Since it's inception at the Kyoto summit in 1997, carbon offset was a way for countries to 'trade carbon credits' and meet their climate targets. It morphed into the travel and tourism industries for travelers and airlines to offset the carbon emissions used to transport them from A to B.
This means the CO2 emissions physically released into the atmosphere is replaced by an external source that neutralizes those emissions.
It's trading one for another and a process that occurs over time. However, its success depends on how many people opt in to 'carbon offset' schemes and that projects are implemented efficiently.
Sounds simple but there is more to it.
Flying is widely known as being one of the biggest polluters of carbon emissions on the environment, which has made carbon offset schemes popular amongst airlines. In 2007, Virgin Australia implemented a government-accredited scheme, British Airways in 2009 and now in 2020, many airlines are declaring a commitment to carbon neutrality.
When booking airline travel, it's easy to opt into the airline's own scheme to ensure reliability and transparency. Your monetary contribution goes towards environmental projects from solar and wind farming, reforestation, renewable energy, and community projects.
You can also use this handy calculator to estimate how much CO2 emissions are used on your distance traveled.
You can also travel on a tour and carbon offset your trip with companies such as G Adventures and Intrepid Travel. In 2007, Natural Habitat Adventures was one of the first to declare 100% carbon neutrality.
In short, yes it will make a difference to the environment more in the long term than straight away. It should always be treated as one method to help take carbon emissions from our atmosphere and not viewed as the only solution.