Offsets are an indulgence, not a tool

There is a hilarious op-ed in The Huffington Post that attempts to rationalize the usage of carbon credits or carbon offsets. The author, Managing Director of Ecosystem Marketplace Molly Peters-Stanley, states that carbon offsets are a tool to achieve real sustainability yet downplays the comparisons made about them as being no different than the system of indulgences used for centuries by the Catholic Church. Stanley states in part:

Overhauling our energy, communications, building, transportation, and communications infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight. It is certainly not cheap. Offsets enable immediate action in the midst of this long-term transition. They are not – and should not be – the sole solution but they are a very necessary part of it. That’s exactly how companies are using them: not “this or that” but “this and that”.

International decision-makers are realizing that with respect to climate finance, it similarly “takes all kinds”. This creativity is critical to craft a pope-scale climate change response, which will cost trillions of dollars – money that no one sector, country, or even hemisphere has at its disposal.

Ah, yes. There are the pope-like references to religion again. In reality, carbon offsets are established by green companies and charities that sell investments that fund environmental projects worldwide as a way for people to offset their carbon footprints. Carbon offsetting involves financing a number of projects such as investing in green technologies or even planting trees. The practice, however, turns out to be nothing more than a scam designed to make you feel good.

As opposed by environmentalists borrowing from the efforts of anti-Israel groups by conducting their version of a divestment campaign against fossil fuel-based companies, environmentalists have borrowed the idea for their version of a system of indulgences from the Catholic Church. The Church sold indulgences for centuries as a way for people to offset their sins so they could enter Heaven. An ancient practice that has made a comeback with the blessing of the Church’s new pope.

Carbon offsetting is also how Al Gore is able to justify his lucrative lifestyle while making money hand-over-fist by participating in this scheme. Fortunately, his carbon offset-based company CCX went belly-up in 2010 which (hopefully) means that the entire carbon trading marketplace is on the verge of collapse. Aside from environmentalist philosophy and ethics both grounded in altruistic sacrifice, carbon offsetting is a prime example that proves the environmentalist movement is religious in nature.