Carbon Offsets-A Closer Look

9 03 2007

The global warming establishment has fixed upon a new panacea for climate change… carbon offsets. Carbon offsets would allow you to rid your conscience of those guilty thoughts about your consumption. A “rainbow” of companies say they can, for a price, “offset” your “carbon footprint.”

Theres only one problem. Carbon offsets are a fraud. It’s not hard to see why, either. Even an anti-capitalism website like Corporate Watch comes up for air:

Planting trees and energy efficiency are important things to do in themselves, but the trouble with linking them to offset programmes is that their positive impact is cancelled out by justifying and condoning a negative one, implying that we can consume at current rates guilt free as long as we have the money to salve our consciences, which takes us no further forwards in reducing emissions. If anything, it takes us backwards, as corporations are able to ride on the image boost of appearing greener, whereas the truth of the matter is that they are a complete fraud.

Investor’s Business Daily has done some digging, and it seems like Corporate Watch may be on to something:

Speaking of carbon offsets and shell games, guess where Gore buys his carbon offsets? Well, he buys them from a firm called Generation Investment Management LLP, a tax-exempt U.S. 501(c)3 corporation. The chairman and co-founder is Al Gore. In other words, he buys his carbon offsets from himself. Others who buy these offsets are really buying stock in Gore’s growing business. You, too, can green up his portfolio, if not Earth itself.

Are you smellin’ somethin’ fishy? Man, somebody light a match or something! The Goreacle recently defended his excessively large carbon footprint by buying offsets. To the average ear, that may sound somewhat self-sacrificial, but he’s really just investing in his own company. Remember, 501 (c) non-profit companies can pay executives any salary they want. If that’s not outright fraudulent, at the very least it’s disingenuous.

Hold on, what if these companies that deal with carbon trading and carbon offsets are actually doing something good for the environment? On this issue, many people can’t see the forest for the trees. Case in point… one popular method of reducing your “carbon footprint” is to pay a company to plant trees, or to pay a company that would normally cut trees, not to. In essence, paying a company to “do nothing.” In the case of planting trees, one important fact is continually ignored by basically everybody. The simple fact is that trees are just stored carbon. When they burn or die, they release the carbon back into the atmosphere. This, in effect, only delays the introduction of more carbon into the atmosphere.

There is an organization called Rising Tide that takes climate change very seriously, and I strongly encourage you to visit. Here’s just a snippet of what they have to say about carbon offsets:

MANY OF THE SOURCES OF CARBON CREDITS ARE SCAMS
TREE PLANTING IS NOT A SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Carbon absorbed by forests is only removed from the carbon cycle for as long as the tree is standing and alive. Industrial forestry will not sequester carbon. Permanent reforestation is a once only removal of carbon from the cycle and cannot offset sustained overproduction.
CARBON TRADING ENCOURAGES COMPANIES TO PROFIT FROM EFFICIENCIES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED ANYWAY
Because we cannot know the future, we can have no certainty that any project selling carbon credits has really reduced its emissions further than it would have done without the intervention. Profit competition and technical innovation ensures that industry consistently reduces its energy costs. A carbon market can provide an automatic cash subsidy for any investment in low energy technology. If such incentives exist they should be explicit, targeted and accountable.
“HOT AIR” TRADING IS AN ACCOUNTING FRAUD
Russia’s economic collapse since 1990 has reduced its emissions by 30%. Russia is intending to sell this incidental windfall (often call “hot air”) as international carbon credits- potentially swamping the market. If countries subsidise their emissions with these Russian credits, the final global emissions will end up being exactly the same as they would have been without a carbon market or a Kyoto protocol.
HUGE INCENTIVES FOR CHEATING
There are strong incentives for cheating and creating bogus credits that do not represent any real reduction in emissions. The vendor gets the cash without having to change anything and the buyer gets cheap credits. There are similar incentives for misdeclaration, and “leakage”- transferring polluting activities to areas that are not accounted.

Please think twice before buying your way to a clearer conscience.

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