Johannes and I have debated this at length before, but I’d like to make a plug for the utility of providing recommendations for offsets, as we do at Giving Green. I agree with Johannes that offsets are likely much less effective in the fight against climate change than donations targeting systemic change, such as moving policy or technology. (Though I’m less confident about putting any numbers on this difference, which feels like an exercise in extreme guesswork.)
That being said, I do think that providing recommendations in the offset space is likely to result in less GHGs emitted. Johannes expressed worry about diverting donations from effective charities to offsets, but in my opinion that’s not a large concern. People who are thinking closely about effectiveness of donations will easily read the suggestions by orgs like Founder’s Pledge and Giving Green, pushing them toward more systemic donation options.
But that being said, there is a huge market for certainty, which is why these offsets exist. When we make recommendations on offsets, we generally shouldn’t be thinking about individuals who are choosing between different charities. Individuals are a tiny fraction of the offset market (~3% of the voluntary market, and 0% of the compliance market)- all the action is from corporations (voluntary market and carbon-priced markets like California), countries (at least under Kyoto, still unclear what role offsets will play in Paris). The offset market was >300 million in 2019, and is poised to grow: see the growing list of companies who made carbon-neutral commitments in the past few year. These companies are never going to donate to teh Clean Air Task Force. They want certainty, and their purchases can be made WAY more effective by improving the offset market. THere is tons of social value here.
Now, back to HIA. Despite my belief that making offset recommendations has social benefit, HIA is targeted at athletes, who should have no requirement to enter the offset market. I do think HIA could improve its climate recommendations by trying actively to push athletes away from the offset market toward more effective charities. But given that offsets are likely to be attractive to people for various reasons, I feel like offering them offset options is likely to crowd in money rather than divert from more effective charities. But agreed this is an empirical question that is tough to answer
But if HIA is going to offer a recommendation for offsets, I would encourage you guys to use the recommendations at Giving Green. In my opinion, the options at Atmosfair have not been properly vetted, though I don’t think this is the forum to pick apart their recommendations.
Finally, at the risk of going down a rabbit hole, one more point. There are a lot of parallels to this offset debate within international development/global health, an area in which EA is much more developed. Within EA communities, most people are quite comfortable with the recommendations from GiveWell, which are all direct-delivery of health services, and therefore things that can be measured with a high level of certainty. (Like offsets!) So why don’t big international development agencies (World Bank, etc) concentrate only on directly delivery of health services? It’s not because they are just stupid. It’s because they think they can have more bang for their buck investing in systemic changes that can’t be well-quantified with an RCT (like institution-building, macroeconomic stability, infrastructure, etc). Kinda like...funding charities that work on climate policy. So I would find it curious if the final consensus from EAs on global health is all about certainty, but in environment it is firmly for less-certain policy interventions. My argument would be that there is a clear place for both.