The Enlightened Caveman


Carbon Credits? Is that Your Final Answer?
March 4, 2007, 4:05 am
Filed under: Culture and Society, Science

Standing in the mall somewhat in a daze with a TV in front of me.

The TV:   “Blah, blah, blah…carbon credits…blah blah blah.”

Me (to no one in particular): “What the hell are they are talking about?”

A Foolish By-Stander: “Oh yeah, Al Gore and a lot of other high-profile environmentalists are buying them to offset their carbon emissions.  It’s really cool of them.”

Me: “Offset? How?”

Foolish By-Stander: “Well they buy credits that equal how much CO2 they emit so they aren’t contributing to global warming.”

Me (rolling my eyes): “Oh really?  So you can buy a “credit” (full on air quotes for this) that just eliminates the physical presence of the CO2 you’ve pumped into the atmosphere?  Isn’t that just convenient?  (Now looking this guy straight in the eye.)  So you’re buying this dribble, huh?”

Foolish By-Stander Beginning to Realize He’s Made An Error In Speaking to Me: “Well at least they’re doing their part.”

Me: “Doing their part for what?  Oh that’s right – they’re doing their part to drag us all back into the Dark Ages where facts and reason are nowhere to be found; Yes, they’re awesome.”

(Buh-bye foolish bystander.)

Honestly, I’m a pretty nice person, but this carbon credits thing has me almost foaming at the mouth.  Not because of any partisan thing – I hate both sides equally – but because I fear that the general acceptance of this idea is much more of a crisis than any of the worst global warming projections.  It means we’ve officially reached the tipping point of irrevocable mass stupidity.

We’re once again faced with the perennial question – which is worse, the boldness of the hypocritical environmentalists in explaining away their hypocrisy or the thickness of the dolts who buy those explanations?  But carbon credits strains even the most basic reasoning, so I’m apt to blame the receivers more than the senders on this one.

Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?  I did a smidge of research and came up with this explanation of this heretofore unknown (at least to me) method for overcoming seemingly insurmountable environmental barriers.  It comes from a site called Save The Planet.  They’re Kiwis – I wanted to cite an international authority. (I’m nothing if not in fashion.)

What emerged from the Kyoto meeting is that as each country produces CO2, it must be able to contain that CO2 by tree-planting or other processes that can absorb it, such as sequestration and changing farming methods. Or it can reduce the CO2 it produces in the first place. If that country produces more CO2 than it can absorb, it must purchase an ‘absorption ability’ from another nation. The Carbon Credit is this new currency and one Carbon Credit is equal to one Tonne of CO2 and is called a CO2e (CO2 equivalent). A nation might have a shortfall in absorbing 500,000T of CO2 and according to the Kyoto agreement it must seek to purchase those from another nation that has been planting trees for such a consideration. Costs are between US (ironically) $10 – 40 per credit.

It’s pretty simple really in theory. All growing things absorb carbon which ultimately ends up in the soil. Planting trees reduces the carbon in the atmosphere but not if they are then cut down and burnt and crops that are planted and harvested will not actually store carbon within them. Long term plans are needed. Crops can be farmed in such a way that the soils are not ploughed to let the stored carbon escape. Weeds and borders to fields can be encouraged. Forests can be left to stand. Fuel usage can be cut and power generation can be more efficient and all this reduced consumption of carbon will mean that less carbon credits will have to be purchased.

The money that purchases carbon credits will ultimately be used to give grants to further carbon saving schemes.

Wow.  Really.  Just wow.  The audacity of such vacuous explanations is dazzling to the point of nearly taking my sight.  Now let’s translate this into real world language.

1.  The key to this is the idea that we need some sort of zero-sum CO2 policy – you gotta absorb what you produce.  As always, the wackos have built their cause on a house of cards.  No one, I repeat no one, has ever proved a predictable correlation between CO2 concentration and climate change.  (Remember, this is science – to matter, the things we learn have to provide some predictive value – Click HERE for evidence that corroborates my statement.) But let’s accept this premise – just for fun.

2.  The Carbon Credit buys you the ability to help out with CO2 concentrations somewhere other than where you live.  That’s what it’s saying, right?  If, as an American – no, as Al Gore – I heat my 20-room mansion and put out more CO2 than I absorb (with my acres of beautifully landscaped land), I can pay money to some place (like say, Thailand) that absorbs more than it takes emits.  A thing of beauty is this thing called globalization, no?  But wait a second – how exactly is this changing the carbon concentrations here in the US?  I mean this is a CRISIS, right?  Won’t a few extra trees being planted in Thailand have absolutely no effect on the problem here at home?  Won’t global warming have played itself out and done us all in by the time the trees I paid for are mature enough to suck up the CO2 I emitted by heating my 14-person hot-tub for Saturday night’s “I’m everyone’s new environmental hero party”?

3.  I love this part – “It’s pretty simple really in theory.”  So is nuclear fusion.  It’s almost like the environmentalist movement is really just a “stupidest person in the universe” contest.  The good news is that even if you don’t win, you still might snag a “Most Self-Important” or “Most Illogical” award.  Go get em, greenies.

But seriously, this so-called solution is nothing more than a scheme to allow environmentalist activists the ability to preach one thing but do another.  If we believe that greenhouse gasses are a CRISIS (which I don’t), then there’s only one option – reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.  There are two ways to do that, which the Kyoto folks rightly recognize – either absorb more or emit less.  Simple.  Carbon credits do neither.

Though global warming fans love to talk about the problem (nay, CRISIS) being a global problem, that doesn’t mean that you can change something in one place and keep the status quo everywhere else and expect the “globe” to respond as you would like.  This is especially true given the pesky aspect of the word crisis that implies the need for immediate, decisive action.  Now, putting aside the obviously conceited idea that we somehow are going to make a big difference on our big, blue marble rolling through space, I keep wondering what happened to the age-old lefty phrase – “think globally, act locally”.  I guess we can now change that to – “think globally, do whatever you want locally, but send some money somewhere.”  Nice.

In the end, I always find that the best way to dismantle a stupid idea is to take it to its logical (and usually absurd) conclusion.  I have therefore decided to remove all mufflers from my vehicles, to go back to coal stoves, to run my heat and AC continuously, and to generally introduce CO2 into the atmosphere as fast and in as much volume as I can possibly manage.  On the surface, this may seem a little silly.  But not to worry, I’ll be purchasing Carbon Credits a plenty.  In fact, I have an offer down on an island in the Caribbean where I’ll be planting trees so that I can buy Carbon Credits from myself.  A double-dip, anyone?  It gets better.  Ever the innovator, I’ll be offering my environmentally responsible customers volume discounts from the get-go.  That’s right – it’s BOGO if you buy 1000 or more.  So what’s with all the long-faces?  You’ve got cash, right?  (No?  No problem.  I take credit.)  Anyway, don’t bother cramping your lifestyle – just buy some of my carbon credits.  I’ll even send you pics of your trees as they grow up.  It’ll be like the “buy a hungry kid in africa” thing – except you’ll never have to worry about your trees showing up at your doorstep – unless of course you buy one of my new wooden hybrid cars.  Talk about renewable.  I’m on the case.

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