April 25, 2021: What’s so off-putting about carbon offsets?!

You know that feeling. Something feels too good to be true. Too close for comfort. Fishy-smelling. Something rotten in Denmark. We have an array of expressions, including that sinking feeling that what we hope to be true simply isn’t.

True, as well, of the vaunted “carbon offsets,” in which companies, whole industries, even you and I, can go on our merry emitting ways but we can offset our careless behavior by offsetting or purchasing something somewhere else.

Typically, offsets involve planting trees. That sounds good.  Capturing carbon from the air through technical means is another promising area.

One challenge stems from many offsets being voluntary instead of going through a regulatory process. More critically, many of the locations around the world where reforestation occurs are conflict areas and locals support may simply not be there, the problem exacerbated by lax regulation. I know we get accused of over-regulation and its dampening on industry. Well, does anyone have a better idea how we can get these ideas implemented?

Another wet noodle in the embrace of carbon offsets is so-called “additionality.”  That is, does the project provide more than would have happened anyway?  Hard to judge but it is pretty obvious that if you rob Peter to pay Paul the money is just exchanging hands and not making a real differencde.

Comes back to doing the right thing in the first place, at the source. Cut the emissions!!