Should I Offset or Should I Do More Good?

Ethics, Policy and Environment 25 (3):225-241 (2022)
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Abstract

ABSTRACT Offsetting is a very ineffective way to do good. Offsetting your lifetime emissions may increase aggregated life expectancy by at most seven years, while giving the amount it costs to offset your lifetime emissions to a malaria charity saves in expectation the life of at least one child. Is there any moral reason to offset rather than giving to some charity that does good so much more effectively? There might be such a reason if your offsetting compensated or somehow benefitted the victims of your emission, since that could mean that you would satisfy the duty not to harm others by emitting and offsetting. But that is typically not true. If your emission harms some person and your offsetting benefits some person, then these are most likely different people. Hence, I conclude, we have a stronger reason to give to effective charities than we have to offset our emissions.

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H. Orri Stefansson
Stockholm University

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