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The FTC Questions Carbon Credits:

Some firms and private individuals have sought to be "carbon neutral" by purchasing carbon dioxide emission credits to offset the effects of their own energy use. As I have noted before (in this series of posts), there are serious questions about the validity of such offset credits. Now the Federal Trade Commission is taking a look. The New York Times reports:

Corporations and shoppers in the United States spent more than $54 million last year on carbon offset credits toward tree planting, wind farms, solar plants and other projects to balance the emissions created by, say, using a laptop computer or flying on a jet.

But where exactly is that money going?

The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates advertising claims, raised the question Tuesday in its first hearing in a series on green marketing, this one focusing on carbon offsets. . . .

To supply and manage the carbon offsets, big consumer brands are turning to a growing number of little-known companies, like TerraPass, and nonprofits, like Carbonfund.org. These intermediaries also cater to corporations that want to become "carbon-neutral" by purchasing offsets for the carbon dioxide they release. . . .

The F.T.C. has not accused anyone of wrongdoing — neither the providers of carbon offsets nor the consumer brands that sell them. But environmentalists say — and the F.T.C.'s hearings suggest — that it is only a matter of time until the market faces greater scrutiny from the government or environmental organizations.

Flogger:
What a international scam! You dump CO and pretend you reduce by playing numbers.
1.13.2008 11:43am
donaldk2 (mail):
It's a crock. The whole thing is a crock. Grant every dubious argument, then: if China and India don't go along, all of this huffing and puffing is like trying to empty Lake Erie with a teaspoon.

By the way, did you read that it snowed in Baghdad for the first time in 100 years?
1.13.2008 11:44am
Zombie Richard Feynman (mail) (www):
Well, snow cannot be due to global warming can it?

Pumping energy into a system can only raise the temprature uniformly, it never amplifies the swings of an already chaotic system.

Though if companies want to kiss up to the greenies, they might as well be open to scrutiny, to allow the market to function properly.
1.13.2008 12:02pm
The General:
apparently, there's a heck of lot more than 1 sucker born every minute...
1.13.2008 12:26pm
SenatorX (mail):
Agreed, carbon offeset credits are both a fig leaf and a money making scheme.
1.13.2008 12:28pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
When Al Gore was questioned about his profligate energy usage (private Jet, gigantic house etc) he responded that he bought carbon credits to offset the extra carbon his usage emitted, but unless I missed it, he did say where he bought these credits. He also has a large interest in a firm that sells carbon credits.
1.13.2008 12:42pm
BT:
As they say, A fool and his money.....
1.13.2008 12:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
“Pumping energy into a system can only raise the temprature uniformly, it never amplifies the swings of an already chaotic system.”

If the climate system is really chaotic (as in non-linear mechanics) then it’s not predictable, and the whole climate modeling enterprise is bogus. The modelers are careful to deny the system is chaotic. They depend on random errors to cancel out for a long-range prediction. In other words, while you can’t predict next weeks weather, you can predict the next century’s climate.
1.13.2008 12:47pm
Dave N (mail):
What exactly is the company that sells the "carbon credits" doing with the money? And how do I get in on this racket?
1.13.2008 1:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
Firstly, it's climate change, not global warming. Global warming contributes to climate change, and every model about it states that there will be places where things get colder, not hotter. So to find snow in regions where it shouldn't actually helps to validate the models, not disprove them. A small town in Italy experienced the first instance ever of tropical fever, due to the fact that tropical mosquitoes are now moving northward as their habitat expands.

Secondly, last year was the second hottest year for the planet since record keeping began.

Thirdly, China and India are in fact aware of climate change and their role in contributing to it. They are in fact taking steps to address it, by requiring 'green buildings', and planting millions of new trees. So to turn your arguements on their head, if India and China are doing, why can't we?
1.13.2008 2:12pm
Curt Fischer:
I agree that vastly increased scrutiny of what the companies selling offsets are doing with the money is probably needed.


Pumping energy into a system can only raise the temprature uniformly, it never amplifies the swings of an already chaotic system.


This statement makes no sense at all. Where did you hear this erroneous information? Pumping energy into a system often raises temperatures non-uniformly. For example, if my system is a concrete sidewalk and an asphalt road, pumping sunlight into the system raises the temperature of the asphalt more than the sidewalk.


If the climate system is really chaotic (as in non-linear mechanics) then it’s not predictable, and the whole climate modeling enterprise is bogus.


That's not quite true for two reasons. First, there is order even in "chaos". If the model was proven to be chaotic, it may then be possible to identify the strange attractor of the system, which could profoundly limit the possibilities for future climate scenarios.

Second, the relevant time scale is important. Even for models which are chaotic, it is possible to predict the future state of the system as long as you don't extrapolate too far forward in time. If the climate is shown to be chaotic, but on a time scale of 1,000,000 years, then 100 year predictions may still be quite accurate.
1.13.2008 2:18pm
Jay:
"This statement makes no sense at all. Where did you hear this erroneous information? Pumping energy into a system often raises temperatures non-uniformly. For example, if my system is a concrete sidewalk and an asphalt road, pumping sunlight into the system raises the temperature of the asphalt more than the sidewalk."

You might want to work on your ability to detect sarcasm.
1.13.2008 2:33pm
lwstudent:
This is why I only get my offsets from free carbon ofsets

1.13.2008 2:43pm
lwstudent:
http://freecarbonoffsets.com
1.13.2008 2:44pm
nevins (mail):
This is the kind of carbon credit that keeps life happy at home.
1.13.2008 4:20pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Secondly, last year was the second hottest year for the planet since record keeping began.

Since the definition of "since record keeping" implied by that statement is fairly recent, 2nd doesn't mean that much.

We know that the earth has been hotter than it is now. (We also know that the CO2 concentrations have been higher, and that the concentration increase happened after the temperature increase.) We also know that the temperature has been relatively stable the last 5-10 years. We know that the 30s were hotter than now.
1.13.2008 4:40pm
GatoRat:
The most ridiculous part of the CO2 scam is that proponents have chosen to use ice core proxies for measurement of CO2 concentration even though they strongly disagree with actual measurements made starting in the early 19th century. (The overwhelming majority of other proxy evidence supports the latter.) The ultimate result is that atmospheric concentration of CO2 has been higher in the last two centuries!

(Not that it matter, CO2 simply doesn't do what alarmists claim it does. An issue proven over a hundred years ago by scientific experimentation!)
1.13.2008 6:35pm
Smokey:
Look at this chart, and you will see that carbon dioxide has no correlation with temperature. And of course, the Earth has often been significantly warmer many times in the past than it is now.

Randy R guesses that...
"...last year was the second hottest year for the planet since record keeping began."
Should we believe that uncited speculation? Or should we believe an internationally accredited professor with a PhD in Physics? As a matter of fact, 2006 continued the planet's cooling trend.

The Gorebots are getting desperate.
1.13.2008 9:00pm
Brian K (mail):
that carbon dioxide has no correlation with temperature

and

the concentration increase happened after the temperature increase.

so which one is it? if climate change deniers can't even get their facts straight, why do you expect anyone to believe you?
1.13.2008 9:13pm
Houston Lawyer:
For $1.00 per MMBtu, I promise/swear/undertake to reduce my carbon usage by the amount of your excess usage. Wire transfer instructions provided upon request.

Doesn't Algore own all these carbon offset companies?
1.13.2008 10:18pm
Smokey:
Brian K,

It's both, but I lack the inclination for a big explanation. But you might begin by thinking about the different time frames. The first chart spans 4.6 billion years. There's lots of information on the net. You could start with this year's winner of Best Science Blog. There are plenty of others. Good luck, I'm calling it a night.
1.13.2008 11:17pm
Brian K (mail):
It can't be both. If it is not correlated with temperature, then you would expect to see positive and negative changes in [CO2] of varying magnitudes before, during and after rises and falls in temperature. But if [CO2] rises after the temperature rises, then there is a correlation between temperature and [CO2]. (you still have to determine causation however).

But you might begin by thinking about the different time frames.
if whether or not the two are correlated depends on what time frame you look at, then you have to have some logical reason for your choice of time frame.
1.13.2008 11:24pm
ReaderY:
There's room for some neutrality here. Whatever one thinks of the principle of carbon credits, people who claim to be engaged in them (as well as people who claim to be using their services) should be doing what they say, as a general matter of accuracy in advertising.
1.14.2008 1:22am
Toby:
Magical thinking: Ascribing import to chance co-ocurrences to discover spurious causation and correlation

A small town in Italy experienced the first instance ever of tropical fever, due to the fact that tropical mosquitoes are now moving northward as their habitat expands

Hmm, entire country used to be a malaria zone - hence the Italian name of the disease. Planes now fly between continents regularly, and are no longer sprayed with insecticides. Nah, it can only prove GW.
1.14.2008 7:23am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
This entire carbon credits idea is a bunch of bunk to give all those hedge funds that went bust in the subprime housing debacle, and previously went bust in the dot com debacle, yet another place to trade in what is essentially no different than these hedge fund packages that have no real wealth underlying the financial instrument.

Further, carbon credits really cannot make anywhere near as significant and big an impact on reducing carbon emission as would occur if the federal government (with express federal preemption) were to pass an unfunded mandate (specifically requiring the states/employers/businesses to fund, except where it would apply to the fed) to:

1. immediately require all fed and state agencies and courts, all employers, and all businesses to maximize the amount of business/services they conduct via accessible Internet websites and abolis the use of hard paper copies;

2. thereby reducing U.S. Mail postal trips and all THAT hard copy paper as well; and

3. immediately require all fed and state agencies and courts, all employers, and all businesses to minimize the number of vehicle trips/travel to physical locations by using the accessible Internet instead.

While the paper industry might whine and complain, there was a time, historically, when the world ceased chiseling words and sentences into clay tablets and advanced to a more sensible communication medium.

Likewise, it is past time to get rid of hard paper copies, U.S. Mail postal trips, and all unnecessary vehicle trips/travel that are a major cause of carbon emissions.

What could make more common sense?
1.14.2008 11:39am