Everyday actions like driving a car, flying and even using your computer consume energy and produce greenhouse gas emissions - such as carbon dioxide - which contribute to climate change. You can compensate for your unavoidable emissions by paying someone to make an equivalent greenhouse gas saving. This is called carbon offsetting.
Should you offset your emissions? Everybody has a responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint - for example by using public transport more often or turning down thermostats. First you should identify how you can avoid or reduce your emissions - where it is not possible or practical to reduce emissions you can offset them.
Is this a cure for climate change? No, offsetting won't reverse the effects already caused by greenhouse gases. The environmental harm caused by these emissions cannot be undone. By saving an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas elsewhere, however, we can help to minimise current global emissions.
How do offsetting schemes work? First you need to calculate the emissions you have produced. Then you buy the equivalent amount in credits from emission reduction projects that have made a greenhouse gas saving. These projects may be in another part of the world to where you created the emissions. However, it doesn't matter where greenhouse gases are emitted in the world the effect on climate change is the same.
Where does the money go? Some offsetting schemes may involve planting trees but it can take many years for the environmental benefits to be realised - and it is difficult to measure how much carbon is actually saved. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects can be good projects to support as these can have immediate benefits to the environment.