Friday, June 22, 2007

An Environmental Scam - Carbon Offsets

Suffice it to say there has already been a proliferation of information in cyberspace from articles and bloggers who comment on those articles, which demonstrate the scam of buying and selling "carbon offsets". There have also been investigations by financial publications on the issue. Even publications such as The Economist have weighed in on the subject.

But as I live and breathe, and produce CO2.. I just have to add my own two cents. (even though I briefly blogged about global warming junk science before)

I have spoken to meteorologists and scientists about the notion of "Global Warming" and the theory that it is caused by industrialized nations producing too much CO2. They all say it's a bunch of "hooey". (Well actually they have more scientific terms than that). Basically the climate is changing.. but it is more likely due to solar cycles than whether we are driving an old Chevy, or use incandescent light bulbs, or tote designer re-usable grocery bags when we go shopping. I have seen some of those carbon footprint calculators.. Seems those folks want me to swap living the way I do, for living in a mud hut with no running water... or pay someone some money ... thanks but no thanks. (what a racket!)

What this global warming hysteria seems to really boil down to is an attack on industrialization and especially the stifling of developing industrialized nations. Carbon offset credits will be the initial phase-in of such things as global taxation and energy rationing. It will be a means to further control people and their behaviors, especially as it relates to their energy usage. Talk about taxation and regulation without representation!

Now, don't get me wrong here.. I am as ecologically concerned as the next person. I recycle when I can, and try to conserve resources, and I prefer organically grown or produced food, and I have even installed energy efficient appliances and windows in my house. What gets me is this carbon offset nonsense, because my goodness, it really is such a crock.

The whole premise behind buying carbon offsets is to determine how much CO2 we are producing - as a family or individual - and to pump some money into some activity which would negate that CO2 production, and apparently some people have been duped into thinking that they can buy carbon offsets to pay for their energy excesses. To me, it's turned into nothing more than a "guilt payment".

The Financial Times
concluded the following:
■ Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.

■ Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.

■ Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

■ A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.

■ Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.
Even if global warming was caused by CO2 emmissions, we cannot just buy our way out of the problem and the truth is that buying carbon offsets do absolutely nothing.
The idea that we might cancel our own greenhouse gases by paying for projects that reduce the gases elsewhere was born in the early years of climate politics. It was adopted by the corporate lobby at the Kyoto summit in 1997 and has grown into a large but deeply troubled adolescent - confused, unpredictable, and difficult to trust....A Guardian investigation suggests that many of the schemes on offer here are well-meaning but thoroughly unreliable.

The problem with offsetting is twofold. First, these schemes are unregulated and wide open to fraud. There is nothing but the customer's canniness to stop a company claiming to be running a scheme which does not exist; claiming wildly exaggerated carbon cuts; selling offsets that have already been sold; charging hugely inflated prices. Second, as all the examples above show, even the most well-intentioned schemes suffer from basic weaknesses in the idea of carbon offsetting - an idea which flows not from environmentalists and climate scientists trying to design a way to reverse global warming but from politicians and business executives trying to meet the demands for action while preserving the commercial status quo.

This fails on three points:

1. First, it requires an accurate measure of the emissions to be offset. That turns out to be riddled with uncertainty.

2. Second, it requires an accurate measure of the carbon saved elsewhere. Most of the earliest offset projects involved planting trees, which naturally ingest carbon, a complex and unpredictable process which forbids accurate measurement.

3. Finally, the very idea of offsetting relies on what is known as additionality - evidence that a carbon reduction would not have occurred in the natural order of commercial life.
Yes, Virginia, most carbon offset payment plans are just a means of transferring money from your pocket to someone else's. And if you really want a good laugh you can buy some Carbon DEBITS! yes.. that's right you can offset your environmentalist neighbors' carbon credits! Ah.. seems there is always someone around to figure out a way to make a buck.. capitalism at its best.

Note: If you ever get the opportunity - you ought to watch the BBC produced documentary " The Great Global Warming Swindle" (also available here with French subtitles)
Global Warming Hoax Blog site