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Three trees to offset my carbon output

By Murray Bourne, 23 Dec 2006

We have to do more to reduce carbon emissions. Why do we continue to stupidly dirty our own nest?

You can determine your own carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide that you personally pour into the air) at

My own footprint is quite low. I live near my work and I don't own a car. Singapore's high car costs have helped this decision.

We use public transport and taxis, and our electricity use is quite minimal since we rarely use the air-conditioner (not like Singaporeans who have been brought up in 16°C conditions - and cannot cope if you turn off the aircon. Crazy, really.)

According to the carbon footprint calculator, I am responsible for 8,156 kg of carbon dioxide per year, which is below the UK average of 10,963 kg. For the "primary footprint", which includes use of gas, coal, oil, electricity, private car, public transport and holiday flights) I am under half of the UK average (2,206 kg CO2 compared to 5,013). They suggest that for me:

You can offset your full household primary carbon footprint by planting 9 trees or offset your personal carbon footprint by planting 3 trees.

What is missing from their calculation is the amount of CO2 we add from our own breathing. One estimate (from an anti-global warming protester) says we produce

300 grams CO2 per person per day

This amounts to about 110 kg per year. Okay, not so significant, compared to all the other sources.

As our climate changes, we have to take all this more seriously. For those of you who are still doubting, go take a look (if you can see anything through the muck) at China's pollution levels. Take a look at the increase in their asthma levels and all the other pollution-related diseases that the West has suffered ever since the industrial revolution. Have a look at thawing permafrost, arctic ice and glaciers, not to mention desertification. Then tell me it doesn't matter. Then tell me it's going to be a good thing if winters are warmer. Then tell me your SUV is more important than your children's oxygen.

See the 2 Comments below.

2 Comments on “Three trees to offset my carbon output”

  1. Alan Cooper says:

    I'm guessing that it's the entire lifetime carbon sequestration of the trees that offsets your one year of CO2 production rather than just one year's growth. If so, you actually need to plant three trees every year and make sure that they all grow to maturity and are never used for fuel (or consumed by forest fires). Unfortunately, many of the places where tree planting appears most needed are also places where trees are least likely to survive and most likely to end up as fuel.

  2. Murray says:

    Hi Alan - thanks for your comment.

    Actually, the \"advice\" is quite sketchy, isn\'t it? The type of tree, its lifespan, its growth rate and lots of other things come into play in determining whether it will effectively offset my own CO2 output.

    In my part of the world, palm oil production has become a very lucrative business, especially with higher oil prices. The Indonesians are very happy to burn thousands of square km of rainforest to make way for palm oil plantations. So you\'re right, planted trees have little hope with so many competing pressures.

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