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What Is Carbon Offsetting?

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Image Credit: Alex Machado

Carbon Offsetting was a concept which was very fashionable in the early 2000s.

It referred to the practise of trying to 'balance' the carbon that you produce by specific actions, such as flying or by driving your car, or the carbon produced by your whole lifestyle.

The idea was that you would 'offset' the carbon produced by your actions by, for example, planting enough trees to absorb the carbon produced, by making a donation to protect trees from being cut down or to an organisation which carried out environmental work in reducing carbon emissions.

Although tree planting was originally the most popular way of carbon offsetting, investment in renewable energy, energy conservation and methane capture projects were offered as carbon offsetting solutions too.

Critisism of Carbon Offsetting

There was much critism of the whole concept of carbon offsetting, most prominantly by journalist George Monbiot.

Monbiot pointed out that it is much more urgent that we actually reduce the amount of carbon that we produce, and that carbon offsetting is simply a way of assuaging our guilt by spending money on carbon offsets, whilst still flying long distances for our holidays and driving our gas-guzzling vehicles.

Others argued that carbon offsetting could have been useful as long as people do not use it as an excuse to increase carbon producing behavior, however the concept is now largely discreditied and regarded as an example of greenwashing by companies.

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