Thursday, May 24, 2007

Answering the hypocrisy and fraud of carbon offsets

The devil...the prowde spirit...cannot endure to be mocked.
-- Thomas More
...and neither can many True Believers in the CoGW. It seems clear that carbon offsets/credits function much the same way as indulgences did at the time of Martin Luther. By offering a get-out-of-Purgatory card (for a small fee), indulgence sellers allowed the sinner's conscience to be salved, thus enabling the offending behavior to continue (or even increase).

In the case of carbon offsets, offset sellers allow your conscience to be eased based on the promise that someone, somewhere, is scaling back their trashing of the planet so that your excesses can continue. As we have already seen, such a setup is tailor-made for corruption.

So, how to respond to such a ridiculous idea? With ridicule, of course. In the past couple of weeks I have become aware of a couple of ideas that quickly illustrate the absurdity of the concept:

(1) Free Carbon Offsets -- If there's likely to be no actual corresponding reduction in carbon-producing activity in exchange for your carbon offset, why pay for it? Just declare the desired number of offsets, and go on your merry way. You even get a framable certificate. The website owners make vague promises of what will happen based on the number of offsets you declare:
There are several steps we will take to do our part to help the environment, based on your level of participation:
  • 1-100 offsets: We will try our hardest to turn off the water for an extra ten seconds while we brush our teeth.
  • 101-1000 offsets: We will think about possibly using one less square of toilet paper every time we use the rest room. So you don't have to!
  • 1001-10000 offsets: At this level, we will think about not going out to lunch for one day. Gas savings, plus savings on one less burger made that day!
  • 10000+ offsets: Premium offsets. We will consider not taking a shower for a whole week!
Thanks for the referral, Al! (Not related to Famous Al Gore)

(2) CarbonCreditKillers -- Their goal is to offset every carbon credit with a carbon debit. For every carbon debit purchased (no, it's not free), they will send you a T-shirt and grind up a living tree in your name. Additional upgrade packages are also available.

The first idea is definitely more to my taste than the second one, since I don't think it's cool to actually destroy trees just to make a political point.