I've been doing some web research on whether it is possible to offset carbon usage‡ for non-critical long-distance air travel, or indeed whether carbon-offsetting should be rejected on the basis that flying emissions cannot be undone. I had imagined that this would be an easy question to answer with some authority (e.g. a scientific report of some kind, ideally peer-reviewed) but presently I am drawing a blank.
Here's some context to the question. I'm in the UK and have been invited to holiday in Bali, Indonesia, which is around 7,779 miles away (and of course I plan to come back two weeks later, so I can double that figure). I would very much like to go. I am not a frequent flyer (I think I've flown 4 or 5 times in total) and I've been car-free for four years (so I suppose I am somewhat in credit, environmentally speaking).
My starting consideration is that, to prevent global warming reaching a critical tipping point, climate journalists and meteorologists propose that the world needs to stop flying entirely† until an environmentally sound fuel alternative can be found (yup, they're serious). Since only 5% of the world's populace will ever get on an aeroplane, I'm wondering if my ability to fly is a feature of my geographic, cultural and financial privilege, and thus I shouldn't mind.
Now, I could just offset my flight but I don't know whether that's a great idea, a clever scam, or a well-intended but self-defeating exercise. As to the latter, I wonder if environmentally-conscious organisations that encourage more flying aren't doing a very good job!
The question in a more succinct form: is carbon offsetting a scientifically acceptable approach to reducing flight emissions, or is it better to cut out non-essential flying entirely?
‡ For the avoidance of doubt, a carbon offset is a scheme by which greenhouse emissions created in one place can be reduced in another, in order for there to be no net increase in emissions.
† I accept that not everyone is persuaded of the merits of climate change, but my purpose here is not to start a political debate. I am looking for authoritative sources that take a view as to whether (long-haul) flights can be genuinely carbon-offset, given the current position of scientific knowledge.