Carbon Offsets Are A Waste Of Money.

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I have always thought that the buying of carbon offset credits was a waste of money, but now I have confirmation. Heifer International’s (one of my favorite charities) WorldArk magazine, which you can read online right here, has an article about carbon offsets that says what I have been saying all along – “It sounds too good to be true: Pay a small fee every time you flew or drove, and somewhere, a company would plant a tree or build a wind farm to ‘neutralize’ the carbon emitted by your actions”. And indeed, it is too good to be true – you cannot assuage any eco-guilt you have from flying by donating $15 to a faceless offset company, because your money probably does nothing at all. It turns out that up to 75% of all offsets sold are completely useless, according to a study done by The Christian Science Monitor:

They are buying into projects that are never completed, or paying for ones that would have been done anyhow, the investigation found. Their purchases are feeding middlemen and promoters seeking profits from green schemes that range from selling protection for existing trees to the promise of planting new ones that never thrive. In some cases, the offsets have consequences that their purchasers never foresaw, such as erecting windmills that force poor people off their farms.

Wanna really make a difference? Fly less and only when necessary, combine trips, try software that enables companies to have online meetings, or at the very least, do the physical work needed to actually plant a tree. That carbon offset check you write may make you feel better, but it certainly isn’t helping the planet feel any better.

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Comments

  1. There are a lot of bogus Carbon Offset companies out there, I agree. And people should take steps to limit their environmental impact before they ever buy a carbon offset. But all this article is saying is that bad carbon offsets are bad. I think you’re throwing out the good parts (free market solution to the problem, the good offsets are helpful and effective) with the bad. Certainly people should be cautious about the offsets they purchase, they need to make sure the offsets are verifiable and permanent CO2 reductions have been made. But I don’t see a case being made (from the article you quoted) that ALL offsets are bad or are a waste of money.

    It seems like only the ones that are a waste of money (up to 75% of them possibly) are the fraudulent ones. The rest make a difference and are valuable for those who want to further reduce their environmental impact (or who just want to do something to help improve the environment).

  2. I agree that the carbon offset market is pretty useless. For those individuals/companies really looking to make a statement and offset their carbon output, the REC (renewable energy credit) market could be a viable option.

    States with a REC program will issue a REC certificate for every 1,000 kWh of renewable energy produced. The resulting REC can be sold/traded/bartered and the holder of the REC can claim to have purchased renewable energy.

  3. Total waste of time and money and helps nobody apart frrom the offset companies.

    It is a typical quick plaster solution to a massive gushing wound that is our current relationship with the atmosphere. The only way to tackle the massive growth in flying’s carbon emissions is to, as you said, fly less.

  4. Sorry, but when 75% +/- of carbon offsets do absolutely nothing, I won’t support them. Native Energy, while they might be trying to do the right thing, say the same thing that every carbon offset company says.

  5. I support carbon offsets through Native Energy. They DO make a difference. Here’s their response — “It”™s true that not all carbon offset companies are created equal. When deciding where to buy, it”™s important to check validation and measures of additionality. You can read more about additionality on our website: http://www.nativeenergy.com/pages/additionality/38.php. NativeEnergy has helped build 47 carbon-offset projects. They are real. They are operating. They are generating more carbon reductions than our original projections, and they would not have been built without our upfront funding. Since all of our projects are third-party verified, we are confident that the customers who buy offsets from NativeEnergy are making a difference, causing reductions in greenhouse gases that otherwise would not occur.”

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