Thursday, March 29, 2007

What is a “carbon neutral life?” What are “carbon offsets?”

On March 21, 2007, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., challenged Gore to take a "Personal Energy Ethics Pledge" to consume no more energy than the average American household. Gore, who has been criticized for his electricity usage reportedly 20 times higher than the average American household at his Tennessee mansion, refused to take the pledge.

"There are hundreds of thousands of people who adore you and would follow your example by reducing their energy usage if you did," Inhofe said. "Don't give us the run-around on carbon offsets or the gimmicks the wealthy do," Senator Inhofe told Gore.

"Are you willing to make a commitment here today by taking this pledge to consume no more energy for use in your residence than the average American household by one year from today?"

Gore declined to take the pledge. Defending his actions by saying, “We live a carbon neutral life…”

What is a “carbon neutral life?” What are Carbon offsets? What are the gimmicks Inhofe is talking about?

Here CARE offers some insights from one of our energy counsel member’s staff. What do you think?

Typically, green represents the deadly sin of envy, but with the media’s help it now also stands for hypocrisy.

In this case, the hypocrisy is promotion of buying carbon offsets – giving a donation to an energy-saving project as penance for guzzling gas or jetting off to an exotic location. With Al Gore, Hollywood and other celebrities leading the way, the media have joined the excitement, encouraging individuals and companies to offset carbon dioxide emissions.

Gore and others call it becoming “carbon neutral” and it is all the rage these days – just look who’s doing it: the Oscars, Dave Matthews, George Clooney. In fact, “carbon neutral” was the Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year in 2006.

To be carbon neutral, it’s as easy as buying a “carbon offset” or so proponents say. Then you can help save the planet from global warming and still fly to Cancun for that vacation. Online booking sites like Travelocity and Expedia even partner with companies that sell carbon offsets to consumers.

The companies then use the money for “carbon-reducing projects, such as renewable energy like wind and solar,” said’s Eric Carlson.

But carbon offsetting might as well be a joke to economists and environmentalists. “Subsidizing ‘good’ energy in order to justify ‘bad’ energy is like eating salad in order to justify eating dessert. It is an exercise in self-deception,” wrote economist and author Arnold Kling on March 6.

Jolly Green Hypocrite
Just a day after Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award at the “green” Oscars, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research cried foul over the former vice president’s green sermons.

An article in The Tennessean defended Gore from the charges, claiming “green power” is used in the Tennessee mansion, and quoted spokeswoman Kalee Krider who said, “They, of course, also do the carbon emissions offset.”

But it turns out Gore purchases offsets through Generation Investment Management, a company he founded and chairs.

While Gore argues that his offsets and energy choices allow him to continue gallivanting around the world to spread the message of conservation, a BBC News article from February 20 said emissions offsets may actually be harmful. BBC quoted Jutta Kill of the Forests and the European Union Resource Network (FERN), who said carbon offsetting does not reduce emissions and the public is being seriously misled.

Kill and several other environmentalists explained in the story that offset payments often go to tree planting and other projects, but “they are not actually neutralising their impact on the global environment.” The system is harmful, they said, because people believe action is being taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when they buy offsets.

Planting trees to make up for carbon emissions was also criticized by columnist Lorrie Goldstein of the Toronto Sun. “[T]o absorb most of the carbon dioxide caused by one passenger taking one domestic round-trip flight across Canada in 2007, requires planting 15 trees today that won't complete the job until 2047-2057, assuming none is destroyed by fire, disease or insects. If they are, they'll release their carbon back into the atmosphere.”

In a May 2006 Wired magazine article, in which Gore said he atoned for 1 million miles in global air travel for 2005, he also admitted average Americans are unlikely to practice carbon offsetting, which is “essentially a voluntary taxation system.”

But what if now-voluntary offsetting becomes mandatory?

Cap’n Who?
Carbon offsets are a choice for individuals and business who want to spend the money, but a legislative proposal called “cap-and-trade” would forcibly limit emissions by industry or the entire economy and act as a tax, according to some experts.

Al Gore has called global emissions trading, also called cap-and-trade, a “responsible approach to solving the climate crisis,” according to Newsweek.

Cap-and-trade is a two-part system. The “cap” is a government-imposed limitation on carbon emissions, either for industry or the entire economy. The “trade” is a government-created market to buy and sell pollution or greenhouse gas credits. Companies that remain under the limit can then sell credits so someone else can emit more gases than the cap allows. Essentially, high-emissions companies try to “offset” their own emissions by paying the lower-emitting companies.

But according to an editorial in the March 3-4 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, it is not a market approach: “There’s no market here unless the government creates one.”

Kling, an economist and author who frequently writes for, called cap-and-trade “an entitlement policy, in which corporations would be given licenses to pollute, which they would then trade in a market.” He then declared such entitlements a “tax and subsidy scheme” because companies that go over the government limit will essentially be taxed by having to purchase credits from another company.

Winners and Losers
Cap-and-trade systems are promoted with the idea that the planet wins because emissions will be reduced and global warming will be mitigated, but that may not be the case.

One legislator who has proposed cap-and-trade legislation is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). When CNN’s Miles O’Brien asked McCain about his support for a cap-and-trade system, McCain called it “a free market-based proposal that’s working in Europe [to reduce greenhouse gas emissions],” during the January 24 “American Morning.”

“In truth, Europe's CO2 emissions are rising twice as fast as those of the U.S. since Kyoto, three times as fast since 2000,” wrote Christopher C. Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in the February 2 Washington Times.

Horner, the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, also wrote in his book that the only countries in Europe that have significantly reduced emissions, with one exception, “did it the old-fashioned way: economic collapse.”

“Current emissions-trading schemes have proved to be little more than a shell game, allowing polluters in the developed world to shift the burden of making cuts onto factories in the developing world,” reported Newsweek International on March 12.

Decreasing emissions is no guarantee. But under cap-and-trade, rent-seeking companies work with the government to construct the market and invest in projects that will emit less carbon dioxide. They stand to profit while ordinary citizens and the poor lose as higher costs are passed on to them.

“Cap-and-trade proposals would be the largest single tax increase in the history of America,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said on February 14. “While certain large companies may benefit from these schemes, the American people would be greatly harmed, particularly the middle class, the working poor and low-income families.”

Horner agreed. “Carbon dioxide taxes and rationing schemes are regressive: they disproportionately affect poor people and seniors,” he wrote in his book.

In fact, this green plan may take quite a bit of green from your wallet.

“The environmentalist group Resources for the Future counted that cap-and-trade is actually about four times as expensive to the economy as an energy tax designed to achieve the same outcome,” wrote Horner.
In his book, Horner includes figures for the cumulative loss of gross domestic product by 2025 from three separate cap-and-trade policies that have been introduced in the Senate. The losses range from $331 billion to $1.4 trillion.

Friday, March 9, 2007

More On The Global Warming Debate

Since CARE posted comments on global warming from some of our Energy Council Members, we have received additional input which we believe you will find to be enlightening. Check out our latest and add your thoughts to the debate:

The Earth Was Warming Before Global Warming Was Cool

When Eric the Red led the Norwegian Vikings to Greenland in the late 900s, it was an ice-free farm country--grass for sheep and cattle, open water for fishing, a livable climate--so good a colony that by 1100 there were 3,000 people living there. Then came the Ice Age. By 1400, average temperatures had declined by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the glaciers had crushed southward across the farmlands and harbors, and the Vikings did not survive.

Such global temperature fluctuations are not surprising, for looking back in history we see a regular pattern of warming and cooling. From 200 B.C. to A.D. 600 saw the Roman Warming period; from 600 to 900, the cold period of the Dark Ages; from 900 to 1300 was the Medieval warming period; and 1300 to 1850, the Little Ice Age.

During the 20th century the earth did indeed warm--by 1 degree Fahrenheit. But a look at the data shows that within the century temperatures varied with time: from 1900 to 1910 the world cooled; from 1910 to 1940 it warmed; from 1940 to the late 1970s it cooled again, and since then it has been warming. Today our climate is 1/20th of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than it was in 2001.

Many things are contributing to such global temperature changes. Solar radiation is one. Sunspot activity has reached a thousand-year high, according to European astronomy institutions. Solar radiation is reducing Mars's southern icecap, which has been shrinking for three summers despite the absence of SUVS and coal-fired electrical plants anywhere on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, a NASA study reports that solar radiation has increased in each of the past two decades, and environmental scholar Bjorn Lomborg, citing a 1997 atmosphere-ocean general circulation model, observes that "the increase in direct solar irradiation over the past 30 years is responsible for about 40 percent of the observed global warming."

Statistics suggest that while there has indeed been a slight warming in the past century, much of it was neither human-induced nor geographically uniform. Half of the past century's warming occurred before 1940, when the human population and its industrial base were far smaller than now. And while global temperatures are now slightly up, in some areas they are dramatically down. According to "Climate Change and Its Impacts," a study published last spring by the National Center for Policy Analysis, the ice mass in Greenland has grown, and "average summer temperatures at the summit of the Greenland ice sheet have decreased 4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the late 1980s." British environmental analyst Lord Christopher Monckton says that from 1993 through 2003 the Greenland ice sheet "grew an average extra thickness of 2 inches a year," and that in the past 30 years the mass of the Antarctic ice sheet has grown as well.

In February the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a summary of its fourth five-year report. Although the full report won't be out until May, the summary has reinvigorated the global warming discussion.

While global warming alarmism has become a daily American press feature, the IPCC, in its new report, is backtracking on its warming predictions. While Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" warns of up to 20 feet of sea-level increase, the IPCC has halved its estimate of the rise in sea level by the end of this century, to 17 inches from 36. It has reduced its estimate of the impact of global greenhouse-gas emissions on global climate by more than one-third, because, it says, pollutant particles reflect sunlight back into space and this has a cooling effect.

The IPCC confirms its 2001 conclusion that global warming will have little effect on the number of typhoons or hurricanes the world will experience, but it does not note that there has been a steady decrease in the number of global hurricane days since 1970--from 600 to 400 days, according to Georgia Tech atmospheric scientist Peter Webster.

The IPCC does not explain why from 1940 to 1975, while carbon dioxide emissions were rising, global temperatures were falling, nor does it admit that its 2001 "hockey stick" graph showing a dramatic temperature increase beginning in 1970s had omitted the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warming temperature changes, apparently in order to make the new global warming increases appear more dramatic.

Sometimes the consequences of bad science can be serious. In a 2000 issue of Nature Medicine magazine, four international scientists observed that "in less than two decades, spraying of houses with DDT reduced Sri Lanka's malaria burden from 2.8 million cases and 7,000 deaths [in 1948] to 17 cases and no deaths" in 1963. Then came Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," invigorating environmentalism and leading to outright bans of DDT in some countries. When Sri Lanka ended the use of DDT in 1968, instead of 17 malaria cases it had 480,000.

Yet the Sierra Club in 1971 demanded "a ban, not just a curb," on the use of DDT "even in the tropical countries where DDT has kept malaria under control." International environmental controls were more important than the lives of human beings. For more than three decades this view prevailed, until the restrictions were finally lifted last September.

As we have seen since the beginning of time, and from the Vikings' experience in Greenland, our world experiences cyclical climate changes. America needs to understand clearly what is happening and why before we sign onto U.N. environmental agreements, shut down our industries and power plants, and limit our economic growth.

Pete du Pont
Policy Chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He writes a regular column for, the online news service of The Wall Street Journal.

Why Doesn’t Europe Just Cut Its Greenhouse Emissions?
Europeans keep telling us we don’t need fossil fuels or nuclear power to live well, but they haven’t had the courage to live Green. They keep saying that converting our energy systems to non-fossil and non-nuclear will create jobs, and Heaven knows Europe needs more jobs for young Muslim welfare clients. So just do it!

Now is the ideal time for Europe to demonstrate how to save the planet. They can sell all their used cars to China and go back to commuting on bikes and horse-drawn trams. They can show us how to create jobs in the windmill factories, and how to keep warm with sweaters and environmentally-friendly insulation made from recycled newspapers.

Why is Al Gore hassling Americans? Most European countries are still increasing their greenhouse emissions and they are rising faster than ours. Al can jet over there, pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, and advise them on giving up their oil-fired furnaces.

We Americans still aren’t quite convinced that CO2 is so desperately threatening. There’s no evidence that humans caused even the modest warming we’ve had. The warming from 1850 to 1940 looks just like the moderate-but-sudden warmings of the natural 1,500-year climate cycle.

Eduard Bard of the College de France and Martin Frank of the Technical University of Kaiserslauten, Germany, recently published “Climate change and solar variability: What’s new under the sun?” in Earth and Planetary Science Letters Vol. 248. They say varying solar activity explains the Medieval Warming and the Little Ice Age, and the bulk of our recent warming. They conclude that “our present climate is in an ascending phase on its way to attaining a new warm optimum.” “Optimum” means finest.

Does it make a difference to our warming predictions if a natural cycle caused the 0.5 degree C warming that occurred between 1850 and 1940? Or, if man-made CO2 caused, not a 6 degree C warming in the 20th century, but a 0.l5 degree C warming after 1940? With each added unit of CO2 having less climate impact?

But Europe shouldn’t worry about American doubts. There’s a scientific consensus, in Europe, within the UN, and among the folks feeding the unverified global computer models. Europe now just needs to start shutting down those fossilized power plants.

America will be watching.

Former senior policy analyst for the U.S. State Department, co-author Unstoppable Global Warming--Every 1500 Years