April 29, 2007
IN TODAY’S NYT: CARBON-NEUTRAL IS HIP, BUT IS IT GREEN?
On this, environmentalists arenâ€™t neutral, and they donâ€™t agree. Some believe it helps build support, but others argue that these purchases donâ€™t accomplish anything meaningful â€” other than giving someone a slightly better feeling (or greener reputation) after buying a 6,000-square-foot house or passing the million-mile mark in a frequent-flier program. In fact, to many environmentalists, the carbon-neutral campaign is a sign of the times â€” easy on the sacrifice and big on the consumerism.
As long as the use of fossil fuels keeps climbing â€” which is happening relentlessly around the world â€” the emission of greenhouse gases will keep rising. The average American, by several estimates, generates more than 20 tons of carbon dioxide or related gases a year; the average resident of the planet about 4.5 tons.
At this rate, environmentalists say, buying someone elseâ€™s squelched emissions is all but insignificant.
â€œThe worst of the carbon-offset programs resemble the Catholic Churchâ€™s sale of indulgences back before the Reformation,â€ said Denis Hayes, the president of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental grant-making group. â€œInstead of reducing their carbon footprints, people take private jets and stretch limos, and then think they can buy an indulgence to forgive their sins.â€
â€œThis whole game is badly in need of a modern Martin Luther,â€ Mr. Hayes added.
Read the whole thing.