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How much does it cost to make the world carbon free?


Are you carbon neutral yet? It sure seems like everyone else is. Al Gore has wiped away his carbon footprint. The World Bank aims to be carbon neutral by buying only green energy. Sky Broadcasting is touting itself as the first major media company to go carbon free.So how does Joe Consumer drop the carbon habit? You could replace your furnace with a clean-burning corn stove, brew up some carbon neutral green tea, throw a carbon-free wedding, or only dine at carbon neutral restaurants, like Bordeaux Quay.

But, why change your lifestyle when you can buy a greener lifestyle? Carbon offsets, such as Green Tags, allow you to repent for your carbon-belching sins by investing your money in clean energy projects or planting trees. Yes, you can still drive your Hummer and feel good about the environment, so long as you pay to plant a forest or erect a solar panel (but please try not to crush them when you park).

How well these offsets really counter carbon production is up for debate. But the economics behind carbon offsets beg the question: What would it cost to make the entire U.S. carbon neutral through offsets? How about the entire planet? To answer that question, I gathered some data from the DOE and the EPA, and ran it through the Green Tag carbon offset calculator. Here are the results:

Cost of Carbon

Tons of carbon

produced annually

Green Tags
Cost of offset
22.47 32 $640
United States 7.8 billion
The World 27.7 billion

Less than $1 trillion to make the whole world carbon-free? Sounds like a bargain to me.

(c) foreignpolicy.com

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