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Page added on August 29, 2007

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Offsets, the Indulgences of Today?

What do political heartbreaker turned environmental heartthrob Al Gore, British rockers Coldplay, and multinational banking giant HSBC have in common? They are all seeking to make personal and business activities carbon neutral. More and more, wealthy individuals and companies are offsetting their carbon consumption out of a sincere concern for the environment, for good public relations, and for economic value.

Carbon offsets are reductions of greenhouse gas emissions proportional to the energy expended during normal behavior. One common example is planting trees to offset the jet fuel burned by airlines
Al Gore often travels by air in his global tour to combat climate change. Because airplanes emit a significant amount of greenhouse gases, critics like to highlight the inconsistency of Gore’s message and method of travel. So what does Gore do? He pays a carbon-offset company to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gases equal to his portion of in-flight emissions.

Offset projects typically fall into four categories: renewable energy, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas capture and storage, and bio-sequestration. All of these methods, if managed well, can reduce greenhouse gases.

Many offset projects are found in developing countries, where they are cheaper to finance. This trend has fueled debate about the responsibility to mitigate climate change. Despite having only 4.6 percent of the world’s population, the United States is responsible for about 25 percent of global greenhouse emissions. The average American produces twice as much as a European or Japanese, six times more than those in China, and sixteen times more than an inhabitant of India.

Environmental News Networ

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