“Climate change is the new covid” and four other reasons for offsetting your carbon footprint.

Climate change killed more people in the last year than COVID-19 yet we haven’t embraced carbon offsetting like we do face masks and distancing. We discuss this and other compelling reasons why individuals should take action and offset their carbon footprints.

Perhaps we’re focused on the wrong crisis?

Do you wear a face mask in public, wash your hands, and stay at home when there is a lockdown? I assume so. The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 4 million people worldwide so we’re all making sacrifices to protect the vulnerable.

Here’s a less-known statistic: In the last year, climate change killed 5 million people worldwide through unnatural cold snaps and heat waves [1]. This doesn’t even include people killed by climate-related natural disasters or the direct impacts of excess carbon dioxide on our health. It’s an underestimate.

Climate change is clearly a much bigger killer than coronavirus.

So, why aren’t we taking measures, as individuals, to combat the climate crisis and protect vulnerable people just like we’re doing for coronavirus?

Arguably the easiest and most powerful thing any individual can do to fight climate change is reduce and offset their carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide an individual emits each year as a result of their lifestyle (including driving, flying, eating meat etc). Individuals can offset this by purchasing carbon credits. Each credit is the equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. If individuals purchase enough credits to counteract their carbon footprint, then they’re not personally contributing to the climate crisis. Instead, they’re part of the solution.

If you already offset your carbon footprint, then this article will arm you with arguments to bring your friends into the team.

If you don’t offset your carbon footprint, then this article will lay out reasons why you should.

We won’t preach, and we respect your time, so we guarantee to challenge your thinking as succinctly as possible.

Carbon credits are guaranteeing this chimpanzee a wild future in Tanzania.

It’s cleaning up after yourself.

None of us dump trash in public spaces like parks, or kids playgrounds, making it someone else’s problem. But we do this with carbon dioxide every day. Because it’s invisible it is “out of sight out of mind”. Next time you drive a car, try and picture plastic bottles and cans falling out of the exhaust onto the street behind you.

From this perspective, offsetting your carbon footprint is the bare minimum of being a responsible community member. Remember that offsetting is cleaning up after yourself. If you’re not then you are letting people down, and putting their lives at risk. That’s the hard truth of it. I told you we’d be blunt.

If you want to do more than the bare-minimum, then offset more than your own footprint, and thus clean up for others. Equally important is reducing your emissions. This is powerful because it ultimately sends a message to the businesses driving climate change: We don’t want their dirty products.

Some carbon credits (known as premium carbon credits) do more than just fight the climate crisis; they conserve wildlife and benefit communities. Purchasing these compounds for extra good beyond just offsetting your footprint. We created the platform “Koobi” to connect people to the world’s best wildlife-carbon credits, which are rigorously scientific, and located in the most important sites for biodiversity conservation globally.

It’s unjust.

Developing countries have barely contributed to climate change but will be hit hardest by its effects. This was demonstrated in a groundbreaking study by Dr Glenn Althor, one of the world’s top social scientists; 11 of the 17 countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions (of which carbon dioxide is the main one) are the most acutely vulnerable to climate change [2].

The beneficiaries — developed countries whose prosperity comes from the polluting technology that created climate change — aren’t the most vulnerable to it. Their governments also have the capacity to respond to climate change and protect their citizens. For example, the Australian government put up 2 billion AUD to fight the 2019–20 megafires. This would not be possible for many poorer nations.

So take a second to think about where you live, where your prosperity came from, and who might be paying the price for it. Connect the dots between flights you take, and a famine, which is striking some part of the world. Yes, they’re linked and by flying you are complicit.

Reducing and offsetting your carbon footprint washes your hands of this guilt.

Red nations are causing climate change but not bearing its brunt. Green nations don’t cause climate change but suffer its consequences. Source: Althor 2016. Scientific Reports.

You can’t afford not to.

A lot of people say it is too expensive to pay for carbon credits or that they are too poor. This can be debunked on several levels:

As argued above, offsetting is just cleaning up after yourself. If you can’t afford to do this, then don’t make a mess in the first place. Find ways to reduce your carbon footprint so you don’t have to pay for as many carbon credits (we will outline how in a future blog).

Secondly, the cost of climate change is higher than the price of solving it. Although the Australian government committed 2 billion AUD to fighting the 2019–20 megafires, the total cost of the fires is estimated at 100 billion. Who pays for something like this? We do. Our taxes, insurance premiums, and the economy will reflect this for decades. This applies worldwide — from fires in the United States — to winter storms in Europe.

It is in your financial interests to offset your footprint and persuade others to follow suit.

Carbon offsetting is cheap.

Most people are surprised to hear that their entire footprint can be offset for as little as a cup of coffee a week. Even a university student can afford that. Per year this is the same as a nice pair of shoes, one night out in London, or one restaurant dinner for a family.

We can all sacrifice that for a better planet so let’s get our priorities straight.

Is making people feel guilty the best way to persuade them to offset their carbon footprints? Probably not, but the truth is important. Is trying to change the way people view their carbon emissions — and the impact their emissions have on other people — a better approach? We hope so, that is our aim.

We’ve tried to challenge you so feel free to challenge us back by letting us know what you think in the comments.

References

[1] Zhao et al. 2021. Global, regional, and national burden of mortality associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 2019: a three-stage modelling study. The Lancet Planetary Health.

[2] Althor et al. 2016. Global mismatch between greenhouse gas emissions and the burden of climate change. Scientific Reports.

All you need to know about fighting the climate crisis and conserving wild nature ~ we’re the challenging and thought provoking blog for www.koobicarbon.com.