Prominent Green Denounces Carbon Offsets

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.

That prophet of global warming, Al Gore, has a mansion in Tennessee that consumes 20 times the electricity used by the average American home, but he absolves himself by purchasing carbon credits. It might also be noted that the credits come from his own company, Generation Investment Management. How about those new “green” billionaires? Sergey Brin, founder of Google, buys carbon credits to “offset” the carbon dioxide emissions of the company’s private Boeing 767.

Politicians and captains of industry are not alone in this bit of ecological hypocrisy. Rock groups Coldplay and Pink Floyd boast of producing “carbon neutral” albums. Reportedly, the small grove of mango trees in India purchased by Coldplay’s offsets died, thus accomplishing absolutely nothing except to give the band a chance to publicly demonstrate their environmental sensitivity. Of course, the opinions of anyone who looks to sensitive, scientifically naive, often drug addled artists for leadership on scientific questions should themselves be looked upon with skepticism.

Hollywood, the world capital for self indulgence and hypocrisy is not to be left out. Movie star Leonardo DiCaprio announced in 2007 that the Academy Awards were “carbon neutral.” Attendees were urged to use mass transit, as if DiCaprio and his Hollywood chums typically use subways and buses. DiCaprio also offsets his personal emissions each year, a habit he shares with Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal and other tinsel town trendsetters.

Movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper and producer Ryan Kavanaugh board a private jet headed for Cabo San Lucas.

Those who feel they are not green enough and wish to emulate their media idols take heart. In the spring of 2009 the San Francisco airport opened a series of kiosks at which travelers can purchase “certified carbon offsets.” Many airlines already sell carbon offsets at their web sites so an ecologically clean conscience can be purchased along with a ticket.

What happens to all those who are conveniently green, when they discover that they really have to give up the Maybach and the Falcon Jet? Imagine the panic when the leftist elites discover they can no longer downsize their carbon footprint by sending money to a tree farm in Belize or Indonesia. After all, being green isn't any fun when you have to actually give things up. It is one thing to say you are green and another to live green—bicycles and composting toilets all around, Hollywood.

Meanwhile, on the political level, the hypocrisy knows no bounds. Despite the failure of industrial scale cap and trade in the US, the EPA continues to promote carbon trading among companies. Meanwhile, it was recently revealed that Leon Panneta, the US Defense Secretary, has traveled on military aircraft to his home in northern California more than two dozen times since he took the defense post in July—trips that have cost the government about $32,000 each. Then there are all of those campaign trips in Air Force One by the President and his entourage of hundreds. What is not mentioned by the supposedly green Obama administration are the carbon emissions caused by these trips. I wonder if the DoD or White House have purchased offsets?

Let us give thanks to Professor Anderson for denouncing carbon offsets for what they are—a meaningless sop to overburdened green consciences, a smokescreen for the actions of the rich and famous, and a money making scam for those running the game. So the next time some green nitwit tries to tell you they are carbon neutral because they buy offsets tell them to sod off. But then, to believe in global warming in the first place says something about a person's mental faculties. It really isn't so surprising that they would fall for eco-indulgences as well.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Carbon offsets

I avoid hypocrisy by openly and aggressively being an absolute bastard every single day.