Thursday, March 4, 2010

Does offsetting work?

I just took the 350 Challenge, which adds a nice green badge to this blog. Also Brighter Planet will buy some carbon offsets.

Is carbon offsetting any use, really?

Professor Barry Brook thinks so, since I got the link for the badge off his website.

Cheat Neutral don't think so. Their brilliant parody - you can cheat on your husband, just offset it - along with a trusted mentor of mine have challenged my thinking. What do you think?

(Oh, and if you haven't heard of Cheat Neutral - go for it!)

1 comment:

The Greenophobe said...

Offsetting seems like a great idea. It's intuitive. Businesses or individuals that must inherently pollute to a certain degree can better account for the true environmental cost of their behavior by directly supporting initiatives that reduce carbon output. Check. Got it. But perhaps the carbon market itself (now valued at $billions and expected to become the largest commodities exchange in the world) grew up too fast for the valuation methods behind the offsetting programs. Also, there's a grey area regarding how we can actually quantify the carbon that would have been produced. For example, if your investment in carbon offsets funds a wind power project in an area traditionally powered by coal, it's great. But who's to say that wind farm would not have been built anyway, without your investment. If there are only a limited number of suitable wind power sites and private investment was ready and waiting, that means the marginal effect of the carbon offset is not as great as what's sold at face value. We could also argue that it does not matter if the offset project would have happened anyway. The offset was purchased and traced back to the source of carbon output. Case closed. Lots of great debate in this area, including with the methodology behind carbon offset measurement:

http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/carbonwatch/2010/04/miscounting-carbon.html

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