Carbon Offsetting: The Gullible Ethical Ethics Prof

I’m blogging from “the road” again, this time en route to the Society for Business Ethics meeting in Philadelphia. The airline I’m flying, Air Canada, kindly offered me the opportunity to pay a little extra to offset the carbon dioxide emissions that resulted from my flight.

Air Canada and Zerofootprint have joined efforts to give you the opportunity to minimize the impact of your travel. Every flight you take releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. When you offset your flight and contribute to certified environmentally friendly projects, you remove from the atmosphere an amount that corresponds to your share of CO2 generated by your flight.

Carbon offsetting is not without its critics. Making it voluntary like this pretty much ensures that only a trivial percentage of CO2 emissions will actually be offset in some way. And if the offsetting ends up being trivial, then it might well amount to a way for suckers like me (apparently) to make themselves feel better, without actually having any real impact.

Anyway, here’s what the calculation looks like, showing how much CO2 my being on that flight resulted in, and how much I had to pay to atone for it.

Here’s my proof of purchase:

Cynics: don’t worry, I only paid to offset the first leg of my trip. I guess I’m just not that irrational.

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