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Environmental Economics - The Big Problem with Carbon Offsets

Graham Watson

22nd April 2023

Are carbon offsets a good way of tackling the climate crisis? This Bloomberg video argues that far from lowering greenhouse gases, and rejuvenating forests, carbon offsets are a good way of 'greenwashing' and creating the impression that we're tackling climate change.

Environmental Economics - The Big Problem with Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets are a way for individuals or organizations to compensate for their greenhouse gas emissions by funding projects that reduce or remove emissions from the atmosphere. The idea is that by purchasing carbon offsets, individuals or organizations can offset or balance out the carbon emissions they are responsible for.

Carbon offset projects can take many forms, including renewable energy projects (such as wind or solar power), energy efficiency projects (such as retrofitting buildings to reduce energy use), or reforestation and afforestation projects (such as planting trees or preserving existing forests). These projects are typically certified by third-party organizations to ensure that they are real, additional, measurable, and permanent, meaning that they would not have happened without the offset funding and that their impact on carbon emissions can be accurately measured and verified over time.

When an individual or organization purchases carbon offsets, they typically receive a certificate or credit that represents a specific amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) that has been reduced or removed from the atmosphere through the offset project. The carbon offset market has grown in recent years as individuals and organizations seek to take action on climate change and reduce their carbon footprint. However, some critics argue that carbon offsets are not a sufficient solution to the problem of climate change and may be used by some as a way to avoid making necessary reductions in emissions.

Graham Watson

Graham Watson has taught Economics for over twenty years. He contributes to tutor2u, reads voraciously and is interested in all aspects of Teaching and Learning.

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