Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Carbon Offsets, the Pet Rocks of Environmentalism

San Francisco has come up with a great idea to tap into the idiocy that once fueled the Pet Rock buying craze, combined with the ancient Catholic Church malpractice of selling indulgences: purchasing carbon offsets at kiosks at San Francisco International airport to atone for the guilt of flying.

The carbon offsets are even an improvement over purchased indulgences and Pet Rocks. Unlike an indulgence, purchased to take away a sin you don’t want anyone to know about, that you also promise not to repeat, the carbon offset can be proudly displayed. Rather than hiding your sin, you want the whole world to know how environmentally sensitive you are. Another improvement over purchasing indulgences, you really don’t have to stop flying – you just keep flying, and keep buying.

And the Pet Rock? After the first chuckle, most people realized what a dumb waste of money they were. The joke got old fast. Carbon offsets, on the other hand, are a constant reminder to others that you are “holier than thou.”

All you have to do is pay your money and play the farcical game that what you are doing “makes a difference.” Forget that the developing nations of the world are going to keep pouring out CO2 at ever increasing rates as they progress. Ignore the fact that man-produced CO2 is a tiny component, a fraction of one percent, of the natural greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (water vapor is over 95 percent). Be oblivious that ice core records cited by Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth” actually showed temperature increases preceded, not followed, increased atmospheric CO2.

Most of all, be clueless that carbon offsets, unlike Pet Rocks, are a monumental scam because there are no effective mechanisms to measure and audit their promises.

However, in this time of economic travail, let it not be said that I tried to discourage the efforts of sincere individuals to pump some of their excess cash into the economy. Pet rocks, indulgences, and carbon offsets are proof that some fools have too much money.

And that a fool and his/her/its money are soon parted.

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