Carbon offsets increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere. They do not decrease or offset them. They increase them.

August 31, 2023 by Joshua
in Nature

People keep misunderstanding carbon offsets. It’s simple when you see that there are two carbon cycles.

Fuel we burn for jets comes from outside the biosphere. On any human timescale, it’s new carbon. It adds to CO2, methane, and other greenhouse gases as well as ocean acidification and other environmental problems.

Planting trees or anything short of putting carbon out of the biosphere for all human time scales just shuffles it around the biosphere. It will eventually make it into the atmosphere and oceans. We have no viable technology that can put carbon on any level relevant to solving the environmental problems it causes out of the biosphere for all human time scales. Maybe one day we will but today we don’t.

Therefore, an offset that motivates someone to pay to bring more carbon from outside the biosphere into it while just shuffling other carbon around the biosphere causes more greenhouse effect and ocean acidification and motivates yet more. If offsets promote more flying and other polluting activity, they accelerate the problem.

To repeat: offsets don’t reduce carbon in the atmosphere and oceans. They increase it.

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