Have we outsourced global warming? Critics of cap and trade systems or carbon offsetting have argued that buying a carbon credit is like a medieval indulgence. Rather than saving the planet, it allows me to buy a clean conscience. I’ll give two examples of how this might be true.
Lets say I want to have no carbon emissions. The average American produces 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. Rather than reduce by 20 tons I just buy 20 credits.
Those 20 credits might represent 20 tons of carbon that have been sucked out of the air by fast growing trees. Or do they? What if those trees would have been planted anyway? Then I’m just spending some money to keep polluting — and the world keeps warming.