Are we falling for the great green con?


the Daily Mall – July 23, 2007

For those that read my site regularly, you will know that while I am uncertain as to the cause of climate change, I am fairly certain that carbon offset credits are a bad idea.

The basic premise on carbon offsets is to pay money to have something done that is a positive for the environment compensate for something that is bad for the environment. The problem with this is that it is difficult to do a complete accounting for all of the bad and all of the good to come up with the carbon amount to be calculated. As a simple instance, when factoring the amount of CO2 from a gallon of gasoline, do you also factor in the amount of CO2 that was spent to get the fuel to your local gas station?  What about the CO2 that was created at the refinery? Do you get to spend less or more if the fuel was pumped from the ground in Texas, the North Sea, or Saudi Arabia?

Below is some more thoughts on the subject from a very good article. You may want to go to the source article to read even more thoughts.  Many of these ideas aren’t even about offsets but instead marketing campaigns to make the consumer think they are helping the environment – when they may not be.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it IS too good to be true. Vauxhall’s “offer” is, in fact, no more than the latest in a growing list of climate cons – marketing ploys used by unscrupulous companies which use green propaganda to make you part with your cash.

For instance, check into just about any hotel and you will be faced with signs piously asking you to help save the environment by reusing towels and not wasting water.

Except, of course, the real reason is simple: the management wants you to help them cut their water and laundry bills.

Sometimes, to reinforce the idea, the little card upon which the towel-plea is printed is decorated with fluffy clouds and other green icons.

It would be more honest to say “Cut our costs and help the environment”, but they don’t.

Carbon offset schemes are not only poorly audited but suffer from fundamental flaws, which mean that they are unlikely to reduce in any meaningful way carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

There are myriad problems. How do you calculate the amount of carbon that needs to be offset?

If you plant a tree, it will indeed soak up CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows. But if you burn that tree, or let it die and rot, all that carbon is put straight back where it came from.

According to Michael Buick, of Oxford-based Climate Care (which organises carbon offsetting for the Tory Party and the Guardian newspaper, which is – naturally – obsessed with reducing its own carbon footprint), it is “difficult” to say for sure whether the carbon offsetting you are paying for wouldn’t have happened anyway.

I have only listed a few of the items of the article.  Please click through and read more.

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3 thoughts on “Are we falling for the great green con?”

  1. Ryan Baker says:

    So.. what’s wrong with someone making money too? Sure honesty would be an improvement, but that doesn’t alter the act. The towels are the same, the washing machines are the same, it’s all the same.

    Your logic behind why carbon offsets are bad is similarly faulty. Just because you can’t “do a complete accounting”, doesn’t mean a partial accounting isn’t an improvement over no accounting at all.

    Perfect is the enemy of good enough. Or to apply to your thinking a bit better, perfect is the enemy of better.

  2. admin says:

    Ryan –
    There is nothing wrong with making money. In fact, that is a good thing. But there is something wrong with deception to make money because proper accounting was not done.

    Let me give you an example. I sell you x number of credits so that you don’t have to install a scrubber on your smokestack because I planted 10,000 trees. After twenty years I cut down all of those trees and do a big bonfire to clear the land so that I can plant another 10,000 trees. All of the carbon that was absorbed by those trees is released back to the atmosphere and your credit for not buying a scrubber (and doing the right thing) is wasted!

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