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.