Balancing Act Part 3: Carbon Trouble

June 2007

In the book of Genesis, a simple story about a boy and girl made to look after the world seems to have gone wrong.  Today, worldwide companies, focused on making money, have neglected the natural environment and in some cases been brutally destructive in their actions.

In the US, a large car manufacturer called General Motors, decided the best way to raise profits would be to force the public to buy cars.  How would they do that?  They would buy public transportation systems and then close them down.  They were found out, slapped on the wrist and ordered to pay the mere sum of $5000 USD and each executive ordered to pay $1 USD. This legacy has caused cities like Los Angeles to suffer huge traffic jams and one of the highest carbon emissions in the world due to cars.  Flying into LA is visually one of the most disconcerting experiences.  Out of the airplane window you see a yellow, purple hue of smog shimmering, floating over the city and you know that is what you will be breathing in once you land into LA airport.  Climb a mountain in San Bernadino, LA and look across the landscape to see the putrid colours of smog settled on the city.

Image from Ocean World
The best thing that General Motors can do, is reverse what they did, by rebuilding the public transportation systems and offering services to convert existing cars to electric.  The companies would still make a profit.  The emissions would be moved to the coal and oil fired power stations, but at least it would be in one place where the carbon emissions can someday be dealt with by pollution control technology rather than as separate multiple entities.

A report in the Independent newspaper has talked about how logging activities and burning of the tropical forests is having an enormous impact on the environment.  Further reports have also indicated that our seas are absorbing less carbon dioxide (CO2) such as around the Antarctic.  This is suspected to be due to shifting winds and currents driven by global warming that bring already  concentrated CO2 waters to the surface that has a reduced ability to absorb further CO2.

Image from Planktos
Now with concerns of climate change deeply connected with carbon emissions, companies have sprung up to help us balance and neutralise our emissions.

Carbon Offsetting examines the carbon emissions you produce and then you or a company provides an action to neutralise your emissions.  An example would be taking a flight from Singapore to Jamaica and distributing a suitcase full of energy saving light bulbs to the locals.  Click here for more information.

Many companies now provide services of reducing carbon emissions for businesses and individuals by typically planting trees to sequester carbon or by getting involved in a "renewables energy" project.  However the Financial Times reported on cowboy activities on the part of many of these companies.

So who is really fighting for the cause to help heal the damage we have done?  Examining proper carbon offsetting companies you will observe there are a range of activities:

See Planktos' Carbon Offsetting Store
The last point did attract me.  Trees account for about 25% of carbon sequestration and the oceans account for over 50% of carbon sequestration.  The oceans cover about 70% of the world's surface so it is not surprising about the importance of looking after our oceans.  A company called Planktos focuses on planting trees and promoting plankton growth, hoping to have the greatest effect in balancing our emissions over any other company. 

Trees are planted in Hungry and micro-sized iron dust is sprinkled into the oceans in waters around the USIron is required for phytoplankton (microscopic plant life) growth that in turn is eaten by zooplankton such as krill and thus carbon is locked away until it comes back in some other form such as oil!

Note: At the time of writing this article, no other company attempts to increase carbon absorption like Planktos.