Calculating carbon emissions

Back in July I travelled with my wife on a trip from Australia to China, Korea the Philippines and then back to Australia. All up we took 6 flights. According to the website Atmosfair between us we were responsible for a total of 8,817kg carbon emissions. That’s an absolutely crazy amount of damage and it completely undoes any neutral impact that we’ve had by not owning a car and by trying to live a low impact lifestyle. The truth is that air travel is by far and a way the largest contributor to global warming that us middle class folks in the developed world are likely to make. Particularly in Australia where flights tend to be over long distances. We can try telling ourselves that driving less or installing solar panels makes a difference, which it does, but we also need to fly way less, or not at all.

However sometimes we do need to fly and we should buy carbon offsets to mitigate the damage that we’re causing. That same Atmosfair site calculated that offsetting my 8,817kg of carbon to be 210 EUR (A$340). This should be donated towards projects that support carbon emission reduction or soaking back up carbon, such as tree planting projects. The problem is that, in Australia, it’s actually hard to find a reliable source of such projects and the whole process is a little confusing. In the end I just gave a $200 donation to the Wilderness Society, who I volunteer with. They’re all about preventing logging of native forests in Australia and I’ve been with them long enough to know that what they’re doing is worthwhile. I’ll donate the other $140 later and will continue to donate whenever I do fly.

I really wish that the process of offsetting flights were easier. Ideally it’d be mandatory and the $340 that I should have paid became part of the ticket price for each of those flights. We pay enough taxes and fees in our ticket price already, so why not just add an additional charge to offset emissions? Those of us who can afford to fly in the first place should really be the ones to pay to undo the damage that we’ve caused.

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