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Carbon Offsets: Smoke and Mirrors? More Hype Than Help?

Carbon Offsets: More Hype Than Help



Travel honchos at the recent Travel and Tourism summit meeting in Libson, Portugal, were running scared.

With all the hand-wringing about Global Warming, the execs wondered if they were about to become the next Exxon Valdez of travel, villains in the making: major contributors to global pollution.

Will the government, they worried, come out with a slogan: “Save the Planet. Travel Less?“

Actually air travel pumps far less carbon dioxide into the world’s atmosphere than automobiles. But more people are flying than ever, and carbons emitted at higher altitudes do significantly more damage to the atmosphere.

So no wonder the industry is embracing the many carbon offset programs springing up on the web.

The programs offer travelers a chance to travel carbon-neutrally (Guilt Free?) by buying back the carbon their trip generates.

For example, my recent trip from Boston to San Francisco covered 5,426 miles. (one of many), I calculated I’m responsible for .98 tons of CO2, so they sell me my offset for $5.32 bucks…which they say they‘ll use to plant trees, generate wind power or fund some other kind of green cause.

With all respect to the Queen of England who purchased carbon offsets on her trip here, we’re not sure the program works.

First, carbon-offset sites seldom seem to agree on how much CO2 any given trip emits, and therefore how much an offset costs.

And there’s not a lot of auditing of the web sites, so who knows where the money really goes?

Yes, it’s a “feel good” program. But it‘ll take 50 years for 50 Douglass fir trees to reach efficiency.

We think the real solution is to fly more fuel efficient planes, use less congested airports, improve air traffic efficiency…and stop buying big cars, big houses and big burgers.

Carbon-offset programs are helpful, but they’re not “get out of jail free” cards.



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