In this article, National Geographic explains how carbon offsets work, and how to ensure you are buying the offsets from a reputable organisation that actively monitor the projects to verify that the carbon emission reductions are real.
FT describes carbon offset as a flourishing market in the forgiveness of sin, where a rash of organisations are now offering to absolve guilt over polluting if we pay them to “offset” carbon, sometimes by planting trees. The cheapness of some of the offsets implies that combatting pollution is a doddle. The reality however is that the carbon has not been offset until the carbon emission reductions have occurred and been verified - which a serious long-term process. The article also warns of the dangers of virtue signalling through offsetting rather than taking concrete actions to reduce emissions at source, and also portrays carbon offsetting as a great mis-selling scandal.
Inside Hook provides a balanced overview of carbon-offsetting: it discusses some of the challenges with air travel (the impending global travel boom in the coming decade as flying becomes more and more accessible; that carbon offsets should not be a "get out of jail free card"; potential complacency as air travel "only" contributes to < 3% of carbon emissions), and wraps up with the conclusion that we can only be responsible for our own choices, that by actively engaging, we will in turn raise awareness among the people in our circle of influence, and hence lead to much bigger consequences.
Air travel has vastly improved communications, economies, societies, diplomacy, and will continue to do so. Whilst we will not eliminate business and personal travel from our lives, we can be more conscious of our frequency of travel and how we travel; where we are unable to avoid travel, it certainly makes sense to reduce our carbon footprint by purchasing verifiable carbon offsets.