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I recently ran across Carbon Credit Killers, a site dedicated to bulldozing and razing trees in order to “take away the pathetic excuse of Carbon Credits from those liberals who hide their shame filled lives behind money-bought lunacy.” I thought the site was a farce, run by the Onion or the Daily Show. But lo and behold, I am wrong. This organization sells carbon debits, designed to offset the carbon credits Al Gore and other “liberals” purchase to offset their footprint. I don’t want to give them any more publicity than this. Suffice it to say they represent an opportunistic, sardonic business plan that I despise. Enough.
Besides the absurdity of the site, this of course brings up the question of whether carbon credits are simply “feel good” indulgences for our environmental sins, or if they represent a positive ecologic solution to climate change issues. What it comes down to are two factors. The first, and most important, is whether these offsets are used to justify additional consumption. In the case where an individual has reduced to a minimum carbon impact level, then carbon credits are a method to take responsibility for their remaining footprint without abandoning house and car for nomadic living.
The second question relates to the carbon credits themselves. The additionality principle is often referred to. The simplest way of describing additionality is with this question: “Would these projects have been built if there were no credits?” If the answer is yes, then the credits are not additional and should not really be counted as offsets. For instance, if a forest that was devastated during hurricane Katrina was to be replanted, that forest should not be given carbon credits. Why? Because there is no added benefit. The forest before and the the forest after would have absorbed the same amount of carbon.
When it comes down to it, credits should be approached as an imperfect solution. However, they are one of the best options in the short term. What is not a solution is to do what the folks at Carbon Killers are doing, and try to rectify the issue by tearing down trees. What ignorance. Don’t agree? I’d love to hear why.
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