Today, Google promised to cut or offset it’s greenhouse emissions by the end of the year.
OK… The idea of cutting your greenhouse emissions is just fine. Though the debate about the magnitude of the greenhouse effect is still raging, there is nothing wrong with cutting emissions. The concept of “offsetting” emissions by doing something environmentally friendly doesn’t cause me any heartburn either.
My problem is that you can get away with paying someone to remove the responsibility of your environmental damage by throwing money at them. The whole thing reminds me of all of the illegal dumping of toxic waste that happened years ago. Do you remember how that turned out?
If you say that illegal dumping and carbon offsets aren’t similar, let me remind you of a few things. The illegal dumping occurred primarily when a disreputable hauler would promise a “reputable” company to dispose of their toxic waste at a price lower than anyone else would. The price was so low that everyone knew that it wasn’t realistic, but the “reputable” company paying for the disposal didn’t question their good fortune. In the end, the waste got dumped in a local lake.
So… we now have a system where a major greenhouse gas emitter can pay someone to “offset” his greenhouse gases. Do you think he’ll go for the lowest price he can find? Do you think he’ll bother to do more than a cursory check on the company he deals with? Can I sell you some carbon offsets? I think that the only thing green about this scheme is the money that a few corporate jerks are going to use to line their pockets.