Kudos to Andy Revkin for giving some exposure to (occasional contributor) Charles Komanoff of Carbon Tax Center fame. Komanoff articulates a common fear about carbon offsets:

Charles Komanoff, an energy economist in New York, said the commercial market in climate neutrality could have even more harmful effects.

It could, by suggesting there’s an easy way out, blunt public support for what will really be needed in the long run, he said: a binding limit on emissions or a tax on the fuels that generate greenhouse gases.

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“There isn’t a single American household above the poverty line that couldn’t cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures,” he said.

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That latter bit is a good message, but is the fear — that offsets will lull people into a false sense of security — really grounded? Is there any empirical evidence for it?

From a folk psychology perspective, it seems equally plausible to me that buying offsets will whet people’s appetite for action and lead them to bigger, more ambitious things. But some data would be nice.