Carbon Credits are a weird thing. Businesses can buy and sell them, and having enough carbon credits to offset your CO2 output suddenly makes you a Green Business. That being said, who issues Carbon Credits, and on what authority? Is a Carbon Credit a promise to remove an amount of CO2 from the atmosphere?

Last I checked that was a massively expensive technology still in it's infancy, but Carbon Credits have been around for quite some time. Does it work like a Futures market ("When the tech becomes available I promise to remove 30 bln tons of C02")?

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    $\begingroup$ This is probably closer to economics/finance or maybe politics than Earth science. Carbon credits are a method, proposed as a means to reduce a nations or the worlds carbon footprint. They're often heavily criticized, and, your question makes a very solid point, mostly not well understood. (People often don't let lack of knowledge stem their criticism). It's a great question, both currently relevant and interesting, but it's not Earth Science. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Nov 18 '16 at 3:13
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about earth science. It's a question about international governance, politics and economics. $\endgroup$ – EnergyNumbers Nov 19 '16 at 14:35

Carbon credit accreditation is a process done by independent accrediting agencies. It is comparable to the way that universities are accredited by various agencies saying that their degrees are legit. You sign up to do a project to reduce carbon output, and then the accrediting agency confirms that you did just that.

Carbon offsetting isn't a future's market, it is a (financial) commitment to a project right now that is dedicated to lowering greenhouse gasses. Here is a list of potential projects, and here is a map showing projects in progress with a certain company.

I'm actually really glad you asked this question, because I just assumed that carbon offsets were effective proven means, like planting trees. But looking at some of these projects is bringing up some doubt in my mind. I don't see how burning methane into CO$_2$ is doing anything except turning a larger short-term problem into a smaller long-term problem. Or how to measure the exact number of tons of carbon you are saving by changing domestic behavior.

  • $\begingroup$ So basically, if I manage to reduce my output by 1 ton of CO2 per year, I can sell that "credit" to someone else so they can produce an extra ton of CO2 per year? $\endgroup$ – Sidney Nov 17 '16 at 19:08
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    $\begingroup$ Basically. You can pay that company I linked to get them to remove a ton of CO$_2$. In a carbon cap and trade system, you would have to "buy" those carbon offsets from someone else in order to emit an extra ton of CO$_2$ by, say, opening a new power plant or factory. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Nov 17 '16 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ So Carbon credits really just work to incentivize Carbon Reducation while deincentivizing relying on "Other industries" to bear the load of global carbon reduction (as this incurs a cost for that mindset)? $\endgroup$ – Sidney Nov 17 '16 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Cap and trade is probably the best plan for preventing further rises in CO$_2$ emissions while not damaging economies. However, it is really only effective if done on a worldwide scale. In the US, CO$_2$ emissions are already going down, so lots of polluters are shutting down or reducing emissions. In that case, there will be a supply glut of carbon credits and thus they will be cheap to buy, and therefore poor at de-incentivising new carbon emissions. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Nov 17 '16 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ The cynic might look at the Keeling graph of global mean carbon dioxide, (which doesn't show any sign of global emissions slowing down) and conclude that carbon trading doesn't work, or at least is of such little account that it is irrelevant. Carbon trading has nothing to do with science. It is the 'solution' dreamed up by economists. Yes, exactly the same economists that brought us the global financial melt-down, who can't handle the concept that endless growth is impossible on a finite planet, and who can't see that emissions reduction is being negated by population growth. $\endgroup$ – Gordon Stanger Nov 17 '16 at 21:57

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