A worry a damn lot about climate change, and 97% of scientists are scared to death as well. if you are not, you should be. I really don’t want to contribute to the problem, so what can I do? The best figures I can find show that the average UK household emits 8.45 metric tons per year per person, so our household is emitting on average 17 tons. We have lots of home PCs, and our house is sadly not as insulated as modern ones (its as insulated as is practical), so lets round that up to 20 tons. My risk adjusted life expectancy is 87 years, so I have about 40 years to go, which very crudely puts my remaining CO2 emissions at 800 metric tons of CO2. Can I offset all that?

Current prices put the price of carbon at about 7.7 EUR per ton, so to offset all my future expected production would be about EUR 6,160. This doesn’t really sound too bad at all, and i suspect its not close to being accurate. After all, this would cost me a mere EUR 2.92 a week. If the cost of taking us to zero carbon was this cheap, we would be done by now.

Clearly the real cost of damage done by CO2 is way, way higher, and current carbon pricing is a joke. Sure enough, scientists have suggested the true cost to be more like $220 a ton, making my lifetime future emissions closer to $176,000, a much scarier figure, although thanks to my luck with the world of video games, not out of the question at all.

If I was to commit to spending 176k over 40 years ($4,400 a year) to negate my carbon output, what would be the best way to do it. I can think of various answers.

Firstly, I could simply buy carbon offsets. This is the simplest and easiest system, just send people a check, and they plant trees. in theory simple, although I would want to be EXTREMELY sure that those trees were actually planted, that they were not going to be planted otherwise, and so on.

Secondly I could invest in renewable energy that generates enough power to offset those emissions. A 500kw wind turbine generates roughly 1,800MWh per year. Apparently 1 kwh is the same as 0.14kg of CO2 currently in the UK so errr… 1,800,000kwh is effectively offsetting 252,000 kg of CO2, or roughly 252 tons. Thus I need about 3.5 years output from a 500kw wind turbine to have my household be carbon neutral. Generally speaking you expect these things to last about 25 years, so by again, crude methods, we can say that I’d need to own 14% of a 500kw wind turbine to be totally neutral. I currently own (through abundance) 7.14% of this turbine:

(technically not owned, but am entitled to income from it due to ownership of debentures etc…) Which means I’m actually half way there just with this turbine. A bunch of other investments, including solar, geothermal and tidal means I’m definitely already there…

I’m such a big fan of renewable energy that even before typing this, I was pretty sure I was carbon neutral, but starting to do the sums and look at the investments convinces me I’m massively carbon-negative, even if I fly to the US once a year, and leave my PC on all the time (which I don’t :D). Having said that, a flight from London to San Fran, business class, is about 6 tons, so not to be sneezed at, as it represents a 75% increase in my annual emissions. FWIW, the same flight economy class is 3.3 tons. If we were pricing the CO2 from flights accurately, the climate surcharge for economy flights would be about $726, and for business it would be $1,320.

Maybe if sales are good I should do my own offsetting for future flights, I never trust the airlines to really do it anyway, and reflecting the true carbon cost feels better.

Food for thought :D



2 Responses to “Green thoughts: What does it take to be carbon negative”

  1. CdrJameson says:

    Can you take credit for encouraging people to take part in a very low carbon activity (ie. playing downloaded computer games)?