Carbon-Neutral Is Hip, But Is It Green?
Andrew C. Revkin, April 29, 2007 (NY Times)
Only inhabitants of Earth, nobody else. Those who are trying to do something about global warming by using carbon offsets and those who aren’t.
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Carbon neutrality is theoretically achieved when carbon offsets are purchased (or earned) to balance any and all emissions created. Questions have been raised about the validity of the concept.
The concepts of “neutrality” and “offsetting” have grown up with the idea of climate change as caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The more “offsetting” is used, the more questions emerge about whether it creates true “neutrality.”
In every individual life.
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As awareness of climate change grows, people want to act. Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” climaxes with actions consumers can do to offset their emissions. The website, and many others, offers a “carbon footprint” calculator. Many celebrities and high-profile businesses are on the bandwagon. And skeptics are asking questions. Offsetting is probably an imperfect alternative to doing nothing, a financial strategy easily abused. Prices are severely skewed, fluctuating in poorly managed EU markets and unstructured US markets. Regulation and oversight could improve it.
- Denis Hayes, the president of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental grant-making group: “The worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation…people take private jets and stretch limos, and then think they can buy an indulgence to forgive their sins…This whole game is badly in need of a modern Martin Luther…”
- Daniel A. Lashof, the science director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council: “We can’t stop global warming with voluntary offsets, but they offer an option for individuals looking for a way to contribute…in addition to reducing their own emissions and urging their elected representatives to support good policy…”
- Michael R. Solomon, the author of “Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having and Being” and a professor at Auburn University: “Consumers are always going to gravitate toward a more parsimonious solution that requires less behavioral change…We know that new products or ideas are more likely to be adopted if they don’t require us to alter our routines very much.”
- Charles Komanoff, a New York energy economist: “There isn’t a single American household above the poverty line that couldn’t cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures…”