The Problems With Carbon Offsetting

There is no planet B – major changes are needed. Offsetting just won’t cut it.

Carbon offsetting is often used as a carte-blanche for emissions. But there is an inconvenient truth that carbon offsetting alone will not tackle the climate crisis, nor solve the other urgent environmental issues we face. Offsetting is one tool in our arsenal – but it cannot win the war alone. And not all offsetting was created equal. In fact, many offsetting schemes do no good at all, and some actively do harm. 

Carbon offsetting is often tacking in transparency. There are permanence issues, issues with leakage, unforeseen consequences, inequality, double-counting, and a whole raft of other problems.

Implicated in many ‘greenwashing’ claims, carbon offsetting can often muddy the waters when it comes to tackling our climate crisis, and when it comes to finding out who is on the same page.

There simply is no substitute for keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Reducing carbon emissions and the emissions of other greenhouse gases in the first place is essential if we are to really tackle the crisis, rather than just paying lip service to the problems. 

Even where carbon emissions can be effectively eliminated or offset, there are still other environmental crises to consider. From the plastic waste crisis, to soil degradation, water misuse, and the mass extinction and loss of biodiversity around the globe, there are many crises in the environmental arena to consider.

The staggering fact that the Coronavirus crisis lockdowns only reduced emissions by a relatively small amount globally brings home to us that small sops and small changes are not going to cut it. To tackle our climate crisis, things have got to change, we have got to change, attitudes have to change in a major way.

Only when we stop trying to paper over the problems and break our reliance on fossil fuels can we hope to find out way out of this crisis.

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