CARBON OFFSETS IN THE WORLD OF FLYING: A BIG PICTURE – WHAT WOULD IT TAKE EXACTLY?

offsettingUSflyingdeparturesTo offset flights out of North America in 2007, you’d need to plant a forest the size of Oregon.

In this summer’s issue of the Walrus, there’s a great piece by UBC’er, David Beers, called “Grounded” which imagines circumstances leading to a world where flying is essentially ground to a halt. It’s a good read, but in this case, I also had a little fun with the accompanying graphic.

In the original picture (the left hand side of the slide), we see the number of trees needed to offset a few particular flights (presumably, a sampling of some that David recently took), and I was essentially curious to see if I could extrapolate these calculations to the world at large. i.e. Can I get figures for total kilometres flown in the world for a particular period of time, calculate the number of trees needed to offset this, and then maybe even try to visualize this number in terms of forested land area.

Well, using back of the envelope calculations (my favourite kind), and links to stats at the US Department of Transportation, as well as various links to a number of sites highlighting preferred plantation densities (I chose an average number that seems to be cited for wildlife enhancement – 300 trees per acre), and doing all the right sorts of things to shift numbers from miles to km, from acres to km squared etc, then this is what I got –

That to offset the total number of flight departing from North America in the year 2007, you need to plant a forest about the size of Oregon!

Yikes! This isn’t even considering flights that depart from Europe, Asia, etc, and this is also for only one year! That can’t be good…

Course, then there’s the whole debate around offsets generally, but we can save that one for another time.

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