Carbon Offsetting: saviour or scam?

May 11, 2019

We all know that every single one of us needs to do more when it comes to environmental issues. Whether it’s using less plastic, taking more walks instead of jumping in the car, saving power or even reducing the amount of meat we eat. But what about the latest offering by some websites and companies to pay to offset your carbon footprint?

This service is becoming increasingly popular, especially for air travel which, for many people, contributes to a very large portion of their carbon footprint. Using online calculators, you enter your details for destination, weight, etc., and it returns how many tonnes of carbon your trip will produce and presents you with a fee to pay that covers the equivalent cost of renewable resources to offset your carbon emissions.

This process raises a number of questions.

Trust: are they actually offsetting your carbon. Are they just contributing a set amount annually upfront regardless of who uses their services, so all you are actually doing is easing your guilt for a donation.

Quantity: Even though you are reducing your overall footprint on paper, you are not reducing the amount of carbon you are using. Global reduction has to be the overall goal.

Ethics: Just because you are in a position to pay to offset your carbon, does that make it acceptable to continue to use it?

Let’s look at this from a completely different perspective – Slavery. Although unfortunately slavery still exists, on the whole it is widely condemned when compared to earlier unenlightened times. If Slavery Offsetting was available, it would still not be acceptable. Imagine going on a website where you could register your slave and pay to give two slaves freedom in another country! Totally unacceptable, but on paper…

As we become more enlightened in respect of climate change, how can Carbon Offsetting be a realistic solution? Shouldn’t the airlines be offsetting their own carbon anyway? Either way, reduction has to be the only option in the end.

Deep down we all know that we have to do more, and if we are really honest with ourselves, we are all guilty of hypocrisy on this subject. Times are changing, however, and I honestly believe that we, as a global community, are starting to understand the full impact of our individual actions. Let’s just hope that it is not too late.