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Carbon Offsets: Modern-Day Indulgence or Path to Carbon Neutrality?

Environmentalists continue to debate the wisdom of buying carbon offsets or credits.

Carbonfund.org Foundation, a nonprofit climate services and carbon reduction provider based in Bethesda, MD, is leading the fight against global warming, according to its website.

Carbonfund.org claims its services make it easy and affordable for individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce and offset their climate impacts and hasten the transition to a clean energy future.

The implicit assumptions are that carbon dioxide is causing global warming and present-day American society is incapable of achieving net-zero emissions. In fact, Carbonfund.org’s slogan, “Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t,” speaks to this mentality.

Typically, an organization makes a donation to Carbonfund.org to offset some portion of its operational emissions each year, and Carbonfund.org in turn supports third-party-validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects that reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the threat of climate change.

The question is, are offsets a good thing? At issue is whether credits represent a gateway to climate-neutral living or a modern-day indulgence.

Few people debate the fact that a lot of good has been done. Since Carbonfund.org was founded in 2003, it has partnered with more than 2,000 businesses and 750,000 individuals to offset more than five billion pounds of CO2, according to the organization’s website.

There is a vocal faction among environmentalists, however, who say offsets represent a pay-to-play scheme for buying a clear conscience while fouling the planet. They say that the First World is paying the Third World for the luxury of irresponsible consumption.

Carbonfund.org leaders take issue with such assertions and remain committed to their cause and methods which include encouraging everyone to reduce their personal carbon footprints. In fact, Carbonfund.org’s website lists dozens of suggestions that can be implemented at home and work to reduce energy use.

Perhaps the debate is of little consequence because eventually there won’t be any offsets to buy. Then what?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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