I recently realized that Fred Wilson's "Funding Friday" is an example of self-taxing. In this vein, I'd like to experiment with #SelfTaxSunday!
Today, I'd like to talk about Carbon Offsetting. Remember that:
a) Donating can have a larger impact than changing consumption patterns. My vegetarianism decreases CO2e by one metric ton per year. As you'll see below, I can donate just $1 to offset one metric ton of C02e. That's cheap!
b) Your carbon footprint (in metric tons of CO2e) is roughly equal to 5 + [# of plane flights]. I'm usually in the 10-15 range. Where should I offset? There are two big options:
Expensive Certainty: Direct Offsets through Green-e ($10/tonne)
Green-e is a non-profit that audits carbon offsetting organizations. It has about 10 organizations that it has "certified" as valid. The most well-known of these is 3 Degrees (which Lyft and Etsy have used to offset their carbon). Unfortunately, I couldn't find the offset cost for 3 Degrees. I looked into Terrapass, which seems to cost $11/tonne of CO2e.
Cheaper Uncertainty: Indirect Offsets through Effective Altruist Recommendations ($1/tonne)
The other big option is to donate to organizations that Effective Altruist researchers recommend. Until recently, the top recommendation was CoolEarth. However, this recommendation was "overturned" recently. Now, most EA's follow this Founders Pledge article, which recommends either:
- Coalition for Rainforest Nations: $0.12/tonne (with a range of $0.02 - $0.72). (Update: CfRN has been moderately down-prioritized as per this analysis.)
- Climate Action Task Force: $1.26/tonne (with a range of $0.35- $4.40)
These organizations don't do "direct" carbon offsets (like planting trees or methane capture), but instead do "macro political" work that decreases carbon emissions.
In your path to personal carbon neutrality, the question you should ask is: should I pay $10/tonne ($100-150/year) to fund direct carbon offsets through an audited organization OR $1/tonne ($10-15/year) for "macro political" offsets through an EA-recommended organization?
There's obviously no "right" answer here, but I really want a clear answer going forwards. To be honest, I'm more inclined towards the Green-e recommendations, primarily because I want there to be a clear platform/API for this. (We want to enable Carbon Offsets as a Service.)
Edit #2: Or, instead of $1-$10/tonne, it might be closer to $417. Sigh: https://www.vox.com/2018/9/26/17897614/climate-change-social-cost-carbon
Edit #3: From Exponential View: EasyJet is offsetting at a rate of £3 per tonne. This is far too low. Earlier this year Microsoft increased its internal carbon price to $15 per tonne, about four times Easyjet’s. The European ETS market puts the price at around €25 per tonne. Many estimates suggest that a real cost could be closer to $100 or even $400 per tonne.
Edit #4: Bill Gates claims $400 per ton here.