This article co-authored by 41 scientists shares ten myths about the role of carbon offsets in achieving Net Zero, starting with the idea that we can compensate for fossil fuel emissions using offsets:

In the face of growing demands for action, many countries and companies are making promises and setting targets to reach “net zero” emissions or “carbon neutrality”. These often sound ambitious and may even give the impression that the world is awakening and ready to take on the climate crisis.

In practice, however, net zero targets several decades into the future shift our focus away from the immediate and unprecedented emissions reductions needed. Net zero targets are generally premised on the assumption that fossil fuel emissions can be compensated for by carbon offsetting and unproven future technologies for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But offsetting does not cancel out our emissions – yet action to do so is immediately needed.

There are a number of myths about net zero targets and carbon offsetting that must be dispelled. By revealing them, we aim to empower people, so that they can pressure governments and companies to create real solutions, here and now:

Source: 10 myths about net zero targets and carbon offsetting, busted

This is a real problem because the “path of least resistance” is not to make hard choices about energy, transportation, aviation and so on.  The “easy” thing to do is to purchase carbon offsets. And yet we will need some way to remove carbon from the atmosphere in order to stabilize our climate.  Carbon offsets, and the demand for them, provide one way to pull the basic science and the technology we need in this area.

Personally I’ve decided not to purchase carbon offsets for things like air travel. It makes me feel like I’m doing enough — when I know that as a society we are not doing nearly enough.