Carbon Credits

Carbon Credits: Effective tools for fighting climate change…or just for easing guilt?


Do carbon offsets really help to reduce carbon emissions? Bren assistant professor Matthew Kotchen seeks answers to that and other timely questions in his article "Offsetting Green Guilt," which appears as the cover story in the Spring 2009 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Subtitled "Do voluntary carbon offsets help counteract greenhouse gases, or are they just a way for guilt-ridden consumers to buy their way out of bad feelings?" the article is an approachable, highly readable treatment of a topic that is frequently in the news and will likely remain the subject of discussion and debate as policies evolve to address climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Covering the range of available offsets, literally from birth to death—credits are available, for instance, to offset the carbon produced by disposable diapers and to make possible a carbon-neutral funeral—Kotchen proceeds by drilling down into the theory, function, and economics of carbon offsets. In doing so, he addresses a concern raised by offset doubters, contextualizing it with a Middle Ages analogy. He writes, "In other words, they argue, consumers will purchase carbon offsets and keep polluting, just as Christians in the Middle Ages bought indulgences and kept transgressing."

Read the complete article.