Bruce Sterling on carbon offsets

Personal carbon offsets are gonna look kinda twee and silly once we have gigantic, collective programs to drain carbon out of the sky. It’s not about the personal emissions of the living — we gotta remove the emissions that have been hanging over our heads since World War One.

It’s gonna take people a while to realize that we’ve got to forget “footprints” and live in a less-than-zero carbon handprint. But we’ll get to that realization, because there’s no other choice. This kinda stuff pretends that removing pollution is a personal, moral choice. It isn’t. It isn’t any more a personal moral choice than some monster Greenhouse firestorm threatening to incinerate San Diego.

Planet-wide problems require planet-wide solutions. We should, of course, try to cut our carbon footprint, but such efforts can be illusory.

An example: We just moved from a 2100 sq ft house in Connecticut heated by heating oil and with air conditioning to a 750 sq ft apartment in the Bay Area with no air conditioning and mass transit across the street.  Our carbon footprint has dropped dramatically, but since someone bought the house from us, the net carbon footprint probably remains the same.

DJ at AsymptoticLife has documented how they’ve dramatically cut their carbon emissions, which is all to the good. But Sterling is correct, we need to remove the carbon that has been in the atmosphere for decades too. And that can’t be done on a personal basis.