Lordy, this is getting out of hand:

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, the Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation will allow individuals or groups to make charitable contributions that will be used to plant trees and do other work to improve national forests.

Under the new program, known as the Carbon Capital Fund, consumers can “offset” their carbon emissions by investing in projects on national forests to plant trees and improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and help restore public lands damaged by natural disasters such as wildfires.

Tell me, why can’t you give money to “plant trees and improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and help restore public lands damaged by natural disasters such as wildfires” just because those are laudable goals in and of themselves? Why the carbon hook?

I won’t reject this scheme a priori — I guess it’s possible that they’re really including “independent verification of projects that have a ‘specific and measurable’ reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.” But it’s getting a little surreal. I’m glad average folk are willing to pay for carbon reductions, but is that really all they’ll pay money for? Do all other worthwhile projects have to tap into this same concern?

As I see it, the voluntary carbon offset market is something like privatized charity. Instead of giving money to an NGO in hopes of making some unknowable incremental difference, you give money to an outfit that will rigorously insure and verify for you exactly how much difference you’re making. For that service, they take a cut.

As I’ve said here before, I have no objection to the business model in principle. Indeed, maybe it could be extended to other areas.

After all, living a normal American life, you consume X number of trees. So why not tree offsets? You can pay to have some trees planted (or preserved). Clean water offsets. Particulate pollution offsets. Land-use offsets. Etc.

If Americans are willing to voluntarily pay to improve the environment, hell, let’s give them as many ways to do so as possible. It’s getting a little goofy, everyone trying to squeeze onto the carbon bandwagon. There are, after all, other environmental ills.