Carbon offsets, favored by PC Hollywood stars and green politicians alike, have been used by the rich and powerful as a way to make their energy wasting lifestyles appear to be OK from an ecological point of view.
Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio have both used carbon offsets to greenwash their jet-setting travel on private aircraft. Airlines even offer the unwashed masses an opportunity to purchase carbon offsets before boarding a flight—you may not be able to fly like they stars but you can lie like the stars. Finally, a voice from the green ranks has spoken up to denounce carbon offsets for what they are: “carbon offsetting is without scientific legitimacy and is dangerously misleading.”
Planet Under Pressure was a major conference on the environment held in London recently. One of the invited presenters, Kevin Anderson, no doubt shocked the organizers when he declined to attend because of the conference’s claim of carbon neutrality, more specifically how they approached being carbon neutral. Writing in the editorial section of Nature, Anderson stated his reasons this way:
The organizers of the conference said that the event would be “as close to carbon neutral as possible”. There are good ways to achieve this noble goal: virtual engagement such as video conferencing, advice on lower-carbon travel options, and innovative registration tariffs to reward lower-carbon involvement. But, instead, the organizers chose a series of carbon-offset projects financed through a compulsory £35 (US$56) fee levied on all delegates.
This was unacceptable to me. Offsetting is worse than doing nothing. It is without scientific legitimacy, is dangerously misleading and almost certainly contributes to a net increase in the absolute rate of global emissions growth.
In a letter entitled, “The inconvenient truth of carbon offsets,” the estimable Professor Anderson decries the false logic behind paying for an offset and then emitting as though it does not count. If you really believe that anthropogenic global warming is going to be the death of us all, using offsets is only an exercise in deception, whether public or private
Note that the offset “fee” was required of all conference attendees, whether they arrived on a bicycle or a private jet. This is a manifestation of the truth regarding carbon trading in general and carbon offsets in particular—carbon shuffling has become a big business. Playing the emissions offset game is a fact of business life in the EU, to the point that a major international brouhaha is building over emissions attributed to flights in and out of Europe.
Evidently, even greens are upset with this carbon sham. Upset enough to push back on conference organizers and to denounce the practice in one of the world’s primer scientific journals. How green is the protesting Professor? Kevin Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, UK, so his green credentials are above reproach. What is not above reproach is the widespread use of carbon offsets as a green fog concealing behavior by the elite—behavior that they would ban normal citizens from indulging in.
Carbon trading is often compared with the Medieval European church’s sale of indulgences, effectively paying to pardon sins. Cheated on your wife? Give your priest a few ducats and things will be squared with the man upstairs. Killed your neighbor? Give the bishop a bag of gold and your soul will be washed clean. We scoff at such practices today but something similar is being used today by the rich, the famous and the infamous when it comes to carbon emissions—the purchase of carbon offsets.