Should I purchase carbon offset credits?
December 2, 2016 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible, and then purchase carbon offset credits to make up the rest. Is this merely a feelgood way for me to waste my money, or do they have real value? Do you know of any good resource that rates them?

I've read this article: and looked at this resource mentioned in the article:, but still feel like I don't have enough information to make a decision.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
posted by whistle pig to Science & Nature (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This all depends on your access to low-energy and low-emission resources. Offsets can be a good way to support the change you want, but assuring compliance is the hard part. Are local investment schemes such as solar bonds available to you? At least if you're investing in something you might be able to see, you know that your money is doing something.
posted by scruss at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are services to rate the quality of carbon offsets, and the most rigorous is the Gold Standard. There is a handy research paper here(PDF) that compares various standards and certification systems from around the world.

If you want to be really rigorous about your offsetting, you also need to research the extent to which carbon is priced into the goods you already buy, and make sure your offsets are coming from outside that system. For example, if you live in any of the states covered by the West Coast Climate Initiative, then carbon is already priced into your electricity, and any offset you buy that claims to have generated carbon abatement by reducing electricity consumption in those states is unlikely to be generating abatement additional to what regulation requires.

You might also want to consider the co-benefits of offsets you purchase. For example, if you are purchasing offsets created by REDD+ projects, you are also preserving wildlife habitat and biodiversity, if you purchase a CDM you are helping improve quality of life in developing countries.
posted by girlgenius at 3:43 PM on December 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Alternatively you could give $20/month (or some equivalent) to an environmental organization that is attempted to move the needle on fossil fuels. Wouldn't it be better in 10 years to not need carbon offsets at all?
posted by Toddles at 9:42 PM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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