Friday, December 4, 2009

Should You Buy Carbon Offsets?

After encouraging you to offset your Thanksgiving travel by using one of the offset programs at the bottom of the homepage, I did more research. Carbon offsets, which are shares of projects you can buy that cancel out your greenhouse gas emissions for various activities, are controversial. Responsible Travel, one of the first travel companies to give travelers the option of buying offsets, canceled their program in October because they believe that offsets do more to soothe consciences than reduce CO2 output. We do need to ask ourselves whether we're buying offsets to assuage a guilty conscience, or whether we're using them when we've reduced our carbon footprint as much as we can. If you just have to take a flight, buying an offset will reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions if the offset is real. Here's where things get dicey. Michael Wara, a professor at Stanford Law School and former climate scientist, says "we don't know" how many offset projects really reduce CO2 emissions. The hardest part is knowing whether a project would have been done without offsets helping to pay for it. My take is that it's very unlikely that all offset programs would have been done without offset money, so you are paying for some greenhouse gas reduction. Since it's an imperfect mechanism, it's not a great conscience-soother, so don't use it for that. With these cautions in mind, I've changed the links at the bottom of this page to only include carbon offset programs that serve individuals and are retailers for the Climate Action Reserve, which has strict requirements that projects are real, permanent, and additional, and includes independent verification. I encourage you to reduce your carbon footprint as much as you can (see the list of "10 Things" below), look at these sites, and then offset your holiday travel and other activities as much as you see fit. Going through the process will also make each of us more aware of how much greenhouse gas our different activities produce. Please share any thoughts, facts, or questions you have about offsets, and
Stay cool,

No comments:

Post a Comment