But some climate experts call offsets a cop-out.
“It’s like paying someone else to diet for you,” said Alice Larkin of the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who has not flown since 2008.
She said that while governments do need to take tough action, they derive their courage to do so from the conduct of citizens. “In my idea, people move first,” she said.
Offsets, she said, encourage a break-even mind-set when what’s needed to avert disaster is to slash fossil-fuel consumption immediately.
Her colleague Kevin Anderson says that when you buy a ticket you’re not buying just a seat on a plane. You’re telling the aviation industry to run more flights, build more jets, expand more airports.
“Offsetting, on all scales, weakens present-day drivers for change and reduces innovation towards a lower-carbon future,” Professor Anderson wrote in 2012. Lately, a grassroots anti-flying movement has been gathering momentum in Europe, particularly Scandinavia.