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Thread: Carbon offsetting

  1. #1 Carbon offsetting 
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    I've got to do an essay about whether or not carbon offsetting is an effective way for people to reduce their carbon emmisions.

    Just to clarify, is a 'carbon offset' something an organisation does when they give out a certain amount of greenhouse gasses, to save an equal amount of greenhouse gasses being given out by some other means?

    For example, a carbon offset for an industrial factory, could be to provide mass transit for its workers or encourage them to walk/bike/get the bus to work? Is it only technically a "Carbon offset" if the amount of gasses 'saved' is greater than or equal to those emitted?

    Wikis opening line on the subject was:

    A carbon offset is a financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
    "financial intrument"?

    The essay doesn't have to be long, but it is really to test our referencing skills.

    Now, I don't want anyone to do the essay for me, but I would love it if someone can give examples of common carbon offsets, or suggest some reading material for the main arguments for or against it.

    I already found this pdf:

    http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefi...offsetting.pdf

    ..but I must use at least six sources, and don't want to get them all from the net. If there is any books/news articles/journals any could suggest that'd be really cool.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Actually, I just noticed all the references on wikis page. :P


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  4. #3  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Many airlines have carbon offset programs. You could look on the United, or BA websites for eaxample.
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  5. #4  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    sounds a bit of a scam to me, to appease the guilty conscience of the wannabe greens

    it's like sweeping the dirt under the carpet - after all, you still produce the CO2, and you just take it on faith that something is being done to get rid of it

    particularly cynical when budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryan Air offer it
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  6. #5  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Thanks, I've found quite a few sources on the internet now. I'm gonna have to go the library and check out some book too...they want a variety of sources.


    ManixR: I think the idea is that the organizations carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas emissions are measured (by a team of scientists from the government....I'm not actually sure who measures it, but I assume it is the government...feel free to let me know whether that is true or not) then given a value. If they then plant trees/use energy efficient electrical systems, and things like that to reduce the amount of emmisions/greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, by the same amount, then they get paid for it (by the government I assume).

    One thing I'm not sure of is whether they only get paid if the amount they reduce greenhouse gasses is equal to (or greater than) the amount they emit, or if they get paid per unit tonne of gasses they reduce.

    If it is the first case then effectively the company has no carbon footprint, directly, but if it is the latter, they couls still get money even when their emmisions outweigh their reduction.

    Does anyone know which one it is?

    BTW: Quite a few references I've looked at so far seem to be of the opinion that it isn't a very effective method. At least I then have some sources to back that argument....I want to find some from the other point of view as well for it to be a non-bias paper.

    Thanks
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  7. #6  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    you still produce the CO2, and you just take it on faith that something is being done to get rid of it
    It's not entirely on faith, since there is some auditing. I am more skeptical about the efficiency of such operations. After allowing for an office to run the operation and employees to commute to the office, and office equipment, then to buy, organize, ship and plant the trees, then to care for them long enough for them to mature, well I'm a bit skeptical that it's really worth it. Having said that, I did buy the offset last time I flew.

    Better, and more direct and measurable to simply reduce consumption in the first place, and individual and group pressure can go a long way. As an example, some employees where I work asked management to provide free bus passes, Eco Passes as they are called here. The justifications were to reduce greenhouse emissions by encouraging public transit use, and to improve employee morale (the beatings weren't working, just kidding). The company almost immediately agreed, and now there are several hundred employees riding the light rail and bus who used to drive. The company does get a tax break, but it's still a net cost to the firm. By the way, the firm is in the business of doing refinery and gas processing work. Since I was already riding the bus this amounted to a tax free $500 a year in my pocket. :-D
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  8. #7  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Having said that, I did buy the offset last time I flew.
    What do you mean by this? I thought a 'carbon offset' was a company compensating for the amount of greenhouse gasses that they emit, by reducing them elsewhere, and then getting paid for it by the government. So how can you "buy a carbon offset"?

    Thanks
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  9. #8  
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  10. #9  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Thanks, so for the example:

    Distance = 1146km
    Kg CO2 per passenger km = 0.13
    No of passengers = 2
    Total CO2 = 0.298 tonnes of CO2
    Cost of the carbon offset at a carbon price of £15/tonne = £15 x 0.298 = £4.47
    So does an airline company under a carbon offsetting scheme make these prices manditory to all of their customers (on top of usual prices)?

    Where does the government come into it then? They audit the airline to make sure that all of the money calculated and collected, does actually go into effective emmision reduction schemes?

    Does the government then pay them for doing the scheme if the amount they are reducing emmisions is equal to the amount emmited, or is it calulated per tonne or something?

    Thanks
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  11. #10  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    As it says on the linked page, it's entirely voluntary. The passenger can choose to pay or not pay, and the government has nothing to do with it. The money is (as I understand it) held and distributed by Morgan Stanley, a banking firm, which would be subject to normal auditing and regulation.
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  12. #11  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    I see, not really much of an incentive for a company to do such a scheme then. Seems like alot of extra work, and the money isn't guaranteed either.
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  13. #12  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    The scheme is for individuals who want to lower their personal carbon footprint. As far as the company is concerned it's possibly just good PR, nothing else. They won't make it compulsory of course because that wouldn't be fair on the AGW deniers whose CO2 doesn't work the way mine does, or for buddhists who can levitate to eliminate their share of the plane's drag.

    Nevertheless, it is a carbon offset scheme which is what you asked about in the O.P., and it is for "people" which was another of your criteria.
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  14. #13  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    :P Thanks, I must have forgot to mention the criteria is to:

    "Discuss whether carbon offsetting is an effective way for individuals and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint."

    I have almost finished a first draft of the essay, and have focused on the arguments for carbon offsetting as a whole, using examples of individual and organisations cases in my references.

    I still haven't found any references supporting the ide of offsets. Every one I've found says it's a bad idea. Do you know where carbon offsetting originated?...perhaps the people responsible will have arguments in favor of it. I really need to avoid bias in the essay, and provide both sides of the argument.

    Do you know where I can find such references?

    Thanks alot
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  15. #14  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    You could look at Al Gore's website (presumably he has one). I think he is a big proponent of offsetting. Of course if you just google carbon offsets you'll get loads of negative opinions. Ask yourself if there is any factual basis for the opinions.

    (BTW "criteria" is a plural. It should be "the criteria are...")


    Maybe you've already found this article.

    http://www.nature.com/climate/2007/0...e.2007.58.html
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  16. #15  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    I couldn't find a website for Al Gore, and I can't find any evidence to back the claims that carbon offsetting isn't effective....I can't find any that says it is either....what surveys have been done/statistics collected?

    I have found one argument for carbon offsetting so far anyway.... Just found this link:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environ...em-430740.html

    I guess since most of the offsetting schemes seem to be going on in developing countries, they are the ones seeing most of the benefits...and will be the ones to have the highest opinion of it....nonetheless all I've got is speculation, opinion, and bias newspaper articles.
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  17. #16  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    I couldn't find a website for Al Gore,
    How hard did you look???

    http://www.algore.com/
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  18. #17  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    ...not very. thanks...I found algore.co.uk which didn't have much about carbon offsetting. Anyway, this is what I've done so far:

    ********
    deleted, due to paranoia of plagiarism
    (call me paranoid, but this page is probably only a click away from others on in my class)

    ********

    ALSO: see where I have written (Reference).....I can't find anything to back up that claim, but wikipedia says thats the case in their article:

    There are two primary markets for carbon offsets. In the larger compliance market, companies, governments or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit
    I only have to do 750 words, so this is about half of what is needed.

    Thanks alot, really appreciate the help!
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  19. #18  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    the amount of gasses emitted by that person is calculated
    You might want to re-word that bit.
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  20. #19  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Thanks, is this any better?...

    Individuals have the opportunity to buy offsets when flying on most airlines, where the amount of emissions an individual is responsible for from the journey is calculated. In turn, a cost is calculated based on this figure, which goes towards reducing an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas from being emitted, through carbon offsetting schemes.


    I'm gonna use that reference you gave me from BA, next to this. I can't find a date of publication, but I'll do without.

    Cheers
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  21. #20  
    Forum Masters Degree bit4bit's Avatar
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    Finished my essay now, and handed it in!

    Thanks for the help Bunbury! :wink:

    P.S. I came to the conclusion that carbon offsetting is not effective. The main argument saying it was, is tree-planting schemes, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and give out oxygen. However, they 1.) take a long time to grow, and start doing anything substantial. 2.) release the carbon dioxide again when they die and rot, and 3.) mass tree planting usually involves the same tree species, and therefore has a substantial impact on biodiversity of an area.

    I was pretty pleased with the essay...fingers crossed I'll do ok.

    Cheers!
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  22. #21  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Well, let's hope you get an A.

    (I don't know that I'd entirely agree with your conclusions. If you plant a forest and maintain it the dying trees replace themselves and the carbon is locked up until you cut the forest down or it burns.)
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