Carbon offsetting is greenwashing

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Air travel is one of the most significant contributors to CO2 emissions.  Over the last few years, mainstream media and the PR departments of travel companies have been pushing the benefits of offsetting.  Sounds like a great idea. Travel guilt free anywhere in the world as much as you like, as long as you offset it. The conversation often goes something like this.


Tony:

Tokyo here I come! First flight of the year for me, last year I did over 41 with a total of 7.5 days in the air, 3.1 times around the world. (quite proud of himself)

Jane:

That equals a CO2 emission of 14t. I hope you compensated some of it. (concerned)

Tony:

Yep, we’re part of a carbon offset scheme which covered the vast majority of it.  I care about the environment, Jane. (very proud of his contribution to the environment)


The business traveler goes on their way even quite proud of themselves for doing their bit to combat climate change.  In reality, carbon offsets are only a license to pollute and are not a solution to the problem. In fact, it’s like eating 2 cheeseburgers and fries for lunch and to compensate for your poor lunch choice, planting some vegetables in your garden.  It’s madness.

Carbon offsets are a greenwashing mechanism that enables individuals to buy themselves green credentials without actually changing their consumption habits, and nations to avoid the more difficult structural and regulatory change necessary to prevent further global warming.
— Sharon Beder

Flying is bad for the planet, flying less is the only real way to reduce carbon emissions.  However, you’ll never see Virgin encouraging you to fly less.

What do you think of carbon offsetting?