.

Phantm Measurement Focus & Rationale

From the seven potential metrics considered in a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Phantm concentrates on three key indicators. By limiting the initial scope, we prioritise presenting clients with focused data review and interpretation. This approach empowers clients with actionable insights enabling them to make better-informed decisions regarding their product and or packaging.

3. Water Consumption (with Scarcity)

Water Consumption (with scarcity) – is the third metric reviewed in Phantm’s Assessment Impact Report. Water Consumption assess the potential of water deprivation to humans and/or ecosystems.

Some Water Facts

Water covers approximately 71% of the Earth's surface. Of the Earth's total water, 97% is found in the oceans, rendering it too salty for drinking, agriculture, and most industrial uses except for cooling purposes. Only 3% of the Earth's water is freshwater. However, much of this freshwater is unavailable, with 2.5% locked up in glaciers, polar ice caps, the atmosphere, and soil, or rendered highly polluted. Additionally, some freshwater sources lie too deep underground to be extracted at a reasonable cost. Only 0.5% of the Earth's water is readily available freshwater. Water and climate change are intricately connected.

Extreme weather events are exacerbating water scarcity, unpredictability, and pollution, posing significant threats to sustainable development, biodiversity, and people’s access to water and sanitation.

Flooding and rising sea levels can contaminate land and water resources with saltwater or faecal matter, and cause damage to water and sanitation infrastructure, such as waterpoints, wells, toilets and wastewater treatment facilities. 

Glaciers, ice caps and snow fields are rapidly disappearing. Meltwater feeds many of the great river systems. Volatility in the cryosphere can affect the regulation of freshwater resources for vast numbers of people in lowland areas.

Droughts and wildfires are destabilizing communities and triggering civil unrest and migration in many areas. Destruction of vegetation and tree cover exacerbates soil erosion and reduces groundwater recharge, increasing water scarcity and food insecurity.

Growing demand for water increases the need for energy-intensive water pumping, transportation, and treatment, and has contributed to the degradation of critical water-dependent carbon sinks such as peatlands. Water-intensive agriculture for food production, particularly meat, and for growing crops used as biofuels, can further exacerbate water scarcity.

How it's Calculated

When calculating water consumption we use the AWARE methodology – the water use midpoint indicator representing the relative Available WAter REmaining per area in a watershed, after the demand of humans and aquatic ecosystems has been met. It assesses the potential of water deprivation, to either humans or ecosystems, building on the assumption that the less water remaining available per area, the more likely another user will be deprived.

The AWARE method is recommended by:

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodology aimed at quantifying potential environmental impacts generated by human activities across various environmental issues (e.g., climate change, human respiratory impacts, land use etc.) over the entire life cycle of a product or service. A water footprint represents the portion of these impacts related to water. It encompasses impacts associated with water use and its subsequent effects on water availability for humans and ecosystems, as well as direct impacts on the water resource and its users from emissions to air, soil, and water. These latter impacts are quantified using traditional LCA impact categories (e.g., freshwater eutrophication, freshwater acidification, human toxicity, eco-toxicity).

A water footprint may be presented as the outcome of a stand-alone assessment or as a subset of results from a broader environmental assessment, such as an LCA. Other methods of calculation, such as assessing direct impact on water from emissions are being developed and can be used to complement more conventional water use impact assessment methods.

Take Action Beyond Words

At Phantm, we believe in tangible solutions that go beyond rhetoric. By collaborating with amazing clients like you, we're actively gathering data on problematic materials, many of which are derived from fossil fuels. Our focus is clear – we're dedicated to delivering alternatives that not only reduce but also remove the negative impact of these materials, effectively shifting the needle toward a more sustainable future. With a commitment to action, Phantm is leading the charge to meaningful change.

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