What is the Future of Carbon Offsetting?

TreePhoto: damian m

The news each day is filled with actors, musicians and politicians taking steps to neutralize their carbon emissions by using one or more for profit carbon offset programs that claim to balance the ying of carbon use with the yang of offsetting carbon related activities. The truth is carbon offsets rarely act as a counterbalance for carbon use. The carbon offset market is a multi-million dollar industry that may be doing more harm than good.

Planting trees is a good example of how a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing in terms of putting back the carbon that we emit by air travel or any number of daily activities that emit carbon into the atmosphere.

Tree planting accounts for twenty percent of the carbon offset market based on the concept that trees absorb carbon. The notion that planting forests will offset excessive carbon use is not accurate since the carbon stored in trees is different from the carbon emitted from burning fossil fuels. According to FERN (Forest and the European Union Resource Network) the carbon emissions emitted by gas, coal, and oil are not equal to the same amount of biological carbon in a tree.

Carbon moves freely in nature between the oceans, air and forests, but carbon fossil fuels are inert and once they are out of the ground and into the air via coal extraction or plane and car use, they join the active carbon pool and will not return to the fossil carbon pool for thousands of years.

The future of carbon offsetting rests in the creativity of the collective consciousness. Having less air travel and more business internet meetings is one easy future solution. Another simple solution is to eliminate carbon offset companies that are in it for the money instead of the results. Carbon offsetting happens naturally when the collective consciousness identifies and understands the issues and creates personal solutions that are managed individually. The personal beliefs and actions of today’s youth can make a bright future a reality.