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Offsetting Is Not The Answer. Lowering Emissions Is

Many organisations including local authorities like Enfield are pinning their hopes of achieving targets of zero carbon emissions not so much by reducing emissions but by “offsetting.” An example of offsetting is the planting of trees to capture the carbon dioxide that has been emitted.

For James Hansen often called the founding father of climate change this is a practice that should not be “factored into the fossil fuel limitations”but this is exactly what Enfield has done. Hansen argues, “But only rarely do offsets actually cancel the climate effect of an overshoot in emissions, and the offset approach can even have a reverse effect.”

He goes onto say that the,

“planting additional trees cannot be factored into the fossil fuel limitations. The plan for getting back to 350 ppm assumes major reforestation, but that is in addition to the fossil fuel limit, not instead of. Forest preservation and reforestation should be handled separately from fossil fuels in a sound approach to solve the climate problem.”

In other words Hansen is saying that offsetting should not be used to cover up the emissions that are happening but rather we should be getting rid of the emissions itself if we are to realistically reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 ppm.

Offsetting he says can be a kind of “monkey business:” and “the type of thing that politicians love and will try to keep.”

So we should praise local authorities like Enfield for planting trees as they are important in themselves but they should not be offset against the emissions that are happening and it is the emissions themselves that should be addressed.

And this comes from the most influential climate change scientist of the last 50 years.

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