10 October 2006

Fun with trees and math

If you've bought a plane ticket recently, you're probably familiar with the concept of carbon credits or offsets. How many miles is your flight? 3000? OK, purchase 5 credits, which will in turn fund the planting of 10 trees. Voila: your trip is now "carbon neutral".

Carbon offsets are not just for air travellers. By using a carbon footprint calculator, you can learn how many trees you'd need to plant to offset your personal greenhouse gas contribution, then pay to have them planted. I did it immediately after seeing An Inconvenient Truth this spring, and felt good about it.

But not that good. While that film's producers praised themselves for running a carbon-neutral shoot, I couldn't help but think it is just not possible that the five trees I have planted in Mississippi have a half a fig's impact on the exhaust coming out of my car in New York.

The UK's Guardian newspaper did some digging, and while they didn't answer my main question -- the Mississippi/New York one -- it turns out I was right. It's a controversial business, and not surprisingly, hardcore environmentalists would rather people not salve their consciences with a few clicks of the mouse, but work towards true carbon reduction. It's the old reduce-reuse-recycle conundrum. Yes, recycling is great and we should all do it, but it's the reducing that's going to make a real difference.

Still, check out a carbon calculator. It's educational and, uh, fun. And plant the trees. Who doesn't like trees?


Blogger Stuntmother said...

That's amazing. I'm going to plant the trees too. And tell everyone I know.

I see that it's a panacea rather than a solution. But more trees? That has to be good, right? And every little helps?

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole carbon offset thing reminds me of the old Catholic practice of selling indulgences.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Ru said...

Carbon neutral flights is an oxymoron. It will take the trees 80 or 100 years to re-absorb the CO2 released in the flight. By which time we could easily have gone beyond the global warming tipping point. Yes we must offset by planting trees - visit treeflights.com - but dont be under the dangerous misapprehension that your flight is carbon neutral, It isn't and it wont be for a very, very long time.

1:13 PM  

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