Sat 9 Nov, 2019 12:49 pm
A slew of recent environmental news stories have mentioned carbon-offsetting, including as an excuse to not torture Greta Thunberg with another 2-week long roller coaster ride across the ocean.
Granted there's reason to feel guilty about unsustainable activities, but why don't people see the basic problem with buying forested land somewhere in order to justify clearing other land elsewhere, burning fossil fuel, or otherwise harming sustainability?
When you offset carbon emissions or other environmental/sustainability sins, you are assuming that the Earth can exist in some semi-deforested state that is ok as long as the CO2 emitted equals the carbon-capture that is occurring naturally and/or artificially.
That doesn't work, because keeping CO2 levels constant isn't the goal, but rather pushing CO2 levels back to pre-industrial levels. Arguably even achieving pre-industrial CO2 levels wouldn't be sufficient though, since what is ultimately necessary is to restore the optimal natural carbon cycle that exists in the absence of factors that harm it.
Fixing Climate Change Due to All Causes, not just Human Industrialism
So it's not just anthropogenic climate change that needs fixing, but any and all climate change that has been caused by irresponsible activity throughout Earth's history, including by pre-industrial humans and other species.
Of course you may say that sounds insane, that present-day (post)industrial humans can't be held responsible for what pre-industrial humans did, as well as ancient humans and non-humans.
But think about it: we are not just trying to repair damages we've done to the planet; we are trying to achieve permanent sustainability for all future generations that come after us. That means repairing all damage and restoring the planet to a state of optimal sustainability, regardless of how it has ended up in the state it is currently in.
The simple reality of restoring natural climate is that it is our best hope of achieving permanent sustainability, i.e. because the thing we are most certain about historically is that the biosphere didn't die prior to human industrialization. It may have come close at various times, but nature always came back and thrived, because it was allowed to do so.
Humans can still give nature the space to come back and thrive and secure our future for us, but to do so we can't build buildings and infrastructure in a way that prevents tree growth and other natural growth. We have to become ornaments within a living Christmas tree, so to speak, instead of being the artificial tree that displaces the natural one or the dead tree that dries up and becomes CO2 after New Year's.
We also have to restore the underground carbon cycle. In other words, it's not just the CO2-absorbing trees and other life-forms on the surface and the oceans that need to be restored, but also the whole of natural processes that occur underground when we leave fossil fuels and radioactive fuels where they naturally form and exist, instead of thinking that they are there to be brought to the surface and converted into CO2 and other ash.
Humans can live sustainably, and it may mean developing better wind/solar powered ocean-going vessels so Greta Thunberg (and others) can stomach the time at sea. Hers was a valiant attempt to utilize a truly-sustainable vehicle for intercontinental travel; and her findings in terms of how difficult and uncomfortable it is are also invaluable contributions to the evolution of sustainability. But carbon-offsetting the fuel used to fly instead of sailing is simply unnecessary. Better to acknowledge the difficulty, waste, and pledge to go on working toward future solutions than to buy off guilt with a carbon-offset 'indulgence.'
Of course it is important to preserve and protect existing forests, but it shouldn't be necessary to buy them to achieve that. Everyone who owns any land should either be protecting/preserving the carboniferous growth that's on it currently, or restoring it to a maximum-carbon natural state as part of any and all maintenance and refurbishment of historically-developed land.
In this way, it is unnecessary to offset carbon sin because we simply do all we can to reduce such sin to a minimum and plant seeds of virtue (natural carbon absorption/sequestration) wherever we can make it fit.
update: I've read Greta Thunberg is actually taking a sailboat to Europe again after all, this time a catamaran.
I think catamarans are maybe the most stable option for sailing, but someone more familiar with boating could correct me.
I also think catamarans are a good prospect for sustainable transcontinental travel because the decks could be covered with solar panels and motors used when winds are weak.