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Carbon Offsets-Members only Mitigating ("offsetting") greenhouse gas emissions

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Old 29th August 2007
Grant Saxon Grant Saxon is offline
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Join Date: March 2007
Posts: 23,343
Default Overview of Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating ("offsetting") greenhouse gas emissions. A well-known example is the planting of trees to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions from personal air travel.
The idea of paying for emission-reductions elsewhere instead of reducing by own actions is also known from the closely related concept of emissions trading.
However, in contrast to emissions trading, which is regulated by a strict formal and legal framework, carbon offsets generally refer to voluntary acts by individuals or companies that are commonly arranged by commercial or not-for-profit carbon-offset providers.
A wide variety of offset methods are in use — while tree planting has initially been a mainstay of carbon offsetting, renewable energy and energy conservation offsets have now become increasingly popular, and purchase and withdrawal of emissions trading credits is also seen.
Carbon offsetting as part of a "carbon neutral" lifestyle has gained some appeal and momentum mainly among consumers in western countries who have become aware and concerned about the potentially negative effects of energy-demanding lifestyles and economies on the environment.
The Kyoto Protocol has sanctioned official offsets for governments and private companies to earn carbon credits which can be traded on a marketplace.
This has contributed to the increasing popularity of voluntary offsets among private individuals and also companies. Offsets may be cheaper or more convenient alternatives to reducing one's own fossil-fuel consumption.
However, some critics object to carbon offsets, and many have questioned the benefits of certain types of offsets (such as tree planting), and other projects.

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Old 6th October 2007
Alan Voice Alan Voice is offline
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Join Date: September 2007
Location: London
Posts: 9
Default Cant see the Trees for the Wood

Has anyone done a study to how many trees would need to be planted to have a carbon neutral world. and if so how much land it would take ?
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Old 6th October 2007
david willia david willia is offline
Join Date: September 2007
Posts: 21
Default number of trees

Well, it isn't hard to do a guesstimate. Suppose a tree absorbs one ton of carbon per year from the atmosphere. That's roughly equivalent (in very round numbers) to one barrel of oil. How much oil is used, plus coal, etc.? Let's guess ten billion tons per year. That's only a bit more than one ton per person. So we'd need ten billion trees to absorb carbon from the atmosphere at the same rate as we're using it. That's 1e10 trees, or a square 1e5 trees on each side. If the trees are ten metres apart, the square would be 1000 x 1000 kilometres.

That doesn't sound too bad, but it assumes that all the wood from the trees is harvested and used to replace fossil fuels, or is "sequestered" (e.g. buried) so it is permanently stored as a replacement for the oil and coal that is dug out of the ground. Realistically, this is nowhere near the truth. Most wood ends up being oxidized, by burning or decay, so its carbon goes back into the atmosphere. So, in the real world, a lot more trees and land would be needed than the rough calculation above indicated.

Planting trees that end up being oxidized in some way that does not reduce the consumption of fossil fuels is useless.

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