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Don’t carbon offset your guilty conscience September 5, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Climate change, Environment, Global warming, holiday, Life, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.

We’ll be spending two weeks with my parents in Gauteng this month and after considering our options have decided to fly up. I’m feeling decidedly guilty about that and am intend on taking the train next time.

You see, globally, air travel just happens to be the fastest growing source of anthropogenic climate change. George Monbiot estimates that one transatlantic flight basically accounts for a person’s rightful annual carbon emission share if we want to stop the planet from getting toasted.

When it’s feasible, taking your car is better, using public transport much better still, and staying at home is best! We know all this, but stop us from flying more and more every year it does not – airports are expanding around the world and apparently air passenger numbers have risen by over 6% in the first half of 2007.

And once again it’s just a small wealthy minority that’s doing the damage and those who can’t afford air tickets, even budget ones, bear the brunt. You fly, they die.

One of the solutions that’s being touted to overcome this growing problem is carbon off-setting.

Here’s how it works: You book a return ticket to romantic Niagara for you and your pink-haired aunt Colleen through an outfit like responsibletravel.com, you work out the amount of carbon dioxide your journey will generate and you pay someone like ClimateCare, Carbon Footprint or the CarbonNeutral Company a proportional amount which they will use to plant trees in a Third World country or hand out energy-saving light bulbs to the poor, and Bob’s your environmentally-friendly air travel uncle.

It doesn’t work, of course.

For one it’s the calculus of the privileged – a green pyramid scheme to appease our environmental sensibilities, which allows a small number of people to jet-set around the globe while the masses stay at home. Build-in inequality is a fundamental requirement.

As it turns out some people in the global South are already being shunted off their homes in order to accommodate environmentally-conscious First World travelers. Here’s a story about Ugandans who lost their land to carbon off-setting tree plantations and here’s one about one of a number of reports that suggest that planting trees is not going to work anyway…

So what are we to do. Travel less, of course! I know this will not be well received, but it’s a no-brainer and is in accordance with the stop-what-you’re-doing principle. It’s cheap and works every time.


1. jporchanian - September 5, 2007

On the upside, with the rapid rise in global petroleum costs, air service providers are being forced to redesign their decades old air craft designs in favor of more environmentally friendly transport craft. The new Boewing features several new technologies that create a 20% fuel saving.

But yes, offsets are generally bogus, especially in the form of planting trees. Plant your own darn trees!

2. bgraef - September 5, 2007

Global warming is the biggest hoax and financial fraud ever perpetrated on the masses.
100 years from now we “sophisticates” who were deluded en masse by the hysterical environmentalists and thier takeover of the modern media and thier endless green propaganda will be derided by that generation as complete fools.
And beneath environmentalism hides Marxism, and control. All governments love the green agenda as a way and means of controlling and taxing thier populace.Hence, green taxes, carbon offsets, carbon taxes and other ridiculous fees imposed on thier gullible people.
Third world nations love Kyoto and carbon offsets because they can play the blame game on us, blaming us for every flood drought forest fire hurricane storm.
They will get regular Kyoto cheques so they can buy more guns and ammo to keep thier populace in control and fight wars.
Really smart…

3. Audrey - September 5, 2007

Andreas, I apologise for my fellow humans.

It’s all a plot by eco-terrorists against Our Way Of Life hey, bgraef? Just keep thinking that way if it comforts you, then.

4. Audrey - September 5, 2007

P.S. Mind you Andreas, now that I think about it, maybe bgraef is kidding, making a little joke, wearing the ‘Eternal Denialist’ hat from your who’s who in the zoo post. It fits, ‘pinko-commie lobbyists’ and all. Oh, hahahahahahahahaha bgraef, you really had me there, hahaha.

5. Gideon Greenspan - September 5, 2007


I just saw this post and thought that, despite your skepticism, you might be interested in Carbon Catalog, a new independent directory of carbon offsets.


Carbon Catalog lists over 30 voluntary carbon offset providers and 120 of their projects around the world. Every project and provider is mapped and categorized for easy access.

Our aim at Carbon Catalog is to help people decide *whether* to purchase carbon offsets, and if so, from *which* projects and providers. We have no relationship with any of the projects or providers listed.

6. Sean O - September 6, 2007

I write about this a lot on my site that covers global warming (http://www.globalwarming-factorfiction.com) and I am typically very skeptical of carbon trading schemes.

P.T. Barnum supposedly said that there was a sucker born every minute. Sometimes, when I read about carbon credits, I am not sure who the sucker is – the person buying, the person selling, or the general public for thinking it is helping!

In order for credits to be feasible and to be more than a “feel good” gesture, we need solid accounting, accountability, and penalties. We have none of that now and this article makes this painfully clear. We cannot allow credits to be used for minor contributions to a project. The credit must go to the cost of reducing the greenhouse gas.

7. Charles Etherington - August 15, 2008

Some forest offsets are very good environmentally & some offsetters are reducing output while offsetting what they cannot yet eliminate so bland generalisations about forest offsets being a con are simply wrong. Good forest offsets are reforestation. ie putting it back where it once was. A third of the 100ppm CO2 excess in the air came from deforestation. Good plantations & sustainably managed ‘natural’ forests provide us with the world’s most environmentally sound building material which substitutes for the worst ones: steel, aluminium & concrete, all horrendously carbon guilty!
So if you must fly and burn fossil fuels then you should a least own a share of a reforestation project, otherwise you are carbon guilty too! Curiously few so-called environmentalists do, but spend a lot of time flying around the world pontificating. I say turn them into biofuel!

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