Live Earth London’s Glacial Pacing


Washington Post – July 8, 2007

I tried to do the math on the big quote from this article and couldn’t make it work. John Buckley of Carbon Footprint says that it would take 100,000 trees to offset the effects of the Live Earth concert from this weekend. While I am not sure on his math, I am sure that it is a big number.

The problem with saying this is that I don’t think carbon offsets are effective. To say that you can buy your way out of pollution by planting trees is, at best, a short term consideration. The trees are barely carbon negative over their entire life and death, even though they can have a big impact in their first years of fast growing. 

Also, saying that carbon offsets should be used is basically saying that the poor will carry the burden of carbon dioxide pollution. Poor people cannot afford to pay double for their energy use – once for the energy and a second time for the offset investment in a green technology. For that matter, I am not sure that anyone but the very affluent can pay that price.

The interspersing of musical numbers with lectures on climate change gave much of the show a staccato feel. The Black Eyed Peas were the first band to really get the crowd dancing; other early big draws were Metallica, Keane, Duran Duran and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as the crowd awaited the appearance of the headliner, Madonna.

It’s an inconvenient truth, but mixing rock with recycling is awkward. In a TV interview earlier this week, Matt Bellamy of the band Muse mocked the event as “private jets for climate change.”

John Buckley of Carbon Footprint, an organization that helps companies reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, said Saturday that Live Earth will produce about 74,500 tons of the gas.

“We would have to plant 100,000 trees to offset the effect of Live Earth,” he said, speaking by telephone. But, he added, “if you can reach 2 billion people and raise awareness, that’s pretty fantastic.”

Will the event make a difference after the last burger in biodegradable packaging is eaten and the stage made of recycled oil drums is packed away? Steve Howard, CEO of the Climate Group, a partner in Live Earth, said that it would. “I think that this will be very inspiring and show people that you can put on concerts and tours in a much greener way,” he said. “I understand concerns about Madonna’s carbon footprint. But nobody’s perfect, and at least we are now having an interesting debate about it, which will change behavior.”

But Andrew Turner, 29, who had come to see his favorite band, the Foo Fighters, was not convinced. “I already recycle and wash my clothes at 30 degrees [centigrade, about 86 degrees Fahrenheit] and turn off lights and computers,” he said. “So I have a suspicion that those who are coming today are those already interested in the message. I don’t know how many more it will convince.”

You can read this whole article here.

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