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Summary:

To the skeptical consumer, carbon offsets can seem as shady as Karl Rove. I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of carbon offset providers out there — which ones are reputable, where does my money go, how effective are […]

To the skeptical consumer, carbon offsets can seem as shady as Karl Rove. I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m totally overwhelmed by the sheer number of carbon offset providers out there — which ones are reputable, where does my money go, how effective are they? That’s why I was eager to check out a new Web tool called Carbon Catalog, which launched today and is looking to add a bit of DIY transparency to your choices.

The site, started by Internet entrepreneur Gideon Greenspan, organizes data about carbon offset projects and providers according to location, type of project, and company info. A lot of the data is displayed on a clickable Google map. Greenspan told us in a phone conversation that he started the site because the carbon offset market “…is a real mess at the moment, and it is very difficult to know where you’re money is going.” Greenspan also started websudoku.com and copyscape.com.

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There’s a lot of things I like about the site. The details about which companies are nonprofit providers vs. for-profit providers is valuable information when selecting a carbon offset choice, as well as the information about how much money goes to the company vs. the carbon offset project itself. I also liked that the layout was simple, clean and easy-to-navigate.

The biggest issue I have with the site is that it’s a work in progress. The data isn’t terribly detailed; it’s mostly gleaned from the carbon offset providers’ Web sites, according to Greenspan. Also, some info I really wanted about what percentage of the money goes to the project and how much to the company is left blank. Greenspan said he plans to add more details in the future.

Given that the market for carbon offsets is so far a largely unregulated — and somewhat confusing — one, any attempt at transparency is a good thing. As Greenspan said, “Transparency is the key to building credibility.” We’re looking forward to when Carbon Catalog beefs up its features and gives us a bit more to work with.

  1. I write about this a lot on my site that covers global warming (http://www.globalwarming-factorfiction.com) and I am typically very skeptical of carbon trading schemes.

    P.T. Barnum supposedly said that there was a sucker born every minute. Sometimes, when I read about carbon credits, I am not sure who the sucker is – the person buying, the person selling, or the general public for thinking it is helping!

    In order for credits to be feasible and to be more than a “feel good” gesture, we need solid accounting, accountability, and penalties. We have none of that now and this article makes this painfully clear. We cannot allow credits to be used for minor contributions to a project. The credit must go to the cost of reducing the greenhouse gas.

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  2. Transparency in the offset market is something that Gideon Greeenspan and Our Carbon Nation Ltd obviously felt the need to address. Our Carbon Nation Ltd are launching a new Global Carbon Offsetting Directory Service for consumers. They highlight issues such as price per tonne, percentage of donation spent on admin, and most importantly how providers verify that the emission reductions they are claiming are actually taking place. http://www.ourcarbonnation.com launches on 17th September 2007.

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  3. [...] been 6 months since Carbon Catalog was launched, and 3 months since the first blog post. It’s time to talk about some recent updates to the [...]

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