That's how much a planned trip to China for a close relative's wedding will generate for my family of four to fly there and back.
Let's say, by comparison, I drive my 2001 Honda Civic 10,000 miles a year. That generates just 6,521 pounds of CO2. Taking my family to China and back generates as much CO2 as driving my car for more than two years?
That. Gives. Me. Indigestion.
Part of me would rather not know.
Here I am constantly turning off lights, driving less and figuring out other ways to reduce my carbon footprint. Yet looming in the background, dwarfing many other CO2-rich activities, is airline travel.
Honestly, until now I had avoided those online carbon calculators, vaguely understanding that flying was somehow an environmental no-no.
We fly several times a year, since like many families our close relatives are scattered around the United States, and, in some cases, the world.
I think of carbon offsets as one more expense in a down economy in which I'm watching my budget. Add to that the nagging question of whether a carbon offset actually does something.
The idea is that you give money to a project that removes greenhouse gases from the atmosphere -- reducing methane from landfills, for example.
Carbon offsets aren't cheap. Offsetting that trip to China by using TerraPass, on the Internet, would cost roughly $26.75 a person, or $107 total. Offsetting a Wisconsin trip to visit grandparents would cost $47.50.
That's not as expensive as I had thought. But if I used NativeEnergy, which comes highly recommended, it would cost $280 to offset that trip to China and $112 for the one to Milwaukee.
How to choose? And: Is it really worth it?
I keep bumping into the notion that maybe it's just a way for us to assuage guilt without changing our habits.
Portland State University accounting professor Darrell Brown has a considered view: It's like in medieval times, he says, when people bought their way out of purgatory by purchasing indulgences. Brown teaches a bit about carbon offsets in his classes but hasn't bought many. Still, he considers some offsets good -- as long as they fund projects that wouldn't happen otherwise, something that's referred to in the industry as "additionality."
"That's really the key," says Bill Burtis, a communications manager with Clean Air-Cool Planet based in New Hampshire. "This is an effort that wouldn't have gone forward without the existence of this market for carbon offsets."
Burtis considers carbon offsets an important part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions but only after people have squeezed the excess CO2 out of their lives. His organization works with campuses and communities to inventory their greenhouse gas emissions and then set goals to reduce them 80 percent by 2050.
"The real deal is to cut carbon," and once you've cut as much as you can, there are offsets, he says.
The voluntary carbon offset market in this country is largely unregulated, although that may change.
Burtis says a provider's Web site should make clear that the projects credited needed the offsets to move forward. And it should be clear whether a third party has verified and certified them as such.
Another kind of certification now exists: The Center for Resource Solutions in San Francisco last year launched a voluntary program to certify that the offset a consumer buys meets quality standards and is not sold twice. So far, only a handful of providers have signed on for the rigorous process. Bottom line: The carbon offset market is still evolving.
That doesn't stop David Ervin, an environmental economist at PSU, from buying offsets for airline travel and everything else he and his wife deem necessary.
"We think it's the right thing to do," he said. "Society is not paying the full price of burning carbon."
But while he believes voluntary offsets are good, he feels it would be better if the price of airline tickets and gasoline reflected their environmental toll. Maybe people would take the bus more or video-conference instead of flying to meetings.
But that's not our system. And until it is, people like me are going to have to figure out what to do. It seems carbon offsets are good. But Burtis is right: People need to change their behavior, too. So what do I do?
I'm not going to stop flying. But maybe I eliminate one flight a year. Maybe instead of traveling to Hawaii or Mexico this fall, we stick closer to home. And maybe I buy a carbon offset.
I just returned from a wedding in the Bay Area. The flight was 1,288 pounds of carbon dioxide. Offsetting that for me and my husband costs $11.90 on TerraPass.