For any of you husbands, has your wife ever asked you 'Do these pants make my butt look big?" The correct answer is "No", but have you ever been tempted to say, 'Well, maybe a little." (I don't have that problem; my wife and I go to the gym nearly every day.)
At any rate, imagine how much more complicated it would be if butt sizes were like greenhouse gas emissions.
"Honey, do these pants make my butt look too big?"
"Well, actually sweetheart..."
"Don't answer that--first you have to realize that Denise is thirty pounds underweight, so I'm offsetting my posterior by her thirty pounds, and I borrowed fifteen pounds from Terri."
"Well, in that case, dear, those pants make you look just fine!"
Such is the logic (ergo folly) of most carbon offsets. The only reason that the Kyoto Treaty got enough signatories is that some nations got to count their relatively skinny butts. Russia got to count the fact that great environmental strides have been made since Communism nearly destroyed portions of Europe and Asia, while Germany got to count the environmental debacle that was East Germany. But they didn't have to do anything but watch Communism fall. Similarly, Britain had recently closed several non-productive coal mines, and their skies cleared up markedly because of that, but that made economic sense.
What's going to happen in 2012 when, during Kyoto phase two, nations really have to do something other than count phony offsets?
Some carbon offsets make sense, so I should put at least some of my joking aside. Planting trees is an excellent way to improve our environment, because trees breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Anything we can do to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels (solar power, wind power, hybrid cars) is a good thing, but it must be real, and not just a fake 'offset'.