Offsets Are Not A Silver Bullet

Let’s say you can’t resist rich desserts and have consequently gained 20 pounds that you need to lose. So you tell yourself that every time you eat a dessert, you will “offset” the calories by exercising strenuously for 30 minutes. You stop gaining weight, but you are still 20 pounds overweight.

Now let’s admit that collectively we really like using products that emit carbon when they are made or used. Consequently we’ve added too much carbon to the atmosphere and have made the Earth dangerously hot. So we tell ourselves that every time we make or use these products, we will plant X-number of trees to offset the atmospheric carbon caused by the product. That’s called being carbon neutral. There won’t be more carbon in the atmosphere, but there won’t be less, either, and the Earth is still too hot. 

Well then, what if we all start using fewer carbon polluting products and we require producers to use the very best practices for reducing carbon emissions in their particular industry? Meanwhile, we continue to plant new trees, protect old trees, use resources as if they were precious and transition to clean, renewable electricity. We just might stay below the critical warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius and preserve the wonderfulness of our planet. Let’s be good ancestors! 

Carolyn Partridge