Environmentally incorrect

In the new millennium, we are seeing not only the rise of environmentalism but also of environmental correctness. Like political correctness, we’re bound to see this new green gospel — well worthy in its origins — being taken too far by both zealots and corrupters. The advocates of this good cause had better beware or they will see it hijacked. Consider:

: For sometime, I’ve been wondering when we’d see a scandal over the rush to buy carbon credits, asking who’s auditing these companies. Now the Financial Times’ Fiona Harvey has investigated and found something stinky here. Her impressive package found:

. . . widespread failings in the new markets for greenhouse gases, suggesting some organisations are paying for emissions reductions that do not take place.

Others are meanwhile making big profits from carbon trading for very small expenditure and in some cases for clean-ups that they would have made anyway.

The growing political salience of environmental politics has sparked a “green gold rush”, which has seen a dramatic expansion in the number of businesses offering both companies and individuals the chance to go “carbon neutral”, offsetting their own energy use by buying carbon credits that cancel out their contribution to global warming.

The burgeoning regulated market for carbon credits is expected to more than double in size to about $68.2bn by 2010, with the unregulated voluntary sector rising to $4bn in the same period.

The FT investigation found:

â–  Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.

â–  Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.

â–  Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

â–  A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.

â–  Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.

Francis Sullivan, environment adviser at HSBC, the UK’s biggest bank that went carbon-neutral in 2005, said he found “serious credibility concerns” in the offsetting market after evaluating it for several months.

“The police, the fraud squad and trading standards need to be looking into this. Otherwise people will lose faith in it,” he said.

: Meanwhile, travel is taking on more cooties. I heard an NPR report the other day on Germans who are starting to vacation on their own northern shore rather than spit out more soot.

: And yesterday’s Times of London reports that in a case of enviromental big Brotherism, local governments in the UK are employing spy planes using infrared photography to identify homes that are letting off excess heat, putting up maps of the offenders to shame their neighbors into lowering the heat.

Thermal images of homes have been taken by a light aircraft fitted with military spy technology to record the heat escaping from people’s houses.

Maps identifying individual homes have now been placed on the internet to encourage occupiers to reduce their wastage and carbon emissions by fitting insulation and turning the thermostat down.

Haringey Council, in London, has become the first authority in England to place house-by-house thermal maps on the web, after the example of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Making the information available to the public is intended to raise awareness of how much energy is being used needlessly, putting up bills and contributing to global warming. . . .

Officials from the authority shrugged off suggestions of a Big Brother-style invasion of privacy by prying on people’s properties and then publishing the information.

Again, somebody’s using this to make a quick buck pound:

Robert Wilkes, the owner of hotmapping.co.uk, which conducted the thermal surveys, said: “I think it is less intrusive than Google Earth quite honestly.

“It’s not a photograph; it’s merely a measure of heat loss. I think everybody should find it very useful – particularly businesses, schools and hospitals.”

Well, Google maps are not publicizied for the express goal of shaming people. Why not send them a friendly letter? It’s an exercise in environmental correctness.

  • sf

    If spy plans can detect the heat usage of a house or growing lights in a basement (I saw this on TV quite awhile ago) why don’t they do something similar to detect which houses in Iraq are developing bombs?

  • The biggest environmentalists that I know personally are categorically single, non-religious, and miserable.


    I think not.

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  • NPR may think the Germans are staying home, but here in Yuma AZ our annual summer stream of German tourists by the busload actually began two months early — in April!

  • I’m not nearly clever enough to understand how carbon credits and offsets are supposed to work, but I remember watching a 2001 Frontline documentary (months before the company imploded) about Enron’s similarly mystifying energy-trading practices and thinking that it was some kind of virtual Ponzi scheme.

    The notion of offsetting your carbon footprint sounds like good old-fashioned American snake oil: salve your conscience by paying a sin tax, and sleep well at night.

    Meantime, while the green movement fails to do anything concrete to alleviate environmental issues, it may indeed make big inroads against those of us who love our freedom (and believe in exercising it responsibly, like good citizens). It’s the perfect issue for demagogues. After all, who could possibly object to making the earth better for our children and grandchildren?

  • For sf:
    Exactly what technology is capable of detecting thermally neutral (room temperature) bombs behind opaque walls?

    For CaptiousNut:
    I’m a major environmentalist, married, and relatively happy. You need to move to a new area…try Portland…

    For hepzeeba:
    • EVERYTHING about Enron was crooked – even their LOGO.
    • The concept of selling carbon credits to worse offenders is sheer idiocy, agreed.
    • The Green Movement can’t do much to alleviate environmental issues in the face of manifest corporate greed – who holds the money controls the military. Who could possibly object to making the earth better for our children and grandchildren? Anyone heavily invested in Petroleum or the big three automakers. The apparent logic here seems to be “I’ll get mine, and screw the kids.”

    If you think the whole green movement is being taken too seriously, Jeff, perhaps you should read THIS:

    No time like the present to get started…unless it’s too LATE, that is….

  • Tansley,

    I noticed you didn’t say you were religious. Shocker.

  • For CaptiousNut:

    I draw a firm distinction between a belief in a higher power, a supreme/divine creative force, and being ‘religious.’

    I do not attend church, nor do I support any clergy. I am, however, a very religious person, in the spiritual sense of the word (and I’m not talking about being some NewAge Gaia devotee or anything like that.) I get more out of hiking through the redwoods than attending services, although those can be nice, too.

    I generally don’t go into discussion on the subject of religion, however, owing to my views on ‘organized’ religion. In its organized form, it’s near the top of the list for the supression of the advancement of scientific knowlege and social growth in civilization. Yes, the monks kept the writings of the Greeks and the Romans alive, but there’s not much you can say in favor of an organization (the Catholic Church, for example) that didn’t get around to apologizing for what it did to Galileo until the 1980’s – hey, thanks, guys, really! –

    In the middle ages it did more to suppress the serfs than to spread knowlege. The examples set by the modern day Mental Minority live up to the same high standards set by the medieval institution they claim to have supplanted. The fact that our current appointed corporate hood-ornament in the oval office happens to wrap himself in pages of the Bible hasn’t exactly done much for my appreciation of ‘organized’ religion, either…hypocrite though he may be.

    In other words…don’t get me STARTED…

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