Buying Indulgences For The 21st Century

Glenn Reynolds notes an interesting piece on how the ultra-rich claim to “offset” their CO2 emissions. Reynolds makes the very apt comparison to buying papal indulgences before the Reformation — it’s an attempt by the wealthy to buy their way out of their own stated social responsibilities, and as the article makes clear, it ends up being a cop-out.

It’s typical hypocrisy — the very rich can afford to buy “carbon credits” while those of us for whom money is an object cannot afford to do the same. For all the talk about how the left abhors social stratification and pitting the haves and against the have-nots, that is precisely what this sort of thing does. It allows Al Gore to emit tons of pollutants directly into the upper atmosphere while preaching his Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Gaia message to the masses, then buy his way to a clean eco-conscience afterwards. Meanwhile, the rest of us are told that we have to make dramatic sacrifices to “save the planet.”

It starts at the top. No more “eco-tourism” for the rich. No more private jets to the Super Bowl. No more jet-setting across the country for high-priced speaking engagements. Either this is a crisis that will destroy all of mankind if it isn’t fixed now or it’s just another way for the world aristocracy to purge themselves of a false sense of noblesse oblige. If it’s the former, then the private jet-set are spoiled beyond belief for acting in such an ecologically injurious manner — if it isn’t then they’re peddlers of snake oil and fear.

In any event, the idea that planting a few trees in Botswana or building a windmill in Hyderabad will offset thousands of tons of CO2 production a year is a farce — and one that should be exposed as such.

19 thoughts on “Buying Indulgences For The 21st Century

  1. Sure, carbon credits are hypocritical for the left, and it’s all very well to point that out. But why should those of us not on the left be opposed to carbon credits? I’m kind of disturbed to hear all this talk about outlawing private jets from conservatives and libertarians lately. If carbon emissions must be reduced, the best vehicle for doing so in an efficient way is the free market.

  2. Why should those of us not on the left who disbelieve the current “consensus” of environmental science pay for a scam? In the end, it’s just another taxation scheme, and I already pay more than my share.

  3. Has it even be demonstrated that trees reduce global warming? Sure, they remove CO2, but they also filter out dusts which lower the atmosphere’s albedo, which increases incipient EM radiation, etc. A lot of uncertainty there. So what we should do is hang out a shingle: “Professional Albedo Adjusters”, and grab some of the action. The business model is simple: rich people pay us…we blow smoke.

    Of course, unlike those oh-so-serious Shrubbery Planting Carbon-Offsetters, our joke business could substantiate its claims by pointing to actual events (Krakatoa, etc.).

  4. I believe the talk about banning private jets is a rhetorical “call” – fine, the beknighted amongst us preach that we must all change our ways! Now we call the hand – lay down your cards. If this is a crisis – then flying the Lear to Aspen is a crime against humanity. And you they then hem and haw – it reveal that they really dont’ BELIEVE they merely want to preach.

  5. You don’t necessarily have to be all that rich to expunge your guilt via these programs. See

    “A typical jet emits approximately 1 pound of CO2 for every passenger-mile it flies. Over 2000 miles (3200 km), the plane emits one ton of carbon dioxide per passenger.

    “A roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles creates about 3 tons of carbon dioxide per passenger…

    “Each tree planted in the humid tropics absorbs 50 pounds (22 kg) of carbon dioxide every year for at least 40 years – each tree will absorb 1 ton of CO2 over its lifetime!

    “Because communities in developing countries join our tree planting program voluntarily to protect their soil, groundwater, and way of life, we are able to plant beneficial trees at a total cost of about ten cents ($.10) per tree.”

    So you can fly cross country and pay only 30 cents, enough to plant three trees that over their lifetime will absorb your share of the CO2 generated by that flight. Compared to the total cost of the flight this is insignificant and is something that anyone can afford, if they can afford to fly at all.

  6. “If carbon emissions must be reduced, the best vehicle for doing so in an efficient way is the free market.”

    You sort of lost me there. How exactly does a free market recduce carbon emissions? I would have thought that the most *efficient* way of reducing those emissions would be not to emit any carbon mono- and dioxid, whatsoever, by stopping all cars, factories, planes, etc. Not that that would be such a bright idea, but I am just making the obvious point.

    Relying on the free market to reduce anything is not a feasable idea. On the contrary. By definition (or at least, by the definition Jay applies), a free market is the way to increase production at the best cost/win rate in terms of money. The free market’s driving principle is not to spend any money that can be avoided spending. In a free market, no money will be spent voluntarily on things that do not contribute to increasing profits. It is only government and community restrictions that will help introduce such non-profitable things as decreasing carbon emissions.


  7. “As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

    Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.” –from TIME magazine, Monday, Jun. 24, 1974,8816,944914,00.html

  8. Eracus, time to tear off the polyester suit, snip the Afro, turn off the Kojak reruns, and convert the engine on your Gremlin to unleaded gasoline. It ain’t 1974 anymore. If it were, you’d be reduced to sharing your paranoid conspiracy theories with fellow members of the “Bemidji Free People’s Militia” rather than amusing everybody on the worldwide web with them.

    Yes, you’ve cleverly turned the global scientific consensus of our time on its head by deploying a single article from Time magazine representative of the “hysteria” among scientists regarding the “global cooling” phenomenon of 1974. What perplexes me is that the 1973 motion picture “Soylent Green” depicted an overpopulated globe basking in a perpetual state of heat from the “greenhouse effect”. Either the “real” scientists of the era were all confined to the writing and production crew of “Soylent Green”, or the right is once again trying to rewrite history with the inference that the global cooling premise of 1974 matched the level of nearly unanimous concern/fear in the scientific community that global warming does today.

    And I must say I’m disappointed in you, Eracus. Just last week, you scolded the political left for playing “class warfare”, a buzzword that in Republican-speak, translates to mere discussion of the growing chasm between rich and poor in this country. But thus far, you’ve given Jay Reding a total get-out-of-jail-free card for the disgusting “class warfare” diatribe that drives this post. I’ll continue to patiently await your verbal smackdown of his appalling display of class envy and persecution of the long-suffering uber-rich.

  9. You seem to be a very angry and unhappy person, Mark. Your scatological rantings reveal more than you probably realize. Maybe it’s time to turn off the computer and go get some help. Something is wrong.

  10. Eracus, nice attempt at deflection, but I think we’re all still waiting for you to serve up some of your notorious smack Jay’s way for that diabolical cocktail of “class warfare” he so unfairly lobbed at the “ultra-rich”. I know I’m sure waiting for it.

  11. You are waiting alone, Mark, in what appears to be a delusional state.

    You are apparently incapable of distinguishing between real life and Hollywood science-fiction, Mark. Because whether it was Charleton Heston in 1974 or Al Gore in 2006, it’s still the same movie. That their similarity obviously eludes you only more confirms your delusional state.

    The same goes for Jay’s discussion of the hypocrisy of the usual limosine liberals currently hustling the coffers of the global warming cult. You are perceiving a contradiction that does not exist, which again is only more proof of your delusional state.

    Something is wrong. Please get some help.

  12. Eracus, were the writers and producers of “Soylent Green” really such visionaries that they waged a one-unit revolt against the scientific consensus of the era? When “everybody” else was exasperatingly decrying the dawn of a coming ice age, Hollywood studios was nonetheless willing to finance a quasi-science fiction movie bucking that science by introducing the impending scorched-earth “greenhouse effect” premise to a popular culture that you would have us believe was preparing to construct igloos in Florida. It’s truly amazing that Hollywood knew so much back then to have the foresight to make this film so far ahead of its time when, as you imply, every scientist worth his weight in Bunsen burners was preparing to lace up his ice skates in June.

    As for your refusal to disavow Jay’s merciless “class warfare” cruelty towards the uber-rich in this post, I’m incredibly disappointed. Last week, when you scolded the left for “class warfare” rhetoric based on their attempts to address with mere discussion the growing chasm between rich and poor in this country, I thought you were a true believer….a loyal foot soldier dedicated not only to the cause of consolidating global wealth into as few of pockets as possible, but in pistol-whipping anybody who dares to speak ill of said trend. For you to allow Jay’s reckless and hostile words against the rich to go unpunished has me questioning your commitment to the cause. I expected better of you, Eracus. So did the Bemidji Free People’s Militia.

  13. Look, Mark, the story line of “Soylent Green” has to do with euthanasia and cannabalism in a post-apocalyptic world. That you are here citing a 1970’s Hollywood cult classic based on comic books and pulp fiction expecting to be taken seriously is just one more indication that you are clearly out of your mind. By your distorted logic, “Planet of the Apes” could be just as “visionary” and ahead of its time. This is complete nonsense, Mark.

    Your obsession with “class warfare” is equally irrational. Any conscious reader of this blog has long ago noted that what you are really talking about is class envy, that you believe you deserve something, indeed, are entitled to something, that you have not earned and deeply resent the people who have earned it and won’t give it to you simply because you demand it. You seem completely consumed and obsessed with the inequality of human endeavor and yet so far as we can tell have made no effort beyond whining and complaining about your circumstance, other than to launch personal attacks on those of us here who do not share your pathetic condition or your visions of doom and gloom.

    I am sincere in my suggestion that you seek some help. You appear to be still a young man. If you continue to rely upon false premises to rationalize your dark attitude and rigid behavior, you are in for a very long and unhappy life of circular reasoning and irrational conclusions, all of which is everywhere evident in your many posts on this blog. You can’t get ahead in the world, Mark, by always just trying to get even with it. Get some help.

  14. The comparison with buying indulgences from the church is apt. I look to more modern, but still long past, times.

    During the Civil War it was common for the wealthy to avoid military service by paying someone else to take their place when they were drafted.

    Al’s like some pre-war abolitionist preaching on the sins of slavery but sending a poverty stricken replacement to do battle in his stead.

    But I think the whole “global warming” movement is just one of those imaginary hobgoblins that Mencken wrote about, designed to frighten us into giving power to a select few who promise that they are impoverishing us for our own good. They’re like the Hawaiian missionaries who came to do good and did very well indeed. Look for any plans for dealing with global warming to primarily enrich the proponents.

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