Tuesday, January 08, 2008


another example of carbon offsets being bs

the green wombat, which i wouldn't exactly describe as anti-corporate, posted an uncharacteristically scathing set of words today regarding the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in las vegas. CES is claiming that the carbon dioxide created by conference attendees will be entirely neutralized through carbon offsets.

The cost of the CES carbon tax: $108,000. No, there's not a zero or three missing from that number. For the price of a Tesla Roadster and change, CES is cleansing the collective environmental sins of 140,000 people. Without wading into the controversial arena of carbon offsets or questioning the good intentions of CES' organizers, that number begs an obvious question: If neutralizing a looming global catastrophe comes so cheap, wouldn't have Bill and Melinda Gates just have written a check by now?

CES is using CarbonFund.org for the offsets.

more research to do; more words to post...

I'm not sure that he's criticizing carbon offsets, per se. I think he just has this general incredulity around CES calling itself "Green." The price tag of the carbon offsets for CES do indeed seem low, but that's totally dependent on how wide an area of effect CES decides its responsible for. So, you might criticize them for only offsetting shipping and power for the show itself, but not for the travel of its 100,000 attendees. More importantly, you might criticize them for ignoring the enormous non-carbon-related impact of consumer electronics themselves (tons of heavy metals, toxic manufacturing processes, etc.)

I don't understand the objection to carbon offsets. Offsets are, in fact, quite cheap. It doesn't cost that much to retrofit a coal-fired power plant with scrubbers that will take enormous amounts of CO2 out of its emissions. The additional cost per CO2 ton of replacing that entire plant with wind or solar is also quite low. The problem, worldwide, is that there is *so effing much* carbon being emitted by human activity. That's why Bill Gates can't just "write a check" to fix everything, as the writer of that post suggested.

Maybe your problem with carbon offsets is that credulous people are able to soothe their consciences with them, ignoring how small a piece of their ecological footprint the offsets address. If so, maybe you should criticize that, not the offsets themselves.
i completely and 100% agree that the majority of my problem is with the perception of the effectiveness of carbon offsets.

i will attempt to use more precise wording to express my disdain when next describing it; although i don't think i put any words into that post that could necessarily be construed as critical of carbon offsets as a theoretical concept.

and i want to state for the sake of accountability that i've been meaning for weeks to do a thorough posting on this subject. i need to sit down and DO it, already.
The offsets are verified by independent third parties so I don't think your issue is with the efficacy of the offsets. Offsets are an industry used by dozens of countries, the UN an dendorsed by groups like NRDC, Environmental Defense, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, Nature Conservancy and hundreds of others.

I think your issue is it seems like you are buying your way out of something and that doesn't sit right.

Bu the reality is that as soon as you turn on the light in the morning, punch the "snooze" button, or have your morning toast or, yes, go to CES, you have a carbon footprint. And that gives you two choices: offset it or not.

It's not about reductions. Reductions are what you do first. Offsets are about what you can't or won't reduce. They are about doing something or nothing.

You can reduce your emissions by not going to grandmas house for Thanksgiving (by car or plane). But if you do decide to go, if T-day dinner is not an indulgence in your book, what is the responsible thing to do.

The certification of offset projects simply ensures what you do is real and backed by a respected third-party.
Here's some more criticism of consumer electronics in general:

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