This is a big story that will probably fly under the radar. That’s too bad because it gets at the underlying scammy nature of the climate change movement.
Every time a state government or a corporation announces a particular environmental target, most of the time what they mean is that they’re going to make some small changes and then they’ll buy some offsets or credits to compensate for the rest.
For example, makers of actual cars were forced to buy credits from Tesla by California so that working-class drivers were financing luxury car owners. Airlines now routinely announce that they’re buying offsets which means a portion of your ticket is going to pay off some company that is supposedly doing some environmentally sound. Your power company buys credits resold by some company that’s supposedly running wind farms in Wyoming (that nobody needs) which doesn’t mean that you’re using wind power, but that you’re paying for someone else to use wind power to atone for your use of fossil fuels.
Obviously, this is already a scam. And the few sincere environmentalists who believe the sky is actually falling denounce it as such. But it’s an incredibly lucrative scam that moves billions if not trillions of dollars around.
Here’s a nuts and bolts look at what happens when it turns out that the commodity, environmental virtue, being sold may not even exist.
Renat Heuberger gathered his co-founders on a glacier in the Swiss Alps for a celebration. The half-dozen men behind South Pole, the world’s leading seller of carbon offsets, raised their beers around a crackling fire: Business was booming and the Zurich firm’s valuation was hurtling toward $1 billion, making it one of the first “carbon unicorns.”…
The company’s biggest moneymaker is a mega-project in Zimbabwe called Kariba, which South Pole claimed has prevented the annihilation of a forest nearly the size of Puerto Rico. That’s South Pole’s business model: help finance projects that can credibly counteract rising levels of greenhouse gas, such as by stopping deforestation, and then sell the resulting credit to corporate clients who want to compensate for their own planet-warming pollution…
Yet according to several outside experts and South Pole’s own analysis, the firm and its partner ended up vastly overestimating the extent of the preservation by Kariba. As a result, Gucci, Nestle, McKinsey and other South Pole clients have — unwittingly — overstated their own progress in combating climate change, because the Kariba credits they bought haven’t generated enough real atmospheric benefit…
Most of Kariba’s €100 million in proceeds have gone to South Pole and its project partner, a company called Carbon Green Investments, not — as both companies previously indicated in interviews and public blog posts — to people in the rural communities who do the work of fighting deforestation.
My response to this is much like my response to FTX. Can it be a scam when the entire industry is a scam? Crypto, carbon offsets, are all basically peddling an imaginary commodity as a currency. Does it matter how imaginary it is when its value is wholly artificial and not backed by anything? Except, in the case of carbon offsets, government and bank mandates.
“No one who buys a five-kilo pack of potatoes at the supermarket wants to end up only having one kilo,” said Jürg Füssler, a carbon market veteran who heads up environmental work at INFRAS, a research and consulting firm in Zurich, speaking broadly about the industry. “That’s what’s happening now. The basic market confidence is shattered.”
But the market is inherently worthless. If you believe that the planet is about to die because people are flying jet planes, then paying someone else to protect trees isn’t a serious answer.
That’s why people laugh when John Kerry or Bill Gates protest that they have to fly private jets but it’s okay because they’re buying carbon offsets.
The Microsoft co-founder grew visibly irritated when confronted on the topic during a lengthy interview last week with BBC journalist Amol Rajan.
“What do you say to the charge that if you are a climate change campaigner, but you also travel around the world in a private jet, you’re a hypocrite?” Rajan asked.
“By the gold standard of funding Climeworks to do direct air capture that far exceeds my family’s carbon footprint, and I spend billions of dollars on climate innovation. So, you know, should I stay at home and not come to Kenya and learn about farming and malaria?” an annoyed Gates responded.
“Anyway, I’m comfortable with the idea that not only am I not part of the problem by paying for the offsets, but also through the billions that my breakthrough energy group is spending, that I’m part of the solution,” Gates added.
Our naked green emperors just lost one of their fig leaves.