[extropy-chat] The great global warming swindle

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Thu Apr 19 03:42:32 UTC 2007

I read that article, but I don't quite understand what is
fundamentally wrong with carbon credits.

>From my reading, it makes these points:
1 - Buying carbon credits is like buying indulgences

Well, there is a similarity. But that's just a bit of muck raking -
that doesn't make them not work. I bet there is a not a single person
who bought indulgences who ended up in hell or even purgatory :-)
Basically, its a witty comparison, but not important.

2 - Carbon credits encourage using more energy
Well, possibly true. This comes down to the problem that they are not
entirely an absolution. Using fossil fuel based energy both pollutes
with CO2, and uses up fossil fuels. Carbon Credits can potentially
offset the pollution, but they don't replace the fuel (a stand of
trees is not a barrel of oil). So it's a matter of awareness to make
it clear that wasting finite resources is still an issue. But
offsetting the emissions is still an excellent thing to do!

3 - Carbon credits export the impact of the excesses of the rich to
the third world
Ok, people have been complaining for years that the first world is
inducing the third world to rip up all its forests. This would seem to
be the opposite. Surely creating an economic incentive to plant trees
is a Good Thing, or at the very least an exactly neutral thing. I
don't hold much by the example they gave in the article of people
being forced off their land - you can find examples of people doing
crappy things to each other in all human endeavour. Anecdotal. It
didn't convince me that planting trees leads to human misery in

4 - Carbon credits are worthless because you can print money (ie: fake them)
This was the strongest point in my mind, actually a really good point.
Being able to get positive credits by reducing emissions is just a
recipe for abuse, because you don't lose credits by increasing
emisions again somewhere else.

So what do you do? Well, you either go for a global approach, that
tallies everyone's positive and negative impacts and doesn't let
anyone get away with anything. Sounds pretty much impossible. Or, you
go for private sellers of Credits who can prove to you that they
control for this problem.

One way for a company to do this might be to not accept reduction of
emmisions from a poluter unless they agree to have their entire
operations taken into account. Or, a company might restrict itself to
things that positively remove carbon from the air, rather than people
commiting to put less in. So tree planting is probably the big one

Basically, these companies are creating a currency to represent
carbon, and letting you buy into it, so they need to prove that the
currency actually represents the amount of carbon they say it does,
and isn't just worthless paper (bits?).

Still, I don't see this argument as a killing blow. Rather, the
industry needs to mature, and consumers need to be more sceptical and
demanding of the operations of the companies that provide credits.


On 06/04/07, David McFadzean <davidmc at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 4/5/07, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <sentience at pobox.com> wrote:
> >  From what I've heard, he buys carbon credits to offset this.  It's an
> > interesting policy - I have to approve the dry rationalist chutzpah of it.
> Time recently published this article about the hypocrisy of carbon credits>>
> http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1599714,00.html
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