The Washington Post has a story today about so-called “carbon offsets,” schemes “offering absolution for the modern nag of climate guilt.”
In exchange for $99, people who feel guilty about flying, driving or using electricity can receive a certificate telling them that their donation has “offset” a year’s worth of greenhouse-gas emissions by canceling out whatever they put into the atmosphere, “by funding projects that reduce pollutants.”
Many, if not most, such claims are false. It turns out that many environmental projects funded by donors do nothing to reduce carbon emissions, and many others cannot be sustained by donations as small as $99.
Indeed, some environmental projects, such as tree planting, can actually increase greenhouse gas emissions if the trees are planted in the wrong place, and even if they are planted in the right place, any reduction in emissions may prove illusory if the tree is subsequently harvested, releasing carbon right back into the atmosphere.
The Federal Trade Commission said this month that it would look into whether donors are being cheated.
Rich Hollywood celebrities and politicians who fret about global warming should devote more thought to reducing their own activities that result in heavy pollution (and greenhouse gas emissions), like flying in private jets, and less time preaching to the rest of us not to use toilet paper (which results in little pollution per capita).