18 Oct 2009

Blog Action Day - Airport Recap

Firstly, I beg the apologize from Blog Action Day team (if anyone do check this blog) for being late. I didn't even have the time for the blood donation, sorry Red Cross too. Anyway, I am posting up my stuff now. A few days ago, lecturer Mike gave us a homework which I think only a few Earth science student did. We were to check individual carbon footprint and the carbon cost for a single flight from Brisbane to Melbourne. Interesting. I wanted to do this before but was convinced by laziness. Now, time to get things clear. My calculations were based on user-friendly websites, so I don't think the precision is good. I'll check the figures someday when I am available. (Now...where did I put my paper...Here you go).

World population: 6.8 billions 1
World CO2 emmision: 17.5 Gt/yr 1
so, Individual CO2 emmision: 2.57Gt/yr

What the?! Nope, some people, such as Americans, spend a lot more CO2 than others. If we're to live on the basis of an average American, we will need 5 Earths to support ourselves 2. Anyway, it's still notable that we spend so much carbon. Instead of using the classic Hamburger Scenario to explain the scale of an individual's carbon footprint, I will talk about flights.

Humans & Flights, 2009 Myth Guy's Capture
One-way flight from Brisbane to Melbourne: 0.3 tonnes CO2 3
One-way flight from Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur: 1.1 tonnes CO2 3
Typical mature woody tree mass: 3 tonnes CO2 4

Seems okay, yeah? No. The flight carbon costs are based on one time spending. However, no hardwood tree could reach such mass (3t CO2) within a year. In short, if I want to sequester the CO2 I spent on flights by planting tree, I have to wait several years for the tree to grow before I am "permitted" to fly again. Eat less hamburgers and fly less. You may argue that feet can't match flights, but it can match automobiles within short distance. So walk!

1Worldometers.info 2009,
Worldometers, viewed 13 October 2009, http://www.worldometers.info/.
2Stenberg Michael 2006, _The Planet_, Charon Film, Sveriges Television AB.
3Carbon Planet 2009,
Flight Emissions Calculator, viewed 18 October 2009, http://www.carbonplanet.com/shop/flight_emissions_calculator.
4CRC for Greenhouse Accounting 2003,
The Tree Carbon Calculator, viewed 18 October 2009, http://svc237.bne113v.server-web.com/calculators/treecarbonresults.cfm.


  1. You have correctly identified one of the major problems with commercial offsets, in that it can take decades to offset one flight. Perhaps the best idea is to try and reduce your emissions by a similar amount by making changes to other aspects of ones life?
    Btw will be interested to read your article on biofuels for the 350.org day of action. If you have time though, why not come to one of the events being held throughout Brisbane, have fun and meet people who may be more interested than the other earth science students.



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