Me Buying Carbon Offsets

I know, total cliche’d title. Oh well.

I bought carbon offsets on a Continental flight. I particularly like the fact that you could choose your own science… and your own cost…

I really wonder about offsetting. For a while I thought of it as a useful costing mechanism. And planting trees is a barely useful short term mitigation, though repairing deforestation is always good. But I feel deeply cynical about it. Especially as greenmarketers send me email after email wanting to get their carbon offset product into my carbon plugin The Real Costs. It ads carbon footprint information to airplane and travel websites.

I had an email exchange recently about this with Mark Purdon a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at University of Toronto. We also talked quite a bit about Carbon Taxes. I sent him this article from the NYTimes on why Carbon Tax is a tax you actually don’t want to have to collect.

Being a political scientist, he has a distinctly different viewpoint on these issues. It is interesting to see is approach. He says:

I agree, a carbon tax is great but politically difficult to implement. It?s actually a leading election issue in Canada now: see the opposition party (the Liberal?s) website on The Green Shift as well as the Green Party of Canada. My feeling here again is about costs: the tax starts out low but at a certain level people are going to start resenting it and pushing back. There?s really no reason we can?t do a carbon tax within a cap-and-trade system, with offsets to mop up what’s left over.

How do people behave is such an interesting question. It comes back to marketing and social marketing. I mean, we have such problems with tax marketing in the US. Republicans stand for lower taxes and Democrats stand for higher taxes, right? WRONG. They all tax, they just tax different people. Just look at this amazing graphic from ChartJunk:

McCain and Obama's tax plans

Sadly, its all about the marketing.