Indulgences are an ancient form of church-granted amnesty from certain forms of punishment, in this life or hereafter, for sin. The selling of indulgences, a practice that became generally accepted with the first Crusade and grew considerably during the later Middle Ages, allowed the popes and professional pardoners to sell the forgiveness of sins and during that time actually fund some of the Crusades. In Catholic theology, buyers of such indulgences eliminated or reduced the time necessary for their souls to be cleansed in purgatory before entry into heaven. Popes and especially professional pardoners loved serial sinners as they could become a reliable source of sales and relatively easy money.
Today's more ecumenical indulgences are bought and sold by those who think that the emissions of high levels of greenhouse gases or a lifestyle based on a big carbon footprint can be simply atoned for by paying into some sort of a fund that will look to reduce the high emissions from some other source. As in the church version, the presumption that buyers of these carbon credits operate under is that by simply paying into a fund they will have absolved themselves from responsibility and guilt resulting from their corporate and lifestyle choices.
Rather than biting the proverbial bullet and eliminating their sinning ways, these high emitters continue to harm the environment, exacerbate climate change and set bad examples for the rest of us. Instead of personal carbon credits and corporate carbon credit markets, we need leaders that understand that making the personal and corporate changes necessary to reduce long-term greenhouse gases and emissions is not only the right thing to do but it is also better and cheaper in the long run.