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Carbon Offsetting: The Way Out, or on Its Way Out?

It’s been ridiculed since it was developed as a concept. In 2006, George Monbiot wrote an article for the Guardian comparing it to the Church’s selling of pardons for sins in the Middle Ages. There are few objective standards of measurement, and no globally accepted certifications for it.

And yet, carbon offsetting remains a key focus of many industries’ environmental efforts. There has even been a push in recent years to get individuals to think about and take action to reduce their own personal “carbon footprint”. The big question that has been asked is, does this really do anything? Carbon emissions are only 2.5% of air pollutants, and only 1.7% is man-made. Even if every single person pays into a carbon offsetting program, will it have any effect on climate change?

However, one could argue, it’s not whether the carbon offsetting is doing anything directly. It’s about the awareness being raised that action needs to be taken. The marketing push that airlines are doing to promote their carbon offsetting schemes makes everyone who flies think about their effect on the world. Any awareness about pollution and its effect on climate change and the health of the planet results in an increased likelihood of positively modified behavior on the part of consumers. And if consumers are asking for, or expecting, these types of programs from the companies they patronize, those companies will be motivated to keep going with them.

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