Posted by Charles on March 2nd, 2007

Bill Hobbs has a very lenghty article on his website regarding the controversy over Al Gore’s energy consumption. As the controversy over global warming doomsayer Al Gore’s voracious energy-eater mansion rolls on, there’s an angle I think merits deeper investigation than it is currently getting. While much of the focus has been on whether or not Gore is an environmental hypocrite, the story has raised the profile of the role of “carbon offsets” in achieving a “greener,” more environmentally friendly world.

In its original story, The Tennessean reported that Gore buys “carbon offsets” to compensate for his home’s use of energy from carbon-based fuels. As Wikipedia explains, a carbon offset “is a service that tries to reduce the net carbon emissions of individuals or organizations indirectly, through proxies who reduce their emissions and/or increase their absorption of greenhouse gases.”

For those not familiar with a what a carbon offset is (which I wasn’t until about a month ago), let me put it in laymen’s terms. For every X amount of carbon dioxide produced due to your energy consumption, you pay someone to plant a tree to offset it. Well that’s all well and good, but who plants the trees and where?

The World Rainforest Movement has a publication entitled “A funny place to store carbon” which states:

…documents human rights abuses at Mount Elgon National Park in east Uganda, where the Dutch FACE Foundation has been planting carbon ‘offset’ trees since 1994. The report exposes how villagers living along the boundary of the park have been beaten and shot at, have been barred from their land and have seen their livestock confiscated by armed park rangers guarding the ‘carbon trees’ inside the National Park.

The Cornerhouse also has a publication reporting similar acts of injustice;

A Norwegian firm called Tree Farms (or Fjordgløtt, as it was then called) started operations in Uganda and Tanzania (and later in Malawi). In Uganda, it obtained a very cheap 50-year lease on 5,160 hectares east of the town Jinja in the Bukaleba Forest Reserve on Lake Victoria. Tree Farms planned to plant the land mainly with eucalyptus and fast-growing pines. The project has been criticised for forcing people in five communities off their lands and paying too low rent for the land.

The companies have been forcing people off their land and in some cases have beaten and shot at natives all in the name of ’saving the planet’.

In fairness to Al Gore, he does not do business with either of these companies. Bill Hobb’s goes on to tell us where Mr. Gore buys his offset’s:

But how Gore buys his “carbon offsets,” as revealed by The Tennessean raises serious questions. According to the newspaper’s report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management:

Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe…
Gore is chairman of the firm and, presumably, draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he “buys” his “carbon offsets” from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn’t buy “carbon offsets” through Generation Investment Management – he buys stocks.

And it is not clear at all that Gore’s stock purchases – excuse me, “carbon offsets” purchases – actually help reduce the use of carbon-based energy at all, while the gas lanterns and other carbon-based energy burners at his house continue to burn carbon-based fuels and pump carbon emissions – a/k/a/ “greenhouse gases” – into the atmosphere.

Gore’s people tout his purchase of “carbon offsets” as evidence that he lives a “carbon-neutral” lifestyle, but the truth is Gore’s home uses electricity that is, for the most part, derived from the burning of carbon fuels. His house gets its electricity from Nashville Electric Service, which gets its from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which produces most of its power from coal-burning power plants. Which means most of the power being consumed at the Gore mansion comes from carbon-emitting power sources.

It is very convenient (no pun intended) that the spokesman for global warming also owns a company which sell carbon offsets. As Opinion Journal sums it up:

So, let’s sum this up: Here we have a major American politician who is calling for policies that would impose huge costs on society but appears to be profiting handsomely himself; who is leading an extravagant lifestyle while demanding sacrifices from ordinary people; and who is calling on the media to suppress the views of those with whom he disagrees, while at the same time urging more government regulation in the name of “fairness” to his partisan and ideological allies.

Moving on from Al Gore, a climate panel recommended to the United Nations a ‘carbon tax’ be instituted. It appears our world leaders have come up with two solutions to the global warming problem, and both will cost Americans money, either directly or indirectly.

I do find it somewhat ammusing however that the issue of carbon emmissions has become such an important political subject, considering the science community cannot even agree what impact it has on our planets climate.

The London Telegraph has an article today which shows just how un-exact the science of global warming is.

But there are good reasons to believe that such a catastrophe is a remote possibility, rather than a near certainty. The rise in temperature has been far from smooth. The early decades of the 20th century showed a distinct warming trend, peaking in the 1930s. However, from the 1940s through to the early 1970s, temperatures fell – sufficiently for commentators to raise the spectre of global cooling as we slid into the next ice age. A sudden jump in the mid-1970s heralded the return of a warming trend and led to the current concern about global warming.

But peak temperatures were recorded in 1998; since then, we have had eight years with no warming. In the meantime, CO2 levels have risen inexorably.

Those of you around in the 1970’s probably remember scientist’s warning of a coming ice age. Recently National Geographic published a story about a scientist who has another theory about our planet’s climate:

Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet’s recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human- induced—cause, according to one scientist’s controversial theory.

In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

“The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars,” he said.
Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun’s heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets.

Mars and Earth, for instance, have experienced periodic ice ages throughout their histories.

“Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov said.

As oppossed to researching the issue of global warming more completely in an effort to get a consensus from the scientific community as to its cause, our world leaders have decided it is necessary to do what they have always done when an problem has arisen; throw money at it.

Politics as usual.

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