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Climate One series: Are carbon offsets just privileged pollution?

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Several rows of airplanes taking off.
In this composite photo, planes take off from Heathrow Airport in November 2016 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

In the race to bring carbon emissions to zero, are offsets a legitimate tool — or a scam to allow heavy emitters a way out of taking real action? Purchasing carbon offsets is something individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Does it have any collective impact? 

What impact does purchasing offsets have on poorer communities? Some experts also say the system of carbon offsets reduces carbon emissions on paper more than it does in practice. 

Greg Dalton is the host of the Commonwealth Club of California’s Climate One series.