The Carbon Footprint Concept

I am getting a lot of hits from people searching for Carbon Footprint and finding my older post on the subject. So here are some more thoughts on the issue.

I think cutting back on CO2 emissions is an important goal. It’s something we should all be concerned with in our private lives each and every day because it’s vital and so easy to do. In fact, I hope that very soon little kids will grown about knowing about their carbon footprint like their blood type, hair color, or family tree. Hey, maybe if we made it COOL to cool the atmosphere, if having proof of cutting CO2 were cool, kids could make a difference…

But cutting back on CO2 is not going to get us to where we need to be soon enough. Limiting or preventing emissions fast enough to prevent a climatic disaster is a lost cause. So what we need to do is get the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere out. Rather than focusing only on the gas leaving the smokestacks, carbon sequestration should be about getting CO2 from the atmosphere into organic matter that can be harvested and taken out of circulation, e.g. planting trees, cutting them down, and storing them underground where they can’t decay and emit CO2 again.

Check out the carbon footprint calculator at American Forests. It tells you not only what your emissions are but how many tree you need to plant to offset your foot print. Now, I don’t know how realistic it is that each one of us can plant 125 trees although $125 is a low price to pay. How much land would it take to plant enough trees ?  How much land would actually be fertile enough to support such tree plantations ? And before we start planting trees, let’s stop ongoing deforestation which is responsible for almost 20% of CO2 emissions.

These are fascinating questions for me.

(1) How much CO2 can you “bind” in a tree and take out of the global carbon cycle ? What other plants might work even better ? Ideally, something that produces large amounts of dense, carbon-rich matter and grows fast enough to allow more than one annual harvest would work best. Maybe this is something our genetic engineers could help with. Create a fast growing giant Sequoia tree that tolerates warm and dry climate…

(2) How about coral reefs ? I’ve read that in some areas, with cooler water temps, the reefs are dying because the water is warming. What about species that tolerate/prefer warmer waters ? Could we seed entire new coral colonies along our coasts with genetically engineered corals that will take CO2 out of the oceans and bind it as CaC03, creating limestone reefs ???

Prevention is good. Prevention is one great objective. But it doesn’t work for teen pregnancies, and it alone won’t stop climate change. I am more inclined to believe that geoengineering will be necessary to protect ourselves from our own stupid mistakes.

I recently read that following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks when the skies were empty (no planes flying) global temperatures spiked. Apparrently particulate “fog” from airplane exhaust depresses the temperature the atmosphere would have due to CO2 emissions. If we were to stop all high altitude flights, temperatures would be higher than we think they are… so, I think, eventually we will realize that to slow down global warming, unless we are blessed with volcanic eruptions, we will start introducing dust into the atmosphere to cool things down.

Is anyone researching these things ?

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