Celebrities and tycoons including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Elton John, Emma Watson and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have all said they have used offsetting to cancel out the greenhouse gases emitted by activities such as flying in private jets.
But when offsetting involves planting large numbers of a single types of tree, it can actually degrade the environment, the authors argued.
Single species plantations are harmful to biodiversity and put forests more at risk of fire, it is argued, while they do little to suck up greenhouse gases.
Instead, the authors said we should prioritise conserving and restoring intact ecosystems.
Writing in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, scientists from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University said the focus on offsetting carbon at all costs damages other aspects of the ecosystem.
Author Dr. Jesús Aguirre-Gutiérrez said: “Despite the broad range of ecosystem functions and services provided by tropical ecosystems, society has reduced value of these ecosystems to just one metric – carbon.
“Current and new policy should not promote ecosystem degradation via tree plantations with a narrow view on carbon capture.”
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