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Making Carbon Emissions Tangible: A Metric Ton Of CO2 Could Fill The NYC Apple Store's Glass Cube

It's hard to make sense of carbon emissions, so here is a helpful way to make a metric ton of C02 emissions more tangible.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, approximately two-thirds of the total heating influence from human-produced greenhouse gases in 2021 can be attributed to carbon dioxide alone.

Despite being the primary contributor to global warming, visualizing the volume occupied by a metric ton of CO2 poses a challenge, because of the invisibility. As stated in the Carbon Almanac, "It's hard to imagine an invisible gas having much weight at all, let alone weighing a ton."

Colorless and invisible carbon emissions are indeed commonly described based on their weight. The metric ton is the standard unit for expressing carbon dioxide emissions. A metric ton is equivalent to 1,000 kilograms, 1.10 tons, or 2,204 pounds.

To make the concept of a metric ton more tangible, consider that it occupies nearly the same space as a 10-meter cube. To put this in perspective, that's approximately the size of the famous Glass Cube in front of the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York City.

Understanding this comparison makes it easier to conceptualize the space occupied by a metric ton of CO2—it's equivalent to filling up one Apple Store Glass Cube.

Glass Cube at Flagship Apple Store, NYC (Idea of Steve Jobs; Peter Bohlin, Architect)

Carbon Emissions Apple Store
5th Avenue Apple Store Glass Cube, NYC

Carbon Dioxide Emissions From A Few Different Activities

  • Annual C02 Emissions: Americans emit nearly 15 metric tons of CO2 per year from all activities. Enough CO2 to fill up nearly 15 Apple Cubes.

  • American Homes: American homes emit, on average, 10.97 metric tons of CO2 per year. Enough C02 to fill up nearly 11 Apple Cubes.

  • Passenger Cars: Typical passenger vehicles emit about 4.6 metric tons of C02 per year. Enough CO2 to fill up nearly 5 Apple Cubes.

  • Cross-Country Flights: Emissions per passenger from a round trip between JFK & LAX is 1.4 metric tons of CO2. Enough CO2 to fill up nearly 1.5 Apple Cubes.

A Metric Ton of CO2 =

1 Apple Store Glass Cube Filled With CO2


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