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Carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere

A year ago, I was asked an interesting question: how much forest is needed to compensate for the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from burning one barrel of oil? I had no real idea, and my guess went completely off the mark.

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I was told that one barrel of oil corresponds to about one and a half large trees. To be more precise, one barrel is 159 litres of oil, and it contains about 0.433 tons of carbon dioxide. One barrel of oil is equivalent to about 15 average trees, including smaller trees, or 2-3 full-grown eucalyptus trees. It was the first time I realized something that's actually self-evident: wood is carbon - that is, the same substance as oil. And, for all practical purposes, the same substance that we have too much of, in the form of carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere.

It's often said we do not yet have effective means for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact, we do and one of them has been tested for a very, very long time: photosynthesis.

The next time you look at a forest, try to see the carbon in it. Trees have bound it from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. At school, we learn that photosynthesis produces the oxygen we breathe. We should now also understand it is photosynthesis that binds the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Reducing emissions is the primary tool for combatting climate change, but unfortunately, it's not enough. If I throw my trash all over a park every day, I can't clean the park by throwing garbage there only every other day. The trash must also be removed. The same goes for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The climate is changing because there is way, way too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - it has to be removed, and we have to clean up the mess we've made.

Today, forest owners earn money by cutting down forests and selling the wood. We need to create a new market and make a profitable business of planting forests and allowing them to grow and bind carbon.

Carbon binding also does not have to be limited to forests. All plants photosynthesize. We can also bind carbon dioxide by changing our cultivation methods or, for example, growing algae. The potential is huge. But for this to happen on a large scale, it must be economically profitable. No other force in the democratic world makes people work hard enough; also, in a democracy, we cannot force people to plant trees or not to cut down their forests for cash.

Due to climate change, the demand for carbon sequestration is massive. How is it that we have not yet created a market for a commodity that has such a demand? Is it because we don't know who should pay for all this?

Each of us should take responsibility for the atmosphere. Almost every one of us increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - throws debris into our common park, as it were. Isn't it our natural responsibility to clean up our after ourselves? If we think that responsibility lies with states, next comes the question of where they get their money? From us, the people. Ultimately, we cannot hide from the fact that people have to pay for carbon dioxide capture.

We, the people, want to take responsibility, but we also need simple and credible ways and tools in our everyday life to do it. Because currently there's no effective way for the individual to act, we keep hoping someone else will clean up after us.

We must make it possible for us to always pay for the damage we cause and to use the collected funds to act on the problem effectively. Once we get the money moving, there will be huge business opportunities for afforestation - an industry where Finns are the best in the world.

If we want to succeed in halting climate change, saving the climate must be made economically profitable at the global level.