pageok
pageok
pageok
Can Carbon Offsets Be Confirmed?

Many celebrities have sought to burnish their environmental credentials by purchasing "carbon offsets" to compensate for their lavish lifestyles. Former vice president Al Gore, among others, claims the purchase of such offsets enables him to live a "carbon neutral" lifestyle, despite his conspicuous energy consumption. Think of these carbon offsets as environmental indulgences. Some corporations have also begun to purchase carbon offsets so as to reduce their net carbon dioxide emissions.

An investigation by the Financial Times suggests that many carbon offsets are illusory, and that there is little assurance that purchasing carbon offsets does much of anything to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Specifically, the report found:

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

- 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.

- Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

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

- 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.

The idea of markets for carbon emissions is a good one. If carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced, it makes sense to achieve those reductions in the most cost-effective manner possible. Carbon credits can also enable those with stronger environmental preferences to take additional voluntary action, such as celebrity carbon offset purchasers have purported to do. The problem is that offset plans can often be more difficult and costly to verify than more traditional means of controlling emissions. When these costs are factored in, it is not always the case that such market-based approaches are more cost-effective than more clumsy alternatives.

The bottom line is that if Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio truly want to be sure they are reducing their carbon footprint, they are going to have to reduce their own energy consumption, rather than paying others to do it for them.

Charlie B. (mail):
Without a CO2 cap, carbon offsets are snake oil.

PS: Since we’re not taking our 747 to Europe 12 times this summer, we have some carbon offsets to sell.
4.26.2007 10:03am
Patrick S. O'Donnell (mail):
For somewhat different reasons, I agree with your conclusion here in my comments on a related post by Dave Hoffman at Concurring Opinions yesterday.
4.26.2007 10:06am
taney71:
I agree with the snake oil statement. I have two major problems with the idea overall.

First, as Carlie B. states, there needs to be a cap. Now are all the Hollywood actors going to come together to limit themselves to some set overall pollution number? If the answer is no, then I don't see the point or environmental benefit of carbon offsets.

Second, who monitors them? Even if what Gore and others do benefits the environment how do we know they buy these carbon offsets? I would imagine most of these actors talk about carbon offsets, and all the things to do to make the environment better, without actually doing them. Remember these people think of themselves as leaders and expect others to do what they say. There are many examples of this in Hollywood. Al Gore is most likely their poster child.
4.26.2007 10:17am
Mithras The Prophet (mail) (www):
If only there were some kind of entity that could take responsibility for regulating the commerce of carbon offsets among the several states... some kind of industry board, maybe, or even an elected panel of some kind...
4.26.2007 10:29am
taney71:
After writing my post I noticed the implication of my second statement ... that is creating a government program. That is something I am against but I see the slippery slope. Basically I can see environmentalists clamoring for a board or agency so the government, and not them, pays for their salaries and agenda.
4.26.2007 10:33am
Bored Lawyer:

PS: Since we’re not taking our 747 to Europe 12 times this summer, we have some carbon offsets to sell.


Darn. Hate it when someone beats me to a good joke.

Wonder how long it will be before "carbon offsets" are hawked on eBay or through spam emails?
4.26.2007 10:44am
rarango (mail):
the hollywood community has discovered what the Roman Church discovered 500 years ago: indulgences!
4.26.2007 10:49am
Justin (mail):
It's interesting how you take a striking critique on a law and economics theory that has previously united liberals and conservatives - a critique that properly discussed could be very interesting, and instead use it to take a quick shot at liberal figureheads.

Hopefully, there will be a more serious followup - I would be very interested to hear the academic "green conservative" response to the article.
4.26.2007 10:54am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
A lot of what I consider to be scams have been sold as carbon offsetting. For example, you plant trees in some third world country, and take credit for 99 years of carbon uptake by the trees. Some basic problems with this are:
- taking credit for 99 years of CO2 absorption up front somewhat defeats the purpose of the whole urgency of the situation.
- What about methane? That is a greenhouse gas too, and trees are not neutral there.
But additionally there were problems with the implementation:
- often the purchasers just paid for planting the trees, not the upkeep over those 99 years.
- In India, they failed to provide the needed water.
- In Africa, people who had been on the land for genrations were evicted, plus
- It converted a complex ecosystem into nearly a monoculture. One type of tree, instead of dozens, plus all the other types of vegitation removed for planting.
4.26.2007 11:00am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It's interesting how you take a striking critique on a law and economics theory that has previously united liberals and conservatives - a critique that properly discussed could be very interesting, and instead use it to take a quick shot at liberal figureheads.
Ok, I think that many of us will admit to taking a bit of glee from this. But the celeberties involved probably asked for it by living a very carbon unneutral lifestyle, then trying to justify it through carbon offsetting. It apparently has gotten so bad that carbon offsets were provided in the goodie bags at the Academy Awards.

As to your request for a serious discussion, probably the biggest pitfalls to the scheme have been laid out above:
- Without a hard cap and trade system, the whole scheme is smoke and mirrors.
- Again, w/o that and enforcement, the system is ripe for corruption.
4.26.2007 11:09am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Your jibe at Gore is silly. No person of national importance (and that includes famous law professors) does anything but burn up jet fuel etc etc. How else would they get out their message? Maybe it's ironic but there is no choice for Gore.

I know that you have a hard-on for him but leave it at the door, please.
4.26.2007 11:13am
Houston Lawyer:
We should just refer to carbon offsets as carbon indulgences from now on. The 15th century church also had a method of transferring good works from those monks whose good works exceeded the minimum necessary to get into Heaven to those whose good works were lacking.
4.26.2007 11:18am
pete (mail) (www):
"No person of national importance (and that includes famous law professors) does anything but burn up jet fuel etc etc. How else would they get out their message?

Television, the internet, trains, electric cars, etc. etc.

Jet fuel is a convenience for communication not a necessity. And if Gore is right about global warming he can make the minor sacrifice of teleconferencing instead of flying to help save the planet.
4.26.2007 11:21am
Jake (Guest):
I don't think carbon offsets are inherently fraudulent. I think is just an area where you really need some sort of regulatory oversight in order to make a credible claim about the savings you've created. To the extent that somebody implements a greenhouse gas reduction program, goes to the EU and gets it certified as a Joint Implementation project, gets carbon credits from the EU, and retires those credits, I think it's fair to say that they have offset greenhouse gas emissions caused by their lifestyle.

I think the basic problem is that offsets make more sense for corporations that for individuals. When an individual is calling for personal sacrifice by other people, but reducing their own footprint by buying offsets, the problem is not their carbon footprint but their hypocrisy. On the other hand, if a corporation subject to regulation meets its net carbon reduction target by buying offsets, I don't think that triggers the same sort of emotional reaction.
4.26.2007 11:23am
Adeez (mail):
"The bottom line is that if Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio truly want to be sure they are reducing their carbon footprint, they are going to have to reduce their own energy consumption, rather than paying others to do it for them."

So, professor, are you suggesting that they are not reducing their energy consumption? That they're not sorting their garbage, using flourescents, etc.? If yes, please cite your sources. If not, then next time try making your point w/o taking baseless swipes at people who are actually trying to do some good in the world. It only makes you seem like the O'Reilly's of the world, and you should not want to be associated with them.
4.26.2007 12:15pm
jimbino (mail):
Breeding puts a larger burden on the planet than does lifelong driving of a Humvee, since it more than doubles a person's footprint. Breeders should be forced to either share their carbon allotment with their newborn or buy an allotment on the market.
4.26.2007 12:20pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
"The bottom line is that if Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio truly want to be sure they are reducing their carbon footprint, they are going to have to reduce their own energy consumption, rather than paying others to do it for them."
So, professor, are you suggesting that they are not reducing their energy consumption? That they're not sorting their garbage, using flourescents, etc.? If yes, please cite your sources. If not, then next time try making your point w/o taking baseless swipes at people who are actually trying to do some good in the world. It only makes you seem like the O'Reilly's of the world, and you should not want to be associated with them.
I guess the question is reducing from what level. I am sure that Algore's carbon footprint (absent any carbon indulgences he may buy or have bought for him by his company) is lower now than when he was Vice President, but probably quite a bit higher than when he was a mere Senator.

But you are arguing from a relative level, and a more realistic position would be to look at it from an absolute level, and at present, just using the former VP as an example, he apparently owns three houses, and the one uses approximately 20X the national level of power to heat and cool. Yes, it is 10,000 square feet, and that is small by Hollywood or trial lawyer standards. But from an absolute level, it is quite large. Much larger than most of us here live in. So, compared to either Laurie David, John Edwards, or his time as VP, he has a lower consumption.

As to your CFC argument, etc., that is a drop in the bucket compared to one flight to Europe in a private jet. Ditto for the rest of the stuff that he and those he hangs around with are pushing. If the guy who invented the Internet really wanted to reduce his carbon footprint, teleconference instead of flying around on private jets. And he would sell a couple of those houses and move into a smaller one.
4.26.2007 12:35pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Breeding puts a larger burden on the planet than does lifelong driving of a Humvee, since it more than doubles a person's footprint. Breeders should be forced to either share their carbon allotment with their newborn or buy an allotment on the market.
Except the results of those breeders are who are going to pay for your retirement.
4.26.2007 12:37pm
Insignificant Dallasite:
"No person of national importance (and that includes famous law professors) does anything but burn up jet fuel etc etc. How else would they get out their message?"

Commercial aviation is actually not that ineficient a method of long distance travel. But I have three questions, 1) Why is long distance travel necessary for Gore to "get out his message"? 2) Does Gore use commercial air travel? and 3) What does this have to do with the energy consumption of his home and cars?
4.26.2007 12:50pm
Francis (mail):
Prof Adler, this post is really beneath you.

There currently exists a badly regulated market for substance X, full of fraud. And your solution is to abandon the idea of the market and force each individual to generate X for himself. And you toss in a gratuitous insult to people who are spending a great deal of time and effort to create an effective marketplace.

(boggle)

I recommend A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss. Actually, start with any basic book on Microeconomics. Start with the section entitled Comparative Advantage.
4.26.2007 12:56pm
pete (mail) (www):
"So, professor, are you suggesting that they are not reducing their energy consumption?"

Adeez you might want to start off with this article from the Tenessee Center For Policy Research.


Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.


Gore used twice as much natural gas in one month than I used for my house in an entire year.
4.26.2007 1:01pm
Bpbatista (mail):
Hi, my name is John Tetzel. For a modest donation to the Church of Global Warming Carbon Offset Fund you too can live like Al Gore and have a clean conscience.
4.26.2007 1:02pm
Mark Field (mail):
I see that yet again the perfect is the enemy of the good. It's comforting, though, to know that conservatives give every penny they earn to charity before they advocate giving; that conservatives volunteer for service in Iraq before they urge sending more troops there; and that conservatives lead unblemished sex lives before they criticize others for not doing so.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but how do you reconcile these two statements:

1. "The idea of markets for carbon emissions is a good one."

2. "The bottom line is that if Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio truly want to be sure they are reducing their carbon footprint, they are going to have to reduce their own energy consumption, rather than paying others to do it for them."

If we all have to do our own laundry (#2), just how is it that there can be a market for washing clothes (#1)?
4.26.2007 1:03pm
AnonLawStudent:
Two issues are starkly highlighted by this line of thought:
(1) Even if we were to assume that global warming is occurring, the knowledge to make rational policy decisions is incredibly lacking, particularly in light of the counter-intuitive effect of popular ideas such as tree planting, e.g. this study by Livermore National Lab
(2) The absolute hypocrisy of those who jet around to preach the evils of cars in their private jets. A PT6 series jet engine (probably the most common powerplant for small jets) has a cruise fuel burn of roughly 350 PPH (50 gal/hr). Thus Mr. Gore, Ms. David, et.al. not uncommonly dump the entirely unfiltered emissions resulting from burning 100 gal/hr of JP directly into the upper atmosphere.
4.26.2007 1:05pm
Mac (mail):
http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/house.asp

This is a fascinating tale found on snopes.com. It is rated "true" by the way.

The title is Glass Houses and it compares Bush and
Gore's energy consumption.

I have a very hard time accepting that Al Gore really believes himself.
4.26.2007 1:07pm
Virginia:
Breeding puts a larger burden on the planet than does lifelong driving of a Humvee, since it more than doubles a person's footprint. Breeders should be forced to either share their carbon allotment with their newborn or buy an allotment on the market.

So much for "reproductive freedom." Oh well, it was a convenient euphemism for abortion on demand for 35 years.
4.26.2007 1:10pm
Stacy (mail) (www):
Carbon offsets are fine if they work, but there is no way at all for me as a purchaser to verify that my offsets are anything but money out the window. Are they really planting trees in India? I don't know, and I don't truly know that it actually offsets my emissions even if they are. On top of that, I may tell you that I'm buying offsets, but how do you know I'm buying them for all of my emissions? Maybe I'm giving myself a 50% discount. There's no verification at any point in the process, which is why it's perfectly legitimate to be skeptical and even take swipes at people who consume orders of magnitude more energy than an average person, but act holier-than-thou because they claim to have bought offsets.

The other problem with offsets is that as the rest of the world becomes richer, they will also want to have houses and drive cars, fly airplanes etc. What 3rd-world agrarian society will plant trees then? It makes more sense to tax emissions and use the money to, for example, replace older high-polluting powerplants with new low- or zero-emission ones.
4.26.2007 1:14pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):

The bottom line is that if Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio truly want to be sure they are reducing their carbon footprint, they are going to have to reduce their own energy consumption, rather than paying others to do it for them.


I am very surprised to see this sort of sentiment here on the VC. After all this is the sort of thing that you (rightly) lambast some of the idiotic liberals for advocating. I mean the clear tone here is 'if you are paying others to do it you can't be morally righteous'

Do you believe the same thing about other situations? Say that Bill Gates, despite all this charity work, would have been more morally virtuous if he had spent his whole life in the peace core? Does the fact that Bill Gates spends way more resources on his home and recreation than you or I could imagine undermine his moral authority? After all the issue with poverty is pretty much that we only have so many resources to go around and every extra resource Gates consumes is one less someone else can consume. This is a horrible attitude that would rather scorn people for being decadant or rich than actually solve the problems efficently.

I mean suppose carbon offsets worked? Then yes, Gore would really be living a carbon neutral lifestyle. In fact he would probably be doing more to combat global warming than the conservationist hippie who at least emits a bit of carbon from time to time. Sure he gets to run massive electricity bills and all sorts of other extravagant expenses but that is just the nature of a capatilistic system. If you are rich you get to buy things poorer people can't.
4.26.2007 1:18pm
Steve Reuland (www):
It's interesting how you take a striking critique on a law and economics theory that has previously united liberals and conservatives - a critique that properly discussed could be very interesting, and instead use it to take a quick shot at liberal figureheads.


My thoughts exactly. The people who grouse about the imperfection of carbon offsets do not care about global warming. They care about scoring cheap political points against Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. It's disgusting.
4.26.2007 1:18pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
By the way if we signed on to a cap and trade system to combat global warming we would get carbon offsets for free.

All you would need to do to buy a carbon offset would be to buy some carbon emission credits and take them out of the market. In fact given that Europe has such a system now why can't Gore just go buy some European carbon emission credits?
4.26.2007 1:22pm
Bill Woods (mail):
The advantage I see of a cap-and-trade system over a carbon tax is that it could more easily accommodate carbon-negative activities. But, as has been said, there are problems with many of the carbon offset programs. Plant a tree—fine. But how do you account for the risk that the tree will die young, or be burnt in a forest fire, or, when it's ultimately cut down, be used as firewood?

It seems to me that the credit ought to be given when the carbon is reliably sequestered, e.g. by being buried in a landfill or the ocean, or converted into biochar.
4.26.2007 1:22pm
Noops:
Believe, me, I'm not one to advocate any kind of bureaucratic nonsense. However, what about having some kind of recognized accreditation like "Certified Organic" kind of deal where you might have a public database of carbon offset offerings with "Certified Cooling" (that's a warming joke if you didn't get it. Jokes aside, it might help alleviate the concerns expressed.
4.26.2007 1:24pm
Observer (mail):
The notion that Hollywood celebutantes like Gore and DiCaprio can buy indulgences that allow them to continue to live the jet-set life while pretending to be environmentally pure is humorous.

What's even funnier is that anyone would take Gore seriously on questions of science, when his grades in the two science classes he took at Harvard were C and D, or pay the slightest bit of attention to DiCaprio, who never even went to college.
4.26.2007 1:26pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Ohh that's the answer. The EU credits may or may not result in cuts eventually but they aren't working too well now.

I think that is largely bad design and lack of commitment to the principle. Bad design in that it creates a conflict of interest to have the british government audit British companies and so forth. Lack of commitment because my sense is that many EU countries would much rather implement a very deceive treaty and fudge on it than deal with the tough negotiating questions that a real treaty to cut global warming would incur.

I know people here will hate the idea but I kinda like the idea of abolishing UN member state dues and letting the UN collect it's money by being the sole supplier of carbon emission credits. This whole per country thing and basing the credits on past emissions has got to go.
4.26.2007 1:32pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Mr. Field --

The point is that carbon offsets are a good idea that, at present, is not working in practice. Specifically, given current problems in implementation, verifiability and enforceability (and the transaction costs involved in overcoming these problems at present, particularly in the absence of an emissions cap), those purchasing such offsets get to make themselves feel better, but are not actually accomplishing anything.

In response to logicnazi, I have no problem with Gore or DiCaprio (or anyone else) paying others to do things. Here, however, they are paying money but there is no assurance that anything is actually being done. If carbon offsets worked, I'd have written a different post. The problem is that they don't as yet, and there has been relatively little effort to improve upon that situation -- but there has been lots of conspicuous energy consumption, and a refusal by Gore to live as he calls upon others to live.

I can't speak for other conservatives, but I haven't called for forced redistribution of wealth to my preferred charities or for more troops in Iraq, nor have I criticized others for private sexual behavior. Also, if it makes Mr. Field and others feel better, I telecommute as often as possible, and I'm writing this comment in a sunlit room, overlooking the wetlands in my backyard that are protected by a conservation easement, but I am not seeking to mandate this lifestyle on others.

JHA
4.26.2007 1:33pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
Mr. Mark Field,

If one actively advocates an idea, one should also be a model in executing that idea. If not, we call that hypocrisy, and in our society being guilty of hypocrisy condemns one to having their arguments ignored. Perhaps that is not a fair rule, but it is generally accepted by our culture nonetheless.

So you are correct - calls to charity should only be made by those that give to charity, calls to arms should be made by those willing to fight, and calls to abstinence should be made by abstainers. Therefore, calls to conserve should be made by conservationists.

If Al Gore himself can not live a lifestyle that conserves natural resources, he does not deserve to be a spokesperson for such a lifestyle (nor does Laurie David). And if the method he advocates for conserving, carbon offsets, is proving to be fraudulent and innefective, then he should be taken to task.

I don't think anyone expects perfection - that is a straw man of your creation. The expectation is that Al Gore at least be a model example. Prof. Adler points out that the example Al Gore leads in fact conserves very little and is a poor model.
4.26.2007 1:33pm
Ken Arromdee:
I mean suppose carbon offsets worked? Then yes, Gore would really be living a carbon neutral lifestyle. In fact he would probably be doing more to combat global warming than the conservationist hippie who at least emits a bit of carbon from time to time. Sure he gets to run massive electricity bills and all sorts of other extravagant expenses but that is just the nature of a capatilistic system. If you are rich you get to buy things poorer people can't.

If carbon offsets worked, then there wouldn't be a hypocrisy problem; but hypocrisy isn't the only thing wrong here. Gore is claiming that it is necessary for everyone to do something that doesn't inconvenience rich people, but does inconvenience everyone else. He's demanding a sacrifice from everyone else that because of his particular circumstances, is not a sacrifice for himself. If he were to demand that everyone sleeping under bridges or begging be shot, he would not be a hypocrite, since he doesn't sleep under bridges or beg, but that still would be wrong. Shooting everyone who sleeps under bridges inconveniences only the poor, and he can follow his own policy without suffering any of the consequences that he demands others suffer. Demanding something which greatly inconveniences anyone not rich enough to buy carbon credits is little different, except that it inconveniences both the poor and middle class instead of just the poor.

And as for Bill Gates, even if I respected Gates in the first place, I wouldn't consider his own consumption to be a strike against his charity work because his charity work doesn't involve demanding sacrifices from other people. Only when he begins demanding sacrifices from other people does his personal lack of sacrifice become an issue.
4.26.2007 1:49pm
Lisa:
Matthew in Austen:

And calls to stop smoking and eat well should only come from doctors who don't smoke and eat a perfect diet. Because we cannot separate the argument from the source when we assess whether the argument is a good one.

You might want to look up fallacy of tu quoque.
4.26.2007 1:52pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
I dont think its going out on a very big limb to say that whatever oversight body the federal government would decide to form is almost certain to waste more resources than these indulgences claim to save. Jetting around the country (and globe), air conditioned buildings, salaries, waste. If it must be done, make carbon offsetting tax deductable and have the IRS oversee it, the one arm of government that is passionate about not getting screwed over.
4.26.2007 1:54pm
Mark Field (mail):

The point is that carbon offsets are a good idea that, at present, is not working in practice.


A perfectly legitimate point. What wasn't legitimate was to pick out individuals as hypocritical for attempting to use them without showing that the particular credits they bought were "not working in practice".

I assume, then, that your last paragraph only means that Gore and others have to "do it themselves" until they can confirm that their offsets actually work?


If it makes Mr. Field and others feel better, I telecommute as often as possible, and I'm writing this comment in a sunlit room, overlooking the wetlands in my backyard that are protected by a conservation easement


What makes this sort of game puerile is that I could now criticize you for not driving a Prius. What? You do drive one? Then you should be taking public transportation. Etc.


I am not seeking to mandate this lifestyle on others.



Nor am I. Nor, so far as I know, is Al Gore. However, it only makes sense to take externalities into account in pricing.


If one actively advocates an idea, one should also be a model in executing that idea.


I don't agree with this at all. Nobody needs to be perfect before they advocate better behavior for others. That's an impossible standard. As Hamlet pointed out, "Use all men according to their deserts and who should 'scape whipping?".


If Al Gore himself can not live a lifestyle that conserves natural resources, he does not deserve to be a spokesperson for such a lifestyle


So far as I know, nobody has established that Gore's offsets are ineffective.


I don't think anyone expects perfection - that is a straw man of your creation.


No -- as I pointed out above, the game goes like this: You do X? That's great, but you're a hypocrite because you don't do Y. You do Y too? That's great, buy you're still a hypocrite because you don't do Z.

This is a rhetorical game, not a serious criticism. For one thing, there are infinitely many things one could do to support a given ideal. Nobody can do them all. For another, no proponent of an ideal has any way of knowing what, in the mind of Jonathan Adler or Mark Field or Matthew in Austin, would suffice to make his/her behavior sufficient to have the moral standing for advocacy. This is a game that even St. Francis can't win.
4.26.2007 1:54pm
gasman (mail):
Bid on carbon offsets today

Big Al is trying to hoodwink us with his carbon neutral lifestyle claims merely reduces the remainder of his global warming arguments to flim flam self promotion.
4.26.2007 1:57pm
Steve Reuland (www):
If one actively advocates an idea, one should also be a model in executing that idea. If not, we call that hypocrisy, and in our society being guilty of hypocrisy condemns one to having their arguments ignored.


Well yes, this is obviously the right-wing tactic at play here: Accuse Gore of hypocrisy so that we can convince people to ignore his arguments.

The question is, how do you reconcile this tactic with the need to take carbon mitigation seriously? Why would anyone who wanted a genuine policy debate resort to irrelevant personal attacks on Al Gore? It's not like his personal carbon use makes up a significant percentage of the planet-wide total.

If Adler doesn't care about carbon mitigation, he should simply say so. If he does care about it, he should realize that attacking Al Gore is at best a distraction, and at worst highly counter-productive.
4.26.2007 1:59pm
Zyzzogeton:
I shall now sell adultery offsets. It is for people who find it too difficult to be faithful to their spouses. By purchasing an adultery offset, the adulterer is using his or her money to pay a married person to refrain from adultery that he or she might have engaged in. So, a would-be adulterer who buys one of these adultery offsets is ensuring that there is no net increase in adulterous affairs.

It should sell well in Hollywood, no?
4.26.2007 2:04pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
The question is, how do you reconcile this tactic with the need to take carbon mitigation seriously? Why would anyone who wanted a genuine policy debate resort to irrelevant personal attacks on Al Gore? It's not like his personal carbon use makes up a significant percentage of the planet-wide total.



I think the question isnt really so much about hypocracy as about seriousness. The relevant question goes to the argument- if Al Gore truly believes civilization is in imminent danger of calamity, as he claims, would he be acting the way he is?

If i absolutely convinced you that, say, deodorant would lead to millions of lives being lost in the next century, global disaster- would you stop using deoderant immediately? Or would you continue and for every stick donate to the anti-deoderant league? Or if you truly believed the world was at stake wouldnt you quit using it and fund the movement to the hilt?

The point is, Gore isnt acting as though he believes his own rhetoric. Either that or he's a truly callous bastard. I think what this argument is implying is that AGW can at the same time be very real, but not be the kind of civilization threatening crisis for the next hundred years that Gore bills it as (which is what climate scientists have always caveated). Moreover- the arguement that since Gore doesnt seem to take his argument seriously, he must have some agenda for pushing it so hard. A social agenda, one that amazingly dovetails with everything he and the Greens/left has championed for the last few decades. IE big government programs, social change, social control.

If AGW isnt an imminent crisis, people will start doing a cost-benefit analysis of how to spend resources over hundreds of years considering our record of technological advance and its ability to solve problems. Gore can't have that because he will lose his social agenda leverage. If some smart-alack statistician claimed that at our level of technological advancement, we had a 98% probability of inventing some technological advance that would scrub an arbitrary amount of C02 from the atmosphere at a ridiculously low cost of resources compared to conservation, but that it might take 200 years, Gore would have a big problem.
4.26.2007 2:20pm
Mr L (mail):
Well yes, this is obviously the right-wing tactic at play here: Accuse Gore of hypocrisy so that we can convince people to ignore his arguments.

Oh, wah wah wah. How often did we hear about Newt Gingrich's divorce during the debate over family values? How often did we hear about 'global warming deniers being funded by oil companies'? Just focus on the facts, right?

And I've noticed an interesting left-wing tactic here - ignore the accusations and claim that they're trying to derail the debate. See, like it or not, the critics are right. If you actually believed what you're saying, you wouldn't be defending Gore; you'd be calling him a hypocrite -- which he is -- and pressuring him to change his carbon-belching ways.

The question is, how do you reconcile this tactic with the need to take carbon mitigation seriously? Why would anyone who wanted a genuine policy debate resort to irrelevant personal attacks on Al Gore?

Why would anyone serious about carbon mitigation release staggering amounts of unnecessary carbon into the atmosphere? Why would anyone serious about carbon mitigation allow the architect of that kind of waste to be a spokesman for the cause?
4.26.2007 2:28pm
Lively:

If carbon offsets worked, then there wouldn't be a hypocrisy problem; but hypocrisy isn't the only thing wrong here.

Gore’s hypocrisy is perfectly okay. He sold himself some hypocrisy credits, so it’s all offset.
4.26.2007 2:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Mark B.:

The problem with your argument is that it sounds like an argument some leftists make that conservatives routinely ridicule: "If you feel that the Iraq War is really a theater in WWIII, why don't you/your kids/your friends all join the army and go fight there?" JHA says he rejects that argument, but the point was that his argument can head in the same direction: You can't REALLY believe what you're saying because you're not living your life fully as if what you say is true. And there's a subtle, if fallacious, implication that this means the substantive claim is thus less likely to be true. Mark Field and Lisa got all this right earlier in this thread.

I don't know if Gore's carbon offsets are effective -- and apparently, neither does anyone else on this thread -- but whether they are or not doesn't have any relevance to whether global warming is happening, is man-made, or whether a system of offsets would work. To the extent JHA is suggesting the system of offsets could be improved, I say go for it.

Beyond that, I guess global warming advocates can take some comfort in the fact that critics are attacking the science of global warming less, and focusing instead on the personal habits of individual global warming advocates.
4.26.2007 2:35pm
Funkymonkey:
The hypocrisy argument vis a vis Gore is valid not only because he doesn't practice what he tells others to do but he is also the one to most benefit financially when other purchase the indulges... err credits.

Reminds of the Lucky Strike commercials of the 50s... promoted by physicians.
4.26.2007 2:38pm
Mark Field (mail):

It should sell well in Hollywood, no?


I suspect an even bigger market in DC.
4.26.2007 2:42pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

The problem with your argument is that it sounds like an argument some leftists make that conservatives routinely ridicule: "If you feel that the Iraq War is really a theater in WWIII, why don't you/your kids/your friends all join the army and go fight there?"


Well wait a minute- i think that argument, phrased like that, actually has validity. If we were literally in WW2 again, I (and undoubtedly most eligible Americans) would join the military. There would be a draft. Im as big a global war on terror believer as anyone- but i have never framed it as a big a threat as WW2. I realize some have, and it is hyperboly, at least so far. I would say that kind of rhetoric does deserve that level of 'if you really believe what you are saying why arent you acting like it'. I think that is a very logical and indeed obvious challenge. My own main complaint against the Bush administration has been that they havent treated Iraq with the level of oversite and urgency it demands and they claim.

If we knew for a fact a comet or asteroid was going to collide with earth at some point(which statistically we do) we would assess the statistical risk via cost/benefit over time to determing how many resources to devote to it. If we knew for a fact we were going to be hit in 50 or 100 years, our reaction would be exponentially more immediate. We would be acting like the world was at stake.
4.26.2007 2:45pm
Steve Reuland (www):
I think the question isnt really so much about hypocracy as about seriousness. The relevant question goes to the argument- if Al Gore truly believes civilization is in imminent danger of calamity, as he claims, would he be acting the way he is?


The answer is, 1) Yes, and 2) Who Cares? Gore's own carbon emissions are not causing global warming. If he and every other liberal politician and Hollywood celebrity were to stop emitting carbon tomorrow, it would not make a difference. The best thing he can do is to convince everyone else of the seriousness of the problem, and thereby hope to implement policies that take our economy in a carbon-free direction. That will necessarily require him to do things like travel on jets in the meantime. People who are serious about carbon mitigation know that changes in personal habits are not going to have any major effect; the real reductions have to come at the point of production, not consumption.

And even assuming Gore is a hypocrite, this is not a relevant point of discussion if your goal is to reduce carbon emissions. It's only relevant if your goal is to score political point against Al Gore or to discourage carbon mitigation.
4.26.2007 2:53pm
Mac (mail):
"Beyond that, I guess global warming advocates can take some comfort in the fact that critics are attacking the science of global warming less, and focusing instead on the personal habits of individual global warming advocates."

Actually, that is not true. If you were to pay attenetion to what scientists are publishing, you would know that they are attacking it more. It is not getting reported in the MSM, of course.

Also, re the "debate". Al Gore has yet to debate a bona fide scientist who disagrees with him. Prof. Lomborg issued a challenge to debate Gore well over a year ago. Gore has refused to debate him or any other scientist. How can you distract form a debate that has never happened?

I am surprised that no one has mentioned that Gore is buying his carbon offsets from himself. Generation Investment Management Co. is owned and headed by Gore. He is making money off of buying credits from himself and, of course, getting others to buy from him as well. You must be very wealthy to take advantage of the credits his company sells. No more for the average Joe than owning 3 mansions.
And, does Gore really need a simming pool costing him $500.00 a month to heat too conduct his GW business? See snopes.com "Glass Houses" mentioned in my post above.
4.26.2007 3:05pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

The best thing he can do is to convince everyone else of the seriousness of the problem, and thereby hope to implement policies that take our economy in a carbon-free direction. That will necessarily require him to do things like travel on jets in the meantime.


But isnt the truly best thing he can do not to open himself up to charges of hypocracy? IF his crusade is so mind numbingly important, would it really still require a small power station to light his home? Actions continue to speak louder than words, and if Gore was acting as he expects the rest of us to act we wouldnt be having this discussion and hence his argument would be that much more advanced. If the world is at stake why would he allow that to happen?
4.26.2007 3:06pm
Mike D (mail):
I don't think it is the goal of those pointing out the hypocricsy to reduce carbon emissions, it is to score a political point. So what? Not sure why that is considered bad. You almost seemed irked that someone would dare try to score a political point, which I think is the 2nd goal of those pointing out the hypocrisy, irking the crowd that believes the world is ending due to globabl warming caused by carbon emissions. Did you really expect a "science of global warming" debate? jezz man, there's 50 million of them on the net, not one ends with either side convincing the other. I'll stick to scoring "cheap" political points cause expensive ones aren't worth my time. And if you admit a point has been scored, what does that tell you?
4.26.2007 3:13pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Oh, wah wah wah. How often did we hear about Newt Gingrich's divorce during the debate over family values? How often did we hear about 'global warming deniers being funded by oil companies'? Just focus on the facts, right?


Since I agree with neither Gingrich's nor the global warming deniers' views, it's not a relevant comparison.

Johnathan Adler, presumably, agrees with Gore's views on carbon mitigation. Yet he strangely thinks that he is doing the cause carbon mitigation a favor by attacking Gore. Either that, or he doesn't care about carbon mitigation to begin with, in which case he should just say so. Otherwise he's the hypocrite.

And I've noticed an interesting left-wing tactic here - ignore the accusations and claim that they're trying to derail the debate.


They are trying to derail the debate, aren't they? I have yet to hear a justification for attacking Al Gore that doesn't have to do with trying to discredit his message, which isn't logically connected with Al Gore's personal habits. If one thinks his message is wrong, one should focus on the defects of his message, not the defects of his person.

See, like it or not, the critics are right. If you actually believed what you're saying, you wouldn't be defending Gore; you'd be calling him a hypocrite -- which he is -- and pressuring him to change his carbon-belching ways.


I'm not defending Gore. I'll assume for the sake of argument that he's a hypocrite. My point is that it's a distraction to the real issue. If one cares about the issue, then one should discuss the issue, not Al Gore. If one doesn't care about the issue, then one should just say so and quit pretending otherwise.

Why would anyone serious about carbon mitigation release staggering amounts of unnecessary carbon into the atmosphere?


Al Gore releases "staggering amounts" of carbon? What percentage of global emissions do you think he accounts for? I can promise you, when rounded to the nearest whole number, the answer is zero.
4.26.2007 3:16pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Mark B.:

Fair enough as to your peronal opinion about Iraq and the Bush admin. But even IF Gore is a hypocrite -- and again, nobody seems to know whether his carbon offsets really are a scam, or has suggested something else he could be realistically doing that would make things better -- that doesn't really matter one whit to the debate about global warming. Maybe another analogy: if some disreputable preacher commits adultery, a lot, that still doesn't mean that adultery isn't a problem.

Mac:

Ah yes, the evil "MSM" is hiding the truth from us once again by suppressing dissent on global warming, because -- well, the MSM has so much invested in the idea of global warming, whether it's true or not, because, um, steps taken against global warming would, um, benefit the MSM, because, um ...

And the MSM isn't telling us all the good news about Iraq either, right?
4.26.2007 3:20pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):

The notion that Hollywood celebutantes like Gore and DiCaprio can buy indulgences that allow them to continue to live the jet-set life while pretending to be environmentally pure is humorous.


But they are environmentally pure. If everyone behaved as they are (buying offsets and working for more accountability) then the amount of CO2 would drop precipitously. They are no more buying indulgences than a monetary donation to soup kitchen is buying an indulgence from having to volunteer yourself. Of course like any other scarce good (possibly excluding attractive mates) rich people can afford to buy more of it.

This quote and the implicit identification of environmental bonefields with simple living and sacrifices perfectly expresses everything that is wrong with environmentalism today. Groups like Greenpeace have somehow taken control of the notion and brainwashed everyone to believe that you have to behave like Thoreau to be an environmentalist. Propagating this attitude counteracts all the good these groups happen to do by alienating conservatives and less touchy-feely liberals (like me). It's also why you see such dogmatic views about a fairly dry scientific debate (as opposed to what we should do about it).

While I tend to think that science journalism, as opposed to science, as something you don't have to be a scientist to do I do support the intuition. I totally agree that we should pretty much ignore the arguments and opinions of non-scientists about global warming. It's just too complex a subject to follow as an amature so we should restrict our role to picking which expert to trust.

This isn't to say I'm a big fan of environmentalist Gore. I'm kinda worried that he is further politicizing the issue and driving conservatives away but I don't buy the criticism here.
4.26.2007 3:24pm
Mac (mail):
See

economist.com/debate/freeexchange/2007/02/
Hardly a right wing rag.

Also, BillHobbs.com Feb. 28, 2007
4.26.2007 3:26pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Mark Buehner:

But isnt the truly best thing he can do not to open himself up to charges of hypocracy?


True, he should have had the foresight not to open himself up to such charges. But this comes dangerously close to a "blame the victim" approach. If the charges of hypocrisy are not relevant (or even accurate) to begin with, it's not Gore's fault.

Mike D:

I don't think it is the goal of those pointing out the hypocricsy to reduce carbon emissions, it is to score a political point. So what? Not sure why that is considered bad.


To me it's bad because reducing carbon emissions is important. And I got the impression from the OP that it's important to Jonathan Adler too. That being the case, it's counter-productive for him to try to score political points against someone who is ostensibly on the same side, on an issue that should really transcend partisan politics.
4.26.2007 3:31pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Ok, now there are two points in play here i would like to address:

1.Nothing Gore personally does will materially affect the climate. Obviously true. That applies to me, to you, to everyone on the planet. So following that rationale none of us actually need feel inclined to do anything. Obviously there is something immensely wrong with that argument. We have a massive 'free rider' problem. Which leads to the second point.

2.Al Gore does personally affect the political debate on climate perhaps more than any other individual on earth. Therefore point one is both a logical paradox and ultimately false. If leaders of a movement don't act as they ask others to ask, how viable is the movement likely to be? And if the leader is a true believer, why would he degrade the impact of his movement with such a foreseeable mistake?
4.26.2007 3:33pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Point 2b: Gore is unmistakeably a hypocrite (no great shame from a personal standpoint, we all are- its the politics of it that matter). He gets a pass for jetsetting due to his unique position as former VP and need of secret service etc. But the amount of energy his homes consume is indefensible. Like somebody said, he doesnt need a heated swimming pool. If im supposed to upset my lifestyle by carpooling, Al Gore can do his laps at the country club.
4.26.2007 3:38pm
aaron (mail) (www):
Consider Tree Growing as a GHG offset.

A tree only removes CO2 when it is growing. Once it matures, it re-emitts the CO2 as CO2, CH4, and other GHG. When trees lose their foliage seasonally, they emitt some CO2 carbon they absorbed during the year, primarily as CH4. Given that CH4 is a much more potent GHG than CO2, it is possible that deciduous trees may actually contribute more to GHG warming even in the short term.
4.26.2007 3:54pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Mark B, it is precisely because of the free-rider problem that voluntary lifestyle changes aren't going to accomplish anything. Like I said before, the changes need to be at the supply side. If all of our energy were coming from carbon-free sources, then it wouldn't matter how much energy we consumed. (Well, it might matter for other reasons, but not as far global warming is concerned.)

I agree about the heated pool thing -- it's ridiculous for anyone to have a heated pool -- but as I understand it Gore bought an older house and is in the process of retrofitting it to make it more energy efficient. He apparently started doing this before the charges of hypocrisy surfaced, so cut the guy a little slack.
4.26.2007 4:02pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I surprised no one has asked where Gore buys his carbon offsets. According to some sources, here and here, he buys them from Generation Investment Management LLC. GIM is a London-based investment firm and hedge fund that Gore founded and serves as chairman. Gore stands accused of buying offsets from himself. However, GIM says on its webpage that it works with the Chicago Climate Exchange and the CarbonNeutral Company to achieve carbon neutrality for its offices and employees. It’s not clear that this applies to GIMs owners and investors, including Gore himself. Since GIM is a private company it’s not clear what’s going on.

Great leaders like George Washington lead by example. Washington spent the winter with his troops while his officers went home. Washington was out in front during the battles exposing himself to more danger than his troops. Regardless of whether someone buys carbon offsets, it’s unseemly to proselytize for a low consumption lifestyle while living and traveling lavishly. Does Gore or anyone else really need to travel in private jets? What’s the matter with commercial like the rest of us?
4.26.2007 4:06pm
Mac (mail):
Mr. Slater,

The MSM are comprised of journalism majors who are woefully lacking in their comprehension of science.
Also, the MSM almost always wants more government, higher taxes and more government control over life and this notion achieves that goal in spades.

If you were paying attention to the scientist's published articles, you would note that you are not seeing any of it on the evening news unless it is pro AGW. For instance, you hear that 1600 scienteists signed a petition for AGW. What you never heard was that 16,000 scientists REFUSED to sign same petition.

For instance, did you know that the ice caps are melting on Mars, Titan, Pluto? No? Well, they are. Those evil Martians and their SUV's. Or, could it just be the Sun has gotten hotter as it has done before?
Did you know that the Earth has warmed 7 times and cooled 8 times and we are now in our 8th warming? Hmm. Wonder how that happened 7 times before and there were no cars?
Did you know that in the past CO2 increases has followed, NOT PRECEDED i.e. not caused global warming but followed a warming period.? For all we know increased levels of CO2 may be part of the Earth's way of cooling itself.


Did you know that plants emit greenhouse gases? Planting trees may very well just be making matters worse!
See Scientific American February 2007 "Methane, Plants and Climate Change". It is not a lot, but then there are a whole lot of plants on Earth and the warmer it is the more plants there are and even a small amount CO2 emitted by kazillions of plants adds up.
Did you know that warmer temperatures have been beneficial to Planet Earth and cooler temp's very harmful to almost everything and all who reside here?

Did you know that every time you exhale, you are emitting CO2?
Did you know that Earth and almost every thing on Earth is CARBON based? We are a CARBON based planet, for God's sake.

Do you even know what percentage of our atmosphere is CO2?

And loginazi, science is right or it is wrong, it is not belief. You can pick the spiritual leader you want, but not the scientific leader. Further, consensus is totally meaningless in science and there is NO consensus that GW is being caused by man.
4.26.2007 4:16pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
Clearly neither myself nor Prof Adler are arguing that Gore needs to be environmentally perfect in order to continue his crusade for global warming. This is, as I said, a straw man tactic devised to avoid discussing the intended content of this thread.

Gore is a poor model for environmentalism because the tool he advocates - carbon offsets - is currently fundamentally flawed, and he fails to acknowledge this. When Lisa and Mark Field make arguments about my post demanding some type of impossible perfection from Gore in order for him to adovcate environmentalism, that is an intentionally misleading statement. What I demand from Gore is that if he advocate carbon offsets, then carbon offsets should actually do what he claims they do. That is the hypocrisy - not a general moral character thing.
4.26.2007 4:17pm
BobNSF (mail):
I stopped reading about half-way through the remarks.

We liberals get it. You guys HATE Al Gore. Gotcha. Message received. Couldn't be clearer. Enough already.

It's interesting to see how you treat a guy who is advocating an idea that comes from the right. The concept of using the market to reduce carbon emissions overall is not a liberal idea. It's a convervative idea. Most liberals would (avert your eyes if you're squeamish) regulate.

Gore has bought into the idea that maybe the market can help get us out of this mess, he's trying to take a bipartisan approach -- reduced personal consumption for those who want to take that approach and carbon offsets for those who can't or won't -- and you're kicking him in the teeth for trying.

P.S. I'd take your accusations of hypocrisy more seriously if I didn't remember how the GOP ridiculed the monastic lifestyle of Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown.
4.26.2007 4:18pm
JosephSlater (mail):
What BobNSF said. And the stuff about the allegedly socialistic bias of the MSM -- all big corporations, let's recall -- is too silly to warrant a serious rebuttal.
4.26.2007 4:24pm
BobNSF (mail):

Did you know that every time you exhale, you are emitting CO2?


I suspect some of you would still attack Al Gore if he ceased breathing. You'd go on and on about how hypocritical he was for decaying.
4.26.2007 4:32pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Mark B, it is precisely because of the free-rider problem that voluntary lifestyle changes aren't going to accomplish anything. Like I said before, the changes need to be at the supply side.


Fair enough, but in a sense this is worse because it is manipulating the citizens into cooperation, because every penny of the costs to suppliers gets passed on to consumers. Ok, you cant convince me to let you legislate me into carpooling, so instead you are going to jack up my gasoline prices so much that i have no choice. Certainly this happens all the time, but its not exactly the rallying cry of a social agenda with the full weight of science and commitment on its side. At some point consumers will rebel- and what happens then? Worse, it automatically creates this classism fight because the wealthy can purchase their absolvetion right at the pump. Can you imagine the Civil Rights movement working like that? You can serve all white diners but your taxes will go up. Hardly the stuff of legend.

If all of our energy were coming from carbon-free sources, then it wouldn't matter how much energy we consumed. (Well, it might matter for other reasons, but not as far global warming is concerned.)


Therein lies another bone i have to pick with Gore and the Greens- we have a 50+ year old proven technology that can reduce US emissions by 1/3rd called nuclear power. The issue of seriousness comes up again. If the world is in imminent danger, the known risks and costs of nuclear power are trivial. How can one oppose nuclear power? To go back to the asteroid analogy, even the biggest nuclear weapons protestor in the universe would be gong ho to use a nuke to save the earth from certain devastation. Gore and his allies just dont seem to be acting like people who believe what they are claiming.


He apparently started doing this before the charges of hypocrisy surfaced, so cut the guy a little slack.


I'd be more inclined to had he made a change when called on it.
4.26.2007 4:32pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
BobNSF and JosephSlater,

Since you aren't bothering to read the comments above, perhaps you will read this one. The problem is with carbon offsets, not Gore. Carbon offsets, as currently implemented, do very little to aid the environment. By actively advocating an ineffective policy, Gore degrades his own cause.

Disregarding logical arguments and pretending they are right-wing attacks doesn't impress anybody, except perhaps yourselves. You try to defend Gore because you can't defend carbon offsets, which is what Prof Adler was attacking. Changing the topic of debate is a tactic of someone defending an untenable position. Or someone with ADD.
4.26.2007 4:39pm
Mark Field (mail):

What I demand from Gore is that if he advocate carbon offsets, then carbon offsets should actually do what he claims they do. That is the hypocrisy - not a general moral character thing.


Even if you were right about the hypocrisy -- and I now understand you to make a different argument than what I understood originally -- nobody has yet shown that the offsets Gore personally bought are ineffective. They might be effective, they might not be; nobody here knows. In addition, you'd also have to show that Gore knew the offsets he bought were ineffective. Again, there's no evidence of this; he might know, he might not know. The point is you don't know. Thus, all these attacks on Gore are based on no factual basis whatsoever.

Now let's consider the hypocrisy claim. As I now understand your point, you're saying that Gore deserves criticism for advocating a solution (one of only several he advocates, of course) that does not work (not CANnot work, DOES not work). That's fine as a criticism, but it doesn't make him a hypocrite. George Bush advocates escalating the war in Iraq. That makes him wrong, not a hypocrite.

The only basis for calling Gore "hypocritical" is the flawed one I've previously criticized as invalid.
4.26.2007 4:42pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
BobNSF:

“The concept of using the market to reduce carbon emissions overall is not a liberal idea. It's a convervative [sic] idea.”

Conservatives ideas don’t always work, and that applies to the current system of trading carbon offsets. The big carbon emitters, the US, India and China do not subscribe to any system of caps. Does it make sense to exempt the fastest growing carbon emitter, China? Gore has made himself the poster boy for global warming, so that’s why he has become a lightening rod for criticism. Isn’t Gore the perfect example of an Elmer Gantry?
4.26.2007 4:43pm
BobNSF (mail):
Al Gore is a lightening rod for criticism because he 1) is a Democrat 2) was Bill Clinton's Vice President 3) won the popular vote in 2000 and 4) is still very popular.
4.26.2007 4:55pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
Mark,

OK, you make valid points. I agree that it is fair to hinge the "hypocrisy" argument on whether Gore honestly believes that his carbon offsets make him carbon neutral. And to be fair to Prof Adler - he never accused Gore of hypocrisy, that's on my shoulders. Adler was just bring our attention to the Financial Times article disputing the effectiveness of the offsets.

Some commenter mentioned that Gore has ownership in a company that sells carb offsets, so I would think that if the claims in the FT article are true, that Gore would be aware of the problems. But how about this - now that the problems have been aired, it is Gore's responsibility to acknowledge or dispute the problems in the system. His honeymoon of ignorance about the trading of indulgences is officially over, so if he releases a statement on this soon then I will grant him an indulgence on this hypocrisy charged. haha.
4.26.2007 4:57pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Fair enough, but in a sense this is worse because it is manipulating the citizens into cooperation, because every penny of the costs to suppliers gets passed on to consumers.


Well no one ever said it would be free, but this approach has worked quite well with curbing other forms of pollution. We didn't cut sulfur emissions by asking everyone to change their lifestyle, we did it by requiring power plants to install emissions controls which consumers pay for indirectly. Thus far it hasn't caused a rebellion or class warfare.

Therein lies another bone i have to pick with Gore and the Greens- we have a 50+ year old proven technology that can reduce US emissions by 1/3rd called nuclear power. The issue of seriousness comes up again. If the world is in imminent danger, the known risks and costs of nuclear power are trivial. How can one oppose nuclear power?


I'm in favor of nuclear power and I wish that more environmentalists were. For those who aren't, I think it's safe to say that it's not because they don't care about carbon emissions. It's that they have other concerns.
4.26.2007 5:00pm
Mac (mail):
Mark Field,

"nobody has yet shown that the offsets Gore personally bought are ineffective. They might be effective, they might not be; nobody here knows.

Actually, they have. See my posts above for reference i.e. The Economist article. (A very liberal publication, I might add)

In addition, you'd also have to show that Gore knew the offsets he bought were ineffective."
He owns the company! He is selling the offsets to other people as well as buying them fromhimself.. It makes him not only a hypocrit, but possibly a fraud and a crook.

And, even if he is not a fraud and a crook. don't tell me to listen to Al Gore on AGW if he can't even figure out if the offsets he is buying from himself are effective or not.
4.26.2007 5:00pm
Adeez (mail):
Hey BobNSF: don't forget (5): he' FAT!
4.26.2007 5:07pm
BobNSF (mail):
Matthew:

Or someone with ADD.


Guess you've been skipping EV's threads on civility.

After my post, I went and read the last third of the thread that I had skipped. You'll be glad to know that the only one of yours that I had missed was the one you posted a minute before mine (while I was composing).


The problem is with carbon offsets, not Gore.


Then your problem is with the definition of "hypocrisy".

From your posts:


If one actively advocates an idea, one should also be a model in executing that idea.


And


And if the method he advocates for conserving, carbon offsets, is proving to be fraudulent and innefective, then he should be taken to task.


And


What I demand from Gore is that if he advocate carbon offsets, then carbon offsets should actually do what he claims they do. That is the hypocrisy - not a general moral character thing.


If Al Gore believes the carbon off-sets will help and that market-driven forces are the only ones that will get the "conservatives" on board, then using them himself is not hypocritical.

If he's wrong about them as a solution, then he's "wrong", not "hypocritical", no?

By the way, I've heard the same charge of "hypocrisy" directed at those who take the minimal-personal-consumption approach. They are accused of advocating an example that, realistically, hardly anyone will follow.

At the risk of being ridiculed, I'm going to take a moment and go put on another sweater...
4.26.2007 5:11pm
Brian K (mail):

Great leaders like George Washington lead by example. Washington spent the winter with his troops while his officers went home. Washington was out in front during the battles exposing himself to more danger than his troops.


At least we can all agree that George W Bush is a horrible leader then.
4.26.2007 5:15pm
BobNSF (mail):

Hey BobNSF: don't forget (5): he' FAT!


No kidding. But I suspect most of those who criticize him are glad of that.
4.26.2007 5:15pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
We didn't cut sulfur emissions by asking everyone to change their lifestyle, we did it by requiring power plants to install emissions controls which consumers pay for indirectly. Thus far it hasn't caused a rebellion or class warfare.


Different issue because sulfur emissions are generated by suppliers. Most carbon emmissions are created directly by consumers, whether through cars or using electricity created by coal. Sulfur is a relatively minor and cheap emission- C02 is ubiquitous. You simply can't alter a significant amount of C02 production without major lifestyle changes by consumers. I think its a bad idea to try to fudge them into it this way. If the public isnt charged up enough to make these sacrifices, they will quickly tire of making them even if they arent doing so directly. Otoh, if they are willing to sacrifice because theyve been convinced of the danger, disguising the sacrifice isnt an issue. This kind of shortcut just doesnt seem likely to end well.


I'm in favor of nuclear power and I wish that more environmentalists were. For those who aren't, I think it's safe to say that it's not because they don't care about carbon emissions. It's that they have other concerns.


Exactly, and that is absolutely fine. But they shouldnt in the same breath try telling me AGW is the biggest crisis we face, and indeed is a moral crusade. If human civilization is at stake, 'other concerns' pale in comparison. Again, my only bone of contention is that i dont believe Gore and his allies actually believe this to be true in the timeframe they claim. I think they are demagoging the issue for what they consider good cause- that this is indeed a long term (centuries) project that we need to get a jump on. But they are being dishonest in overhyping the crisis aspect. That is why I jump on actions over words- because i think its the simplest route to what is really going on here.
4.26.2007 5:16pm
K Parker (mail):
Francis, a big part of the question is whethere "substance X" has any value in the first place.

Logic, re your question ("I mean suppose carbon offsets worked?") I suppose that depends quite a bit on what you mean by "worked", so why don't you paint the scenario a bit more fully to us?

The way I see it, if (a) planting extra trees somewhere really does result in a net uptake of CO2, and (b) there really is a crisis that we need to avert, and (c) Al Gore really does have more disposable income than any number of poor people, then (d) shouldn't he pay to have the trees planted anyway, on some kind of a progressive-environmental-tax basis, and then NOT contribute a huge personal CO2 output?
4.26.2007 5:17pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Did you know that every time you exhale, you are emitting CO2?


Did you know that the carbon you exhale originally came from the atmosphere, and thus doesn't add to net atmospheric carbon?

And did you also know that every time someone makes this ignorant argument, God kills five nuns as punishment? Please, think of the nuns.
4.26.2007 5:18pm
Mac (mail):
BobNSF,

"If he's wrong about them as a solution, then he's "wrong", not "hypocritical", no?"

Not if he is selling them to himself and others as a "cure". Truth in advertising not to mention numerous laws regarding securities fraud,etc.

Bob, what don't you get about Al Gore OWNS the company?

And, again, he can't figure out whether or not they are effective, but we should all belive he knows what is going to happen 100 years from now.

I just don't think you can have it both ways. If he is smart enough to predict climate change (the weather when weathermen can't predict what is going to happen tomorrow) then it should be a piece of cake for him to know if his carbon offsets actually work.

You are digging yourself into an ever deeper hole. Using his poosible ignorance and stupidity as a defense is a questionable tactic for getting people to buy his other arguments.
4.26.2007 5:28pm
Mac (mail):

Steve Reuland,
"Did you know that the carbon you exhale originally came from the atmosphere, and thus doesn't add to net atmospheric carbon?"

No, I didn't and it doesn't. And if that is true then the CO2 from emisions originally came from the atmosphere, so it doesn't add either.
4.26.2007 5:41pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
BobNSF,

If he honestly believes that this carbon offset treatment makes him carbon neutral, then you are correct - he is not being hypocrtical even if he is wrong. I conceded that point to Mark earlier in the thread.

Some commentors, like Mac, insist that Al Gore should be aware that carbon offsets are inneffective because of Al Gore's own involvement in the carbon offset industry. However, proving that Al Gore knows that carbon offsets, as currently implemented, are faulty is a difficult proposition. That is why I yielded my hypocrisy argument to Mark and stated:
"now that the problems have been aired, it is Gore's responsibility to acknowledge or dispute the problems in the system. His honeymoon of ignorance about the trading of indulgences is officially over, so if he releases a statement on this soon then I will grant him an indulgence on this hypocrisy charge"

Beyond that, it is hard to continue this discussion and avoid partisan bickering. And I would much rather have Al Gore work to fix the carbon offsets system and get a true capitalist carbon-trading market working tha waste time attacking it as a political issue.
4.26.2007 5:45pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Different issue because sulfur emissions are generated by suppliers. Most carbon emmissions are created directly by consumers, whether through cars or using electricity created by coal.


Isn't CO2 generated via coal being generated by the supplier? People aren't directly emitting carbon when using electricity, they're indirectly doing so. I for one couldn't even tell you how much of my electricity is coming from coal.

I agree about the cars, the consumer is more or less directly generating the CO2, but the idea here is not to encourage people to drive less (which is fine, but only does so much) but rather to change the type and amount of fuel that cars use. Which again requires that the suppliers build the right kinds of cars. Consumers won't demand them as long as they're not paying for the cost of carbon emissions.

Sulfur is a relatively minor and cheap emission- C02 is ubiquitous. You simply can't alter a significant amount of C02 production without major lifestyle changes by consumers.


I don't agree. If we imagine a hypothetical country where all the electricity comes from nuclear (let's call this country... France), then it's possible to get rid of CO2 without changing the way we live. It may cost a bit more, but it's not going to fundamentally alter our lifestyle. Now it's unlikely that here in America we're going to replace all of our coal plants with nuclear, but the fact remains that there are a lot of things we can do to reduce carbon emissions that don't require us to consume less. Instead they require us to change how we produce things.

Exactly, and that is absolutely fine. But they shouldnt in the same breath try telling me AGW is the biggest crisis we face, and indeed is a moral crusade. If human civilization is at stake, 'other concerns' pale in comparison. Again, my only bone of contention is that i dont believe Gore and his allies actually believe this to be true in the timeframe they claim.


From what I've seen, environmentalists have convinced themselves that we can solve global warming without nuclear. I think they're probably wrong, but I don't think it's fair to accuse them of not taking the issue seriously.
4.26.2007 5:46pm
Mac (mail):
Steve,

don't agree. If we imagine a hypothetical country where all the electricity comes from nuclear (let's call this country... France), then it's possible to get rid of CO2 without changing the way we live. It may cost a bit more, but it's not going to fundamentally alter our lifestyle. Now it's unlikely that here in America we're going to replace all of our coal plants with nuclear, but the fact remains that there are a lot of things we can do to reduce carbon emissions that don't require us to consume less. Instead they require us to change how we produce things.


Have you ever taken a science course? Physiology? Chemestry?
4.26.2007 5:51pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
BobNSF:

“Al Gore is a lightening rod for criticism because he 1) is a Democrat 2) was Bill Clinton's Vice President 3) won the popular vote in 2000 and 4) is still very popular.”

It wasn’t winning the popular vote that made people criticize him; it was his contesting the Florida vote. As far as his current popularity goes, according to pollingreport as of 4/13-15 he had 48% favorable and 47% unfavorable. That doesn’t sound all that popular to me. Now it’s true that his favorability rating has fluctuated this year getting as high as 56%, but we have to remember that sampling noise is about 3%.

Gore has acted strangely in the past, and his behavior invites criticism. When he taught a journalism class at Columbia University, he imposed blackout on students and the press. According to Salon:

“Exactly what the former vice president said during his 90-minute class, called "Covering National Affairs in the Information Age," is unknown, since the media were not allowed into his seminar and students were forbidden to divulge the content of his lecture.”

"Writing on a white board with a red marker, he used baffling terms like "news derivative" and "technology co-efficient" that even former aides said they had never heard before. When the few students who would talk on background tried to explain what his lecture was about, they were at a loss."
Lest you think I criticize Gore because he is a Democrat; I like George Bush even less. If Gore were not trying to foist this global warming hoax on the world, my feelings about him would be essentially neutral. My objections to AGW are based on its poor science, which I am prepared to back up in great detail.
4.26.2007 5:51pm
Mark Field (mail):

Actually, they have. See my posts above for reference i.e. The Economist article. (A very liberal publication, I might add)


I read the Economist article you referenced. Two comments. First, the Economist is a very conservative publication in my view. Whether it's liberal or conservative, however, has nothing to do with whether it's right on a particular point. Second, the article does not do what you claim it does. It cites no facts whatsoever about Gore's carbon offsets. It simply makes an economist's logical argument against them. That's scholasticism, not evidence.


And if that is true then the CO2 from emisions originally came from the atmosphere, so it doesn't add either.


The carbon sources we burn today did come originally from the atmosphere, but they did so millions of years ago. Therefore, they DO add.
4.26.2007 5:52pm
Mac (mail):
Mark,

I agree, they do add. I was trying to make the point that the CO2 we exhale does NOT come from the atmosphere, either.
4.26.2007 5:57pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Mac:

No, I didn't and it doesn't.


So you don't think that the CO2 you exhale originally came from the atmosphere? Where exactly do you think it came from? Where do you think the plants we eat get their carbon from?

And if that is true then the CO2 from emisions originally came from the atmosphere, so it doesn't add either.


Fossil fuels come from underground. That carbon was originally in the atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago (when it was much hotter, and there were no ice caps), but today we're releasing it all at once. That's why atmospheric carbon concentrations remained steady for the last several thousand years, and then suddenly shot up by 30% in just the last two centuries. It's not because people are breathing more.
4.26.2007 6:00pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Have you ever taken a science course? Physiology? Chemestry?


LOL. I have a PhD in biochemistry. And I know how to spell.
4.26.2007 6:04pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
I for one couldn't even tell you how much of my electricity is coming from coal.


For the entire country its 50%.

Which again requires that the suppliers build the right kinds of cars. Consumers won't demand them as long as they're not paying for the cost of carbon emissions.


Now we're back to coercing the consumer, forcing them to buy the 'right' kind of car. I dont think that is tenable as a long term solution- it might work at the margins but try forcing every American into a Pius and your asking for voter revolt. Plus it only pushes the carbon load to electricity production.

Now it's unlikely that here in America we're going to replace all of our coal plants with nuclear, but the fact remains that there are a lot of things we can do to reduce carbon emissions that don't require us to consume less.


There are a lot of things but none of them amount to anything in the big picture any more than Gore's swimming pool. We could double our wind power (unless it infringes on Kennedy sailing spots) and it would still account for less than 1% of current electricity usage- and thats before we all go electric car.

From what I've seen, environmentalists have convinced themselves that we can solve global warming without nuclear. I think they're probably wrong, but I don't think it's fair to accuse them of not taking the issue seriously.


Yeah, but they will never tell you what their supposed plan is. Because it involves a ton of conservation they dont want to talk about. Gore and his people have to make sure they have a crisis before daring to present their solution- and the solution is really the point for them. If i invented a magic wand that sucked all the anthro C02 out of the atmosphere instantly, the Greens would be livid. AGW is their wedge issue to drive these other issues you are hinting at, which are social change, not environmental. The idea that we can continue to industrialize is their nightmare, not hundred foot waves engulfing Florida. If it were they would take the sure bet and end their opposition (forget support!) of nuclear power. If it werent for Green pressure via lawsuits and political funding this nation would be far more nuclear powered than it is already. Nuclear is the lowest hanging fruit by far, everything else is either nibbling at the edges or shifting the carbon load differently. The bottom line is we either have to find a way to make our huge electricity needs via non C02 producing means, or conserve massively. Anything else is just batting practice for the big game. The amount of C02 reduction just to offset China vastly dwarfs any of the ideas currently being floated.
4.26.2007 6:04pm
Steve Reuland (www):
For the entire country its 50%.


I know, but for some parts of the country it's a great deal more, and for other parts it's a great deal less. You can't really tell because there is no obvious correlation between how much coal a region burns and the lifestyle of its inhabitants. That's the whole point here. You can reduce carbon emissions without impoverishing people.

Now we're back to coercing the consumer, forcing them to buy the 'right' kind of car.


Yes, to a certain extent, this is "coercing" the consumer. So what? We coerce the consumer anytime we prevent people from generating externalities. The government coerces me when it prevents me from dumping raw sewage in the creek behind my house. We consider this valid because my polluting is itself a coercive act against everyone else. Same thing with carbon emissions. People will put up with a certain level of coercion concerning what they drive if it means they're not forced to endure rising sea levels and melting permafrost. The average voter, at least from what the polls say on environmental issues, badly wants to be "coerced" even more than he already is.

Yeah, but they will never tell you what their supposed plan is.


Actually, Gore presented a plan during his recent Senate testimony. And it didn't involve everyone pledging to consume less. Unfortunately I can't find it right now, but it was if anything a little too ambitious. Fine I say, set the bar high and lower it as need be.

***

Okay, I just did some searching and found an outline of the plan here. Some of it I really like, some of it I don't like, but none of it consists of voluntarily consuming less. It's a genuine set of policy proposals.
4.26.2007 6:28pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
So you don't think that the CO2 you exhale originally came from the atmosphere? Where exactly do you think it came from?


Krebs cycle/Citric Acid cycle? Not to be too much of a smart ass- but considering glucose to be some form of C02 doesnt seem right. Ok, the carbon and oxygen atoms might have been in the atmosphere to begin with, but i wouldnt say the 'original C02' came from the atmosphere. Much of it was synthesized in mitochondria unless im mistaken.
4.26.2007 6:29pm
BobNSF (mail):

It's not because people are breathing more.


I have no doubt that if Global Warming were caused by heavy breathing, today's "conservatives" would be clamoring for regulation!!!
4.26.2007 6:30pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Okay, I just did some searching and found an outline of the plan here. Some of it I really like, some of it I don't like, but none of it consists of voluntarily consuming less. It's a genuine set of policy proposals.


1.) Immediately freeze carbon emissions at the existing level; then implement programs to reduce it 90% by 2050.

4.) Negotiate a strong global treaty to replace Kyoto, while working toward de facto compliance with Kyoto.

That sounds suspiciously like conservation to me- on a pretty massive level. Again, he's avoiding all the nuts and bolts and nibbling at the margins. How do we reduce our CO2 levels? Light bulbs and CAFE standards are fingers holding a dam. Over the next 50 years we (hopefully!) are talking about tremendous economic growth, which requires energy. Gore wants us to go backwards while supposed not limiting growth going forwards, but the physics just doesnt look sound to me without MAJOR policy changes (massive nuclear power increase would be a healthy start). I mean, how do you create a job without using electricity? It just doesnt make sense. Believe me, im all for getting off petroleum, but im not willing to burn down our economy to do it. Gore wants to sound reasonable, but he broad brushes over the REALLY difficult parts.
4.26.2007 6:39pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Matthew in Austin:

Read the comments from the beginning, and then tell me that this thread hasn't had a lot of "But Gore is a BIG HYPOCRITE! So we shouldn't take him SERIOUSLY!" comments. It's in fact folks like me and BobNSF who have been arguing that the real debate should, in fact, be about the efficacy of a carbon offset program in general. To the extent you agree with that, good. To the extent you felt a need to add unnecessary personal insults, bad.
4.26.2007 6:40pm
Steve Reuland (www):
Krebs cycle/Citric Acid cycle?


No, actually, it's the Calvin Cycle. All of the carbon that you exhale was originally incorporated into biomass via the Calvin Cycle. And the Calvin Cycle gets its CO2 from the air.
4.26.2007 6:42pm
Steve Reuland (www):
That sounds suspiciously like conservation to me- on a pretty massive level. Again, he's avoiding all the nuts and bolts and nibbling at the margins. How do we reduce our CO2 levels?


That is precisely the problem I had with #1. It's a description of a goal, not a means of achieving. On the other hand I like the idea of CAFE standards, putting moratoriums on coal plant construction, and encouraging high-efficiency light bulb use (but not necessarily mandating it).

At any rate, we could argue the merits of the plan, or any given plan, until the cows come home. My point is that Gore is trying to put some policy proposals into place, and they don't consist of living in caves and eating tofu. In fact, nothing he proposed is at odds with a major expansion of nuclear power, which would be my preferred policy.
4.26.2007 6:50pm
courtwatcher:
I'm baffled by the idea that "hypocrisy" by those advocating changes in public policy is relevant to an analysis of their ideas, and disappointed that Prof. Adler appears to advocate this way of looking at their arguments. I'm against sending more troops into Iraq, but I don't believe that Cheney's failure to serve in Vietnam or Bush's military record is relevant to whether the surge is good policy.
Also: the article at the Financial Times link is very thin on data or analysis. Unless I'm missing something, there's no evidence of what their "investigation" shows, and even the cursory summary with anecdoates doesn't purport to show that ALL carbon offset programs are bad or unverifiable. How does that conclusion follow from the article?
4.26.2007 6:51pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
I thought the Calvin Cycle was only in plants?
4.26.2007 6:52pm
Steve Reuland (www):
I thought the Calvin Cycle was only in plants?



It is. The carbon in your body all originates with plants. You eat plants, or you eat animals that eat plants.

Therefore, all of the carbon you exhale was originally from the atmosphere. Sheesh!
4.26.2007 6:57pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
My point is that Gore is trying to put some policy proposals into place, and they don't consist of living in caves and eating tofu. In fact, nothing he proposed is at odds with a major expansion of nuclear power, which would be my preferred policy.


Ok but again- Gore has some nice little ideas that could be workable and yield some very modest (relatively) gains. But he is being disengenuous, because he lays out all these giant goals and then only provides tiny answers. He's saying we must do all these things to prevent catastrophe, but he's only telling us about the simple modest (politically palatable) ones. Pass a new Kyoto treaty. Easy. But then what, once we're legally and morally obligated - at THAT point we figure out how to do the heavy lifting? It sounds exactly like Gore is setting a sort of policy trap. Lets commit first then he'll tell us how to live up to the commitment. Now if he said- hey, lets go with nuclear power, i'd definately be listening too. But he's ruled that out. So where are all these reductions supposed to come from?
4.26.2007 6:57pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
It is. The carbon in your body all originates with plants. You eat plants, or you eat animals that eat plants.

Therefore, all of the carbon you exhale was originally from the atmosphere. Sheesh!


Ah, we just have a lingistic misunderstanding. I thought the original question was where did carbon dioxide come from, not carbon. After all, if we're just talking about carbon i could claim all our problems are the result of an ancient super-nova, the real carbon producers!
4.26.2007 7:00pm
Bernard Guerrero (mail) (www):
<i>Breeding puts a larger burden on the planet than does lifelong driving of a Humvee, since it more than doubles a person's footprint. Breeders should be forced to either share their carbon allotment with their newborn or buy an allotment on the market.</i>

As a breeder, allow me to make an alternative suggestion: We can just go out and kill ourselves a non-breeder as an offset! :^)
4.26.2007 7:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Ok, maybe hours ago I helped start off the hypocracy thread. And, yes, I do think that someone who is using 20x the national average of power, etc. shouldn't be lecturing anyone on reducing their carbon footprint. And Laurie David going on TV pushing compact flourescents when Gore's house could fit in her living room is just as bad, as is Sheryl Crow and her one sheet of TP.

But putting that aside, part of the problem with carbon offsetting right now is that it is counter productive. It likely doesn't really help matters at all, because of all the reasons above. On the other hand, let us assume that Algore, Mrs. David, and Ms. Crow actually do care about the enviornment, GW, etc. But because of Gore's and David's belief in carbon offsetting, they believe that they can live a virtuous life w/o having to give up the huge houses and private jets, just by buying or otherwise acquiring carbon offsets.

So, I think an argument can be made that the reason that carbon offsetting is bad, as it is currently mostly practiced, is that it prevents some of those with the largest CO2 footprints from reducing theirs, because they believe that they already have.
4.26.2007 7:36pm
Matthew in Austin (mail):
Bernard, I can't be sure what you meant by that, but it sounds reprehensible, and not at all funny. Given how bloggers have recently found a habit of advertising foul comments from the blogs of political adversaries, I'd hate to see your comment displayed as some sort of representation of the VC community. Even if you didn't mean it as badly as it sounds, you should know that "breeder" is gay slang for a heterosexual; so your killing a non-breeder joke could be interpreted as killing a homosexual.
4.26.2007 7:37pm
Mac (mail):
Steve Reuland wrote,

"LOL. I have a PhD in biochemistry."

Really? And you say the CO2 we exhale comes from the Calvin cycle via plants? I am LOL.
The great thing about the internet is that we can be anything we want to be.
And, I can spell, I just have trouble with typing.
4.26.2007 7:39pm
Mac (mail):
OK, here is an excerpt from the article in the Economist, (and it is not a conservative rag). Some have suggested that it only deals with the economics of carbon offsets, not if they have any merit.

Judge for yourselves.

"The carbon offsets, on the other hand, sound like a very reasonable plan. That is, they did until I began thinking about them.

Most carbon offsets seem to work on one of a few principles: they plant trees, invest in renewable energy sources, or pay someone in a developing country to use some less-polluting technology, like a CFL.

It turns out that a lot of websites have already devoted quite a lot of space to discussing why these plans don't work particularly well. Calculating one's carbon output, and the carbon savings from various offsets, is very tricky and may be manipulated by unscrupulous offset firms. Trees take quite a long time to get to the stage where they are actually absorbing all that carbon—and tend to die shortly thereafter, releasing all that carbon back into the atmosphere, there to wreak havoc. By legitimating carbon usage, offset companies may actually be increasing it.

But surprisingly few make what, to me, seems like a more basic point: energy is a tradable market good. It is not as if there is some fixed demand for energy, so that by using less carbon-emitting energy, you actually decrease the amount of carbon emitted.

This is, of course, ridiculous. When you donate money to build a new windfarm, you don't take any of the old, polluting power offline; you increase the supply of power, reducing the price until others are encouraged to buy more carbon-emitting power. On the margin, it may make some difference, since demand for electricity is not perfectly elastic, but nowhere near the one-for-one equivalence that carbon offsets would seem to suggest. Especially since the worst offenders, big coal-fired plants, are not the ones that renewables will substitute for; solar and wind power are not good replacements for baseload power. Instead, renewables are likely to take relatively clean (and expensive) natural gas plants offline, since those are the ones that provide "extra" power to the system. Similarly, by giving villagers in Goa energy-saving CFL bulbs, you do not lessen the amount of electricity consumed; rather, you make it possible for other people to purchase the extra energy freed up by more efficient lightbulbs. This may be excellent poverty policy, but it does not lessen the carbon footprint of your international flight.

Obviously, the same is true of individual conservation efforst. Thats why any attempt to abate global warming has to be massive. Huge numbers of people in the rich world have to fly less, drive less, consume less, and live in smaller houses. If Mr Gore really wants to encourage this (as I do), then it would be nice to see him setting an example. "
4.26.2007 7:54pm
Barbar:
The extraordinarily liberal Economist magazine endorsed Bob Dole in 1996, George Bush in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004 ("with a heavy heart"). Not that this is actually relevant to anything.
4.26.2007 8:30pm
chsw (mail):
Wouldn't be ironic if they perpetrators of these carbon offset frauds were prosecuted under "Blue Sky" laws?

chsw
4.26.2007 11:23pm
gravytop (mail) (www):
Arguably there is more to the comments criticizing Gore than a mere argument ad hominem tu quoque.

Charges of Gore's hypocritical energy use would be clearly irrelevant if he responded to them by saying "I know that I use excessive energy, but that doesn't refute my point." Just as the heroin addict who lectures against drug use can escape a charge of hypocrisy by pointing out that his behavior, if anything, makes him well-qualified to speak about the dangers of drug use.

But Gore's response appears to be different. I believe he has responded by saying that he has (for example) installed solar panels in his home.

So he is holding up his behavior (arguably) as exemplary of the kind of modest energy use that people should emulate. If he is making himself an example, and yet he massively overuses energy, then he makes himself a part of his argument. So a criticism of him is also a criticism of his argument. Or perhaps I'm completely wrong.
4.26.2007 11:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
" Believe me, im all for getting off petroleum, but im not willing to burn down our economy to do it."

Well, yes, of course. I think we are all in agreement with that. Except for one thing: IF global climate change is even only half as bad as many experts say it will be, then the cost of NOT doing anything will be significantly more.

In other words, which is worse? Changing our economy now to stop or slow down the effects of climate change, or do little or nothing, only to be socked with millions of people left homeless or dead due to rising sea levels? Or having to evacuate our own coastal cities? Moving a city doesn't come cheap, you know.

(Cue the response: "Ha, Ha, Ha! Mr. Randy, don't you know that climate change is nothing but a big hoax, and that there is really nothing we have to do?!)
4.27.2007 12:54am
Taltos:

Well, yes, of course. I think we are all in agreement with that. Except for one thing: IF global climate change is even only half as bad as many experts say it will be, then the cost of NOT doing anything will be significantly more.


In what way? The AGW crowd's worst case scenario calls for a 6 degree temp increase and 10-23 inch sea rise over the next century. Leave aside that those numbers are based on models that the IPCC even admits aren't entirely accurate, what makes you think that in the next 90 some odd years we won't come up with some manner of technology to ameliorate or adapt to any warming we encounter? We haven't exactly been in a technological slump the past 30 years.

That being said, there is about as much concrete evidence that man made co2 is warming the planet as there is that dolphins are the descendants of atlantis.
4.27.2007 4:07am
Francis (mail):
taltos, please send the scientists at realclimate.org and at pharyngula.com your evidence regarding dolphins evolving from atlantians. i'm quite sure that the climatologists and biologists at those sites will be fascinated to read your (peer-reviewed?) work.
4.27.2007 4:16am
Taltos:
Sure, just as soon as they show me their empirical data showing that co2 released from man made sources is causing an unnatural change in the planet's temperature.

And come on.... those dolphins are pretty damned smart and mammals to boot.
4.27.2007 6:41am
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks for taking the cue, Taltos!
4.27.2007 10:10am
Mac (mail):
To answer the question I posed above i.e. how much of our atmosphere is composed of CO2;

The Eart's atmosphere is 99.946% NOT carbon dioxide.

Of the remaining 0.054 of 1% of the Earth's atmosphere that is CO2, the portion that human activity causes is in the single digits (lesss than 4 % , according to Professor Ian Clark, department of earth sciences, University of Ottawa).

That means that the total man-made CO2 footprint is 0.00216 of 1 %!

Termites produce 10 times the amount of CO2 as does alll of mankind and cattle produce more CO2, not to mention their production of that awful methane.

Plants emit CO2.

Just think about these figures for a minute.
4.27.2007 12:20pm
Francis (mail):
Mac: perchlorate may have adverse health effects when in drinking water at levels as low as 1 part per billion. Your water would be 99.9999999 not perchlorate and could still not be healthy.

just think about those figures for a minute, then reconsider your post.

(hint: low absolute numbers aren't necessarily relevant.)
4.27.2007 2:25pm
Mac (mail):
Francis,

If what you say is true, then we should have a whole lot of dead people. This is from the National Academies Press. If you read the study, they gave humans far more than 1 ppb to study the effect of percholate on humans. I don't think the US Gov. and EPA would allow this if 1 ppb was toxic.
Here is some of the relevant info from the study. Also, this is apples to oranges. We are a carbon based planet, with all sorts of sources of CO2 from plants to termites to our own exhalation to name just a very few. I think, in this case, when we are talking about trying to mitigate CO2 in the atmosphere, such very small numbers are very relevant to the question as to whether or not we can do anything about it that would have any kind of a significant impact. Not even to meention whether this extraordinary small number could impact the weather on our planet.

Now, about percholate;

Health Implications of Perchlorate Ingestion (2005)
Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST)
Find More Like
This Book
Research
Dashboard NEW!
BUY This Book
Rights &Permissions
CHAPTER SELECTOR:

GO TO PAGE:

TABLE OF
CONTENTS
PAGE
19
PRINTABLE
PDF PAGE
CHAPTER
PAGE

SEARCH THIS BOOK:

The following HTML text is provided to enhance online readability. Many aspects of typography translate only awkwardly to HTML. Please use the page image as the authoritative form to ensure accuracy.

1
Introduction

OVER 11 million people have perchlorate in their public drinking-water supplies at concentrations of 4 ppb (4 µg/L) or higher (EPA 2004a).1 There is no federal drinking-water standard for perchlorate, and the concentration at which a standard should be set to protect public health is being debated. EPA has the responsibility to protect the nation’s drinking water and has issued draft risk assessments that provide reference doses (RfDs) that could be used to set a federal drinking-water standard. However, EPA has been criticized that it did not appropriately consider all the relevant data for its assessments and that it based its conclusions on flawed scientific studies.

Because of the controversy surrounding the concentration at which perchlorate should be regulated, EPA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) asked the National Research Council (NRC) to assess the adverse health effects of perchlorate ingestion from clinical, toxicologic, medical, and public-health perspectives. They also asked the NRC to evaluate the scientific literature, including human and animal data, and to assess the key studies underlying EPA’s 2002 draft risk assessment, Perchlorate Environmental Contamination: Toxicological Review and Risk Characterization, with respect to quality, reliability, and relevance for drawing conclusions about the health implications of exposure to low concentrations of perchlorate in drinking water. In response to the request,

1

The estimate of 11 million people is based on sampling data collected as of May 2004 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as required by the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. The minimum reporting level for data collection under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule is 4 parts per billion (ppb) (4 micrograms per liter [µg/L]).
4.27.2007 4:05pm
Mac (mail):
In addition, of the 0.00216 of 1% of CO2 that is man made, China, India and Brazil are dumping 85% of that into the atmosphere. So the question is, if the "developeed " nations cut their CO2 emissions by 20 % or even more, can eliminating 20% of the 15% of the 0.00216 of 1% of man made CO2 in the atmosophere really help?
At least, I hope you see why there are AGW "deniers". And, don't forget, in the Earth's past we have had far higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and it FOLLOWED global warming. It never PRECEDED it and never CAUSED it.
CO2 has been 3 to 10 times higher in the past and the temperature was lower than today. (See Professor Timothy Ball, dept. of climatology, University of Winnipeg. )

It has been a lagging, not a leading variablee as it correlates to global warming. The most exhaustive analysis ice core data shows that global warming causes CO2 to increase, not vice-versa, because increase in the levels of CO2 lag global warming by about 800 years.

Do remember that orb called the Sun. It is not static and it does get hotter and cooler and has caused the Earth to warm and to cool in the past. CO2 never has and it isn't doing that now.
4.27.2007 4:25pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
IF global climate change is even only half as bad as many experts say it will be, then the cost of NOT doing anything will be significantly more.


Which experts? Sites please? Lets talk about some specifics.


In other words, which is worse? Changing our economy now to stop or slow down the effects of climate change, or do little or nothing, only to be socked with millions of people left homeless or dead due to rising sea levels? Or having to evacuate our own coastal cities? Moving a city doesn't come cheap, you know.


We've got to establish a timeframe in order to rationally discuss cost/benefit. Next 100 years? Next 1000? 10,000?
If its 100, i dont see many climate scientists claiming millions of people will be left homeless or dead. Thats the activists talking. This goes right to the point- Gore and his allies have constantly said, listen to the experts, the world is warming. They were right. Now I say to them- listen to the experts, the world is very likely not warming catastrophically in the timeframes you are claiming.
4.27.2007 5:32pm
Mac (mail):

When you talk about climate change, remember Greenland was once, not all that long ago, well, green. During the Midievil Warm Period it had a warm climate and was settleed around 982. 500 years later during the Little Ice Age, the Scandinavian settlements vanished, probably from famine due to inability to grow food in the cold.

No SUV's then. The only constant about the climate is, always has been and always will be, change.
4.27.2007 6:06pm
Taltos:

(hint: low absolute numbers aren't necessarily relevant.)


Except, in this case they are. CO2 warming works by absorbing radiation that hits the molecules in the atmosphere. They can also only absorb certain wavelengths of energy. So you have a right place at the right time setup working here, therefore the scarcity of CO2 in relation to the reflective surface of the earth is very important factor.

One of the biggest flaws in the climate modeling the AGW folks rely on is they assume linear growth of CO2 warming which is nonsense, the effect is logarithmic. Changing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere today to 5% would cause a finite amount of warming, doubling that to 10% would have no effect because the amount of energy to be absorbed is limited and once it's all being soaked up excess CO2 does nothing(talking strictly of atmospheric warming here, 10% concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would likely do very very bad things to us).

The study of phsyics has been around for centuries and we're still refining theories, putting together the puzzle pieces. Atmospheric science has been around what, a few decades? Get back to me when you get the training wheels off your tricycle.

As for taking the cue, I've been reading about this stuff for an awful long time and it just amazes me how quickly people will buy into such faulty reasoning and smoke and mirrors. It's not like environmentalists have ever lied to us before in order to gain political power or anything *cough* DTT ban *cough*.
4.27.2007 6:18pm
Taltos:
Whoops make that DDT, DTT sounds like a telecom company.
4.27.2007 6:19pm
Mac (mail):
Taltos,

Aw, it's only what, 10 million or so Africans who died because of the emotion based junk science DDT ban?

I'm sure when the GW crowd gets through "saving us", that figure will look rather paltry. But then, what is millions more dead in the 3rd world compared to our "feeling" virtuous? The road to hell is paved with good intentions and it's even better when those experiencing hell on Earth are not us. After all, how many of us ever plan on traveling in the 3rd world? We won't even have to see it.

Oh, and remember the "coming Ice Age" that scientists warned us about in the 70's?
4.27.2007 6:41pm
Paul Dietz (mail):
One of the biggest flaws in the climate modeling the AGW folks rely on is they assume linear growth of CO2 warming which is nonsense, the effect is logarithmic.

This is only a flaw in your hallucination of how climate modeling works. Real climate modeling uses detailed physics-based simulation of radiation transport.

You could have realized how silly your objection was if you had stopped to think about it, you know. The AGW results are some of the most heavily peer-reviewed results in the history of science. You think they got the basic science of radiation transport fundamentally wrong? Maybe they mistakenly used the caloric theory of heat, and thought the earth is flat, too?
4.30.2007 1:19pm
Paul Dietz (mail):
Oh, and remember the "coming Ice Age" that scientists warned us about in the 70's?

There was no consensus about a "coming Ice Age" in the 1970s. There were some scientists who presented it as an interesting hypothesis to be investigated. This didn't prevent some of the popular press from hyping the idea.

AGW is very different. Here, there is a consensus of most of the climate community that the phenomenon is real.

None of this difference prevents dishonest denialists from continuing to lie about it, of course.
4.30.2007 1:23pm