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I have emitted 32 tons of CO2 this year. Yikes! Next year I expect to reduce that to 18 tons. An average American emits 27 tons; the average citizen of the world emits just 5.5. (http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/)

According to an IPCC report cited by Rob Hopkins in his Handbook, within 20 years we need to be emitting 80% less than now, and within 40 years we need to be sequestering more carbon than we are emitting. Yes, we must be carbon negative.

At a 44% reduction, I'll be halfway there! Then, of course, the hard work starts.

It looks like the greenest I can be using trendy consumer conservation is 8 tons per year. That is a respectable 75% reduction, but it requires becoming almost completely local (zero car or plane travel). And, if the IPCC is correct, I need to be sequestering at least that many tons per year.

So, let's say I want to sequester 10 tons of CO2 per year. Opinions vary, but it seems that a tree can absorb up to 50lbs of CO2 per year. A ton is 2000 lbs, so that's 20000 lbs of CO2 emitted. Divided by 50 tons gives me 400 trees. For that year.

I will have emitted 250 tons by then. That's 10000 trees. It turns out old Aldo knew more than we give him credit for:

"Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree—and there will be one.

If his back be strong and his shovel sharp, there may eventually be ten thousand. And in the seventh year he may lean upon his shovel, and look upon his trees, and find them good." - Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac

(To be continued...)

Sources:
http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/
http://www.coloradotrees.org/benefits.htm#10
http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-calculator.htm
http://gargravarr.cc.utexas.edu/chrisj/leopold-quotes.html
The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins

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Comment by Juliet Thompson on December 28, 2009 at 9:16pm
Brian,
We'd love to have your thinking as part of the group Reforesting Whatcom. You're sounding like a reforester, and there will be some chances to plant your carbon offset through this group. Regards, Juliet
Comment by Brian Carpenter on December 21, 2009 at 3:15pm
Yes, exactly. That will be involved in the move toward zero. The calculators aren't built to handle home growing. They basically stop at buying all organic at the store by bicycle and composting at home.

I'm hoping to live a while so I can use the better soil, too.

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