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A source of confusion with carbon...

08 September 2011

We all hear about the price of carbon pollution and how much it is going to cost for polluters if they continue to emit carbon pollution into the atmosphere. But what does it all actually mean when the government says the price of carbon pollution will be $23 per tonne?

About Forest Carbon SinksOne of the most common errors by everyone (including scientists, politicians and myself) is the terminology we use while talking about climate change.

We tend to talk about carbon instead of carbon dioxide, which is what we are actually interested in.

The difference is a factor of 3.67! Let me put this into perspective. If a company is offsetting 1 tonne of CO2e, they are actually offsetting 3.67 tons of carbon.

So if a company decides to offset their emissions through planting trees, they are actually paying $84 per tonne of dry carbon.

The atomic weight of carbon is 12 atomic mass units, while the weight of carbon dioxide is 44, because it includes two oxygen atoms that each weigh 16. So, to switch from one to the other, use the formula: One ton of carbon equals 44/12 = 11/3 = 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. Thus 11 tons of carbon dioxide equals 3 tons of carbon, and a price of $23 per ton of carbon dioxide equals a price of $84 per tonne of carbon.

That's one of the reasons trees are a great carbon sink. Please feel free to contact us for further explanation-  visit