Carbon Offsets – The Great Debate

I was thinking today about my posting yesterday regarding the Terra Pass and came across an article on the worldchanging site. What I was thinking was how can you really be certain that your money goes to help fund alternative fuel projects, why not push conservation instead, and what is really the end-goal: conservation or maintaining our existing lifestyle more responsibly. So, if everyone pays for their carbon or pollution emissions, might that encourage people to just use more, after all they can just pay more. The article was titled Are Carbon Offsets More Than Hot Air? Buying Offsets and evidently there is a big debate around this whole idea.

The article reviews a report published by the nonprofit group Clean Air-Cool Planet(CACP), which is sponsored by Clif Bar, Interface, Inc., and Stonyfield Farm. In the report, they introduce a whole new set of vocabulary words, like "additional", identify the top 8 carbon offset programs and review the criteria they used in their selection. Here are the top 8:

and here is the report

And the word causing all the hufflefuffle is additional.

Emissions reductions are "additional" if they would not have otherwise occurred — that is, if an emissions reduction is not "business as usual. Some say that to be a true offset "You have to say that the money you’re spending is paying for something that wouldn’t otherwise happen."

I guess some people feel like if you are offsetting emissions that would not have occurred that is a better thing than offsetting because they occurred. Or something like that. I kind of get it. One of the biggest hurdles in learning about anything is the vocabulary. Offsets, pre-engineered, organic versus natural, eGreen, buy local… are all seemingly harmless words until you add the whole environmental context to them and then they can mean anything.

I guess with anything. Read the report, do some research and then if you feel inclined to give, go with the group that is the most transparent and that you feel is doing the most good.


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