The terms “carbon offset” and “carbon removal” are often confused. But let’s be clear: carbon offsets don’t actually remove CO2 from the air. Purchasing offsets reduces overall emissions, so if you emit, say, one metric ton of carbon, then one ton is avoided somewhere else by building a wind farm or evading deforestation. But that original ton is still out there, wreaking havoc on our climate.
Carbon offsets can be a helpful way to acknowledge one’s carbon footprint and support underfunded renewable energy projects around the world, but they don’t necessarily promote the major behavioral changes we need to see to make a dent in climate change. Just offsetting our polluting behavior won’t get the job done. To reverse climate change and reach target emissions objectives, we need a drastic reduction in CO2.
Think about it this way: If you buy an airplane ticket, along with enough carbon offsets to counterbalance your flight, the emissions from that jet are still entering the atmosphere. The damage is still being done, since you’re not actually removing CO2 from the air.
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