Friday, May 25, 2007

The Only Green Vacation Is Staying Home

If you are intellectually honest you know it's true.
This is part 3 of a ramble along the byways of eco-hypocrisy.

Wednesday Russell Seitz, writing at ADAMANT, made gentle fun of right-of-center sites "Planet Gore" and the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Open Market blog. That got me poking around CEI's blog where I found the post with the above headline.

Many well-meaning people are buying into carbon offset schemes that are either not doing what they purport or are outright frauds, as reported so well by the Financial Times among others. HT:'s Energy Roundup. FT stories here, here, here.

That last FT link is interesting, it was the first mention of the sequestration technique of charring wood in the absence of oxygen that I saw. Caveat: tradable carbon credit prices will have to rise five to ten-fold to make the technique economically feasible; it's still a decent way to recharge depleted soils.

This is a big deal because offsets and credits are the last refuge of people who won't change their lifestyle. If the offset/credit deals don't work, people are confronted with having to change their lifestyle, possibly in drastic ways, or admit they don't care or face up to their hypocricy. No other choices. And frankly people don't want to change. There's a reason the Inuit use snowmobiles. There's a reason celebrities fly privately. There's a reason people heat their homes, or drive rather than walk. People are lazy, comfort loving, easifying creatures.

One industry in potentially big trouble is travel. "Travel Experts Mull Ecotourism Threats" Here's The draft statement from the just concluded Oslo eco-tourism conference Here are two headlines that appeared the same day at ENN: Arctic Islands Invite Tourists To See Climate Woes; Travel Experts See Worrisome Downside to Ecotourism. Is it any wonder the hypocrite founder of "Roughguides" has embraced tree planting offsets?

I like trees. At age 12 I sent $5.00 to the National Arbor Day Foundation from my paper route earnings (why you little entrepreneur/philanthropist, you).

The idea of using trees as carbon sinks has real problems. From Forest Fraud, a report by Sinkswatch and

Ten facts about carbon sinks

1. Carbon in trees is not equivalent to carbon in fossil fuels: Tree-stored carbon is easily released into the atmosphere through fire, natural decay and timber harvesting. Carbon in fossil fuels is locked away and only released through human intervention. Carbon credits that equate the two are based on a false premise.

2. One-way road: Trees provide temporary carbon storage as part of the normal cycle of carbon exchange between forests and the atmosphere. The release of carbon from fossil fuels is permanent and, over relevant timescales, will accelerate climate change by increasing the active carbon pool and destabilising carbon flows.

3. Fake credit: Carbon sink credits in the Kyoto Protocol use temporary tree plantations to justify permanent releases of fossil-stored carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon sink credits are fake credits for the climate.

4. Footprint chaos: Carbon sink credits increase the ecological debt of the North. The more fossil fuel a Northern country uses, the more land it is entitled to use to ‘offset’ its emissions. This is unfair and undermines global efforts towards sustainable development.

5. Subsidies for mega-plantations: The Kyoto Protocol stands to provide a new subsidy for the plantations industry. Documented evidence shows how large-scale plantations have negative impacts on forests and forest peoples. Kyoto includes no meaningful safeguards to rule out large-scale monoculture tree plantations from receiving carbon credits.

6. Communities suffer twice: First, climate change affects the livelihoods of forest peoples and rural communities through increased droughts, floods, forest fires and deforestation. Second, carbon sink credits promote the expansion of large-scale tree plantations, which indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities are opposing in many parts of the world.

7. Arming a time bomb: Avoiding climate change requires drastic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, but carbon sink projects do nothing to help solve this problem; in fact they mask the real crisis. This is sentencing future generations to live with fewer choices and worse conditions.

8. Forest fraud: Forests play a vital role in storing carbon and buffering extreme weather events. But linking forest restoration with carbon credits is a dead-end for forest peoples as well as for the climate. Halting the forest crisis requires action against the underlying causes of deforestation, not a bigger active carbon pool and more monoculture tree plantations.

9. Blind guess: Measuring carbon pools is fraught with uncertainties. Scientists have found that estimates of the carbon balance in Canadian forests could vary by 1000 per cent if seemingly small factors, such as increased levels of atmospheric CO2, are taken into account.

10. Phony climate fix: Real and lasting solutions to the forest crisis and the climate crisis lie in providing incentives for forest-dependent communities and indigenous peoples to restore their forests and practice sustainable forest management. Small-scale pilot projects are already showing positive results, while large-scale carbon sink projects are attracting criticism and protest.

This is getting longer than I planned. Have a great holiday, I'll wrap up in part four.
Part one: New Report Challenges Basic Assumptions of "Climate Change"
Part two: DiCaprio bites back over eco 'hypocrisy'