Burnin’ Toff

I am continually amazed by the aplomb with which some Tofinoites burn fuel to satisfy their lifestyle urges. Aside from the evangelical bikers and the broke, bicycle use (and walking) are rare in town. The car — one person per, usually — is the mainstay of everything from food shopping to socializing. Almost anything seems to justify a trip cross-island — shopping, meetings, whims. As for the requisite winter trip … Cuba, Mexico, even Australia are not too far away.

I include myself in this coterie of earth-rapers, by the way. A quick blast down to Ukee to check the mail … an indulgent, flown-in piece of fruit at Green Soul … effortless to justify, even as i declaim my environmental enlightenment.

I’m all for Reduce when it comes to fossil fuel. But i have to acknowledge that, in this crazy existing world, going entirely without would be an act of madness. So to make it a little easier for folks to at least offset their fuel emissions, some resources.

  1. Each litre of gas you burn produces 2.34 kg of CO2. If your car does 25 mpg (9 km per litre), and you drove 15,000 km this year, you used 1,667 litres of gas and produced 3900 kg of CO2 — almost 4 tonnes. So take a look at your odometer, estimate your car’s fuel efficiency, and do the math. (From Guy Dauncey’s EcoNews, Mar. 2007)
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  2. Flying is highly fuel intensive. Here’s an on-line calculator to find out how much CO2 goes into the atmosphere from any flight. (Example: a round-trip flight from Vancouver to Acapulco emits about 270 kg of fuel, producing over 800 kg of CO2 — per passenger! Worse, because that CO2 is emitted high up in the atmosphere, it’s three times more effective as a warming gas. Yikes!)
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  3. I urge you to Reduce, but for that portion you can’t eliminate … offset! Various organizations will, for a fee, pull carbon out of the air (i.e. by planting trees) or see that it doesn’t get emitted in the first place (i.e. by replacing gas generators with solar in remote villages) in your name. But which ones can you trust? Luckily, we have a recent report from the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute, rating 19 different carbon offset organizations as to their effectiveness. Download Carbon offset vendors (PDF, 196 k).

Note that an ideal emissions target to avoid catastrophic climate change is something like 4 tonnes of CO2 a year per person — pretty much what average car use produces, never mind the rest of our energy use. So you can see what kind of cutbacks are required.

Another tip: Cut down on the meat, since the livestock industry produces 18% of global carbon emissions. (Econews, Sept. 2007; also a UN figure)

Thanks to Tofino District CFO Edward Henley for bring this report to a Green Breakfast. If you really want to bone up on carbon offsets, there’s a lot of info on the  Suzuki Foundation site right here.