Carbon offsets: Yay or nay?

Carbon emissions from planes

Carbon emissions from planes

With all the news about climate change, carbon offsets are getting more attention. Should we pay for carbon offsets with our transport?  Budget Travel magazine delved into the topic for its article, Are Carbon Offsets Worth It?

The article stresses the importance of choosing a legitimate organization. Have you ever bought carbon offsets?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (9)  | July 17, 2009
Category: Travel News

9 Responses to “Carbon offsets: Yay or nay?”

  1. The Backpack Foodie Says:

    I have a problem with carbon offsets, and no, it’s not that I’m paying more for my plane ticket.

    Simply put, carbon offsets are a symbolic gesture to offset the impact of air travel. It’s a nice thing to do, as it shows that even if you are doing an activity with negative impact, you’re willing to pay a bit more to minimize the impact of it. But it’s not a solution… It’s not like it suddenly cancels out your carbon emissions.

    But with the arrival of the carbon offset, I’m afraid that many travelers see it as a way to nullify their carbon emissions from air travel. The real solution is to MINIMIZE air travel, but a carbon offset comes across to many consumers as a way of magically neutralizing the impacts of their travel. It doesn’t work that way.

    The carbon offset feels to me like a way to reduce consumer guilt, not a way to really solve a problem. it’s like driving a hybrid SUV: you’re still polluting. I wish people were more concerned with reducing their air travel, but the travel industry will have none of it. So we’re left with the airline equivalent of buying a hybrid gas-guzzler instead of simply walking more often.

  2. The Backpack Foodie Says:

    (Sorry for the second post in a row.) For a more eloquent rebuttal of carbon offsets, please see this link:

    As George Monbiot puts it:

    “Any scheme that persuades us we can carry on polluting delays the point at which we grasp the nettle of climate change and accept that our lives have to change. But we cannot afford to delay. The big cuts have to be made right now, and the longer we leave it, the harder it will be to prevent runaway climate change from taking place. By selling us a clean conscience, the offset companies are undermining the necessary political battle to tackle climate change at home. They are telling us that we don’t need to be citizens; we need only be better consumers.”

  3. Frank Says:

    It’s good to see the above posts; shows that people are really on the ball here on Rolf’s blog.

    Carbon offsets are utter and complete nonsense. They are a scheme that allows well connected middlemen to travel the world, raking in big bucks via the “carbon market”, parroting Politically Correct nonsense about saving the planet.

    What is needed are massive cuts in the American global security budget and a reallocation of that money into huge energy projects involving wind, solar, and nuclear. Reducing carbon output is a long tedious grind that will take a lot of money. But no one in the media wants to touch the subject of the US playing global policeman.

  4. Neil Says:

    Rather than buy offsets, I simply lead a low-carbon lifestyle. My calculations suggest that despite my above-average flying habits, my actual carbon output is about 30% lower than the average for my country. Now, it’s still a first-world footprint, and reducing the flying would “help” a lot, but sometimes…other people need to pick up the slack. I’d like to see a situation where everyone had a carbon ration, and they could choose to use it (or sell it) as they see fit, and I try to live my life accordingly, by reducing my footprint where I can, but not giving up the things that I love to do so.

    I put “help” in quotations, because flying is a form of public transit. My individual decision to fly or not has a zero impact on global carbon output. That plane is going to fly whether or not I’m on it. It’s only in aggregate – if enough people make the decision not to fly that the route is canceled/reduced frequency – that it will reduce pollution. Then we will wring our hands as airlines go bankrupt and we find that you can no longer the “there” from “here.”

  5. JeffM Says:

    Don’t buy carbon offsets. Urge your Senator to vote against Waxman-Markey. Let’s nip this folly in the bud.

  6. heynowdotcom Says:

    Carbon offsets don’t suck cuz they aren’t strict enough, like everyone’s saying. They’re idiotic because global warming IS A SCAM.

  7. The Backpack Foodie Says:

    Neil: your decision not to fly matters, as you point out, in aggregate. It’s the same reason, for instance, that your vote matters. I think deciding to fly or not is still significant because of this.

    But I’m with you on doing the things you love. I think the issue is not so much to reduce one’s carbon footprint to zero, though that is a great ideal. It’s a matter of making wise decisions about where to ‘spend’ that carbon footprint. As a traveler myself, I try to minimize flying, but of course I fly, and probably more than the non-corporate flying people out there.

    I think your idea of ‘carbon ration’ is pretty excellent. I do try and see my own carbon emissions this way: as something that I must spend, and something that comes at a price. This way when I do spend it, it’s on things that are dear to me.

  8. Jimmy Says:

    heynowdotcom, JeffM,

    I agree, do not ever pay for carbon offsets. That is silly when you can get all you want for free:

    Go get a bazillion like I did.