5 September 2007

Carbon offsetting

British Airways gave us the option of paying extra for carbon credits to make up for our air travel. We didn’t take them up on the offer.

There are a number of reasons why I feel carbon offsetting is a bad thing. The first is that by removing the guilt, it encourages people to continue a profligate lifestyle, rather than actually changing their behavior.

For example, if Al Gore genuinely gave a crap about the environment, he would stop flying by private jet so much. But no, he’s rich and can simply buy carbon credits to salve his conscience. Similarly, John Edwards will happily lecture to ordinary people that they should give up their SUVs, then get into his own SUV secure in the knowledge that he’s bought carbon credits to make up for his own indulgence.

(In fact, Edwards owns 3 SUVs — a Ford Escape, a Cadillac SRX, and a Chrysler Pacifica — plus a pickup.)

The second reason why I dislike carbon credits is that there are much more effective ways to reduce emissions. For instance, if British Airways really cared, they would stop painting their aircraft. A fully painted 747 weighs 443kg extra, compared to around 100kg for me plus my luggage. That’s before you factor in the increased wind resistance from cracked and peeling paint, the chemicals needed for stripping and repainting aircraft, and the disposal problem of the dissolved paint and chemicals. [Update: BA could also stop flying empty planes across the Atlantic.]

The third reason why carbon credits are a dubious idea is pointed out by spiked online. When you buy carbon credits for your flight from Climate Care, what you’re actually doing is paying a bunch of Indian families to dig in the dirt via back-breaking manual labor, and pump water manually, rather than using modern farm equipment. Now, it might not be a bad idea if I personally spent some time stomping on pedals to pump water, but I don’t see why Indians should be bribed to do it so I can feel less guilty about air travel.

But my favorite argument against carbon credits is the parody site cheatneutral. If the logic behind carbon credits is really valid, why not buy some infidelity credits and cheat on your partner with a clean conscience?

© mathew 2017