Carbon Offsets

by on September 6, 2007 at 7:18 am in Economics | Permalink

Climate Care is a carbon offset firm used in an effort to be green by the UK Conservative party leader.  One of Climate Care’s projects pays Indian farmers to substitute human powered pumps for diesel pumps.  Opponents of the conservative party are having a field day:Treadle

Climate Care points out that even children can use treadle
pumps: ‘One person – man, woman or even child – can operate the pump by
manipulating his/her body weight on two treadles and by holding a
bamboo or wooden frame for support.’  Feeling guilty about your two-week break in Barbados, when you flew
thousands of miles and lived it up with cocktails on sunlit beaches?
Well, offset that guilt by sponsoring eco-friendly child labour in the
developing world!

Ala Larry Summers, I don’t see the problem.  Westerners pay Indian farmers to produce cotton, why is producing carbon-sinks any different?  It seems that some environmentalists are more interested in producing guilt than in reducing carbon.

Addendum: I am not claiming that carbon offsets work, in some cases the offset would have happened anyway so there is no net gain.  According to some, replenishing human energy creates more carbon than pumping oil.  But these are different objections.

Thanks to Mike Makowsky for the pointer.

8 September 6, 2007 at 7:23 am

If you want to reduce carbon, buy wood furniture.

glenn September 6, 2007 at 8:11 am

Let’s just all consume less of everything, isn’t that the best response? Less, Less, less. That’s the theme for the next decade.

Floccina September 6, 2007 at 9:47 am

As long as the worker recive the going rate it would seem to be a net benefit to them. For those interested in reducing co2 in the atmosphere see: Biochar/agichar/terra preta.

Tim Lambert September 6, 2007 at 10:22 am

I agree with your post, but your quote doesn’t come from environmentalists. It’s from Spiked, a magazine that hates environmentalists.

Anonymous September 6, 2007 at 11:28 am

There something fundamentally barmy about the whole offset industry.

What’s next? Contribute money to an anger management program in Bangladesh, and then freely indulge in road rage? Pay for a diversity awareness program in Ouagadougou in exchange for the right to use the n-word a dozen times a year? Sponsor a horny teenage couple to have a child out of wedlock, which thereby entitles you to kill someone?

There’s a Monty Python skit in here somewhere.

Eduardo S September 6, 2007 at 1:20 pm

For an ironic yet thought-provoking take on [XYZ] offsets, see http://www.cheatneutral.com/

Very nicely done, IMO. Frames the issue in an interesting light, much like Anonymous did above in the “barmy” comment. Tip o’ the Hat to http://meta.ath0.com/

Phoebe September 7, 2007 at 5:22 am

How do you pay someone to reduce his standard of living? It would take a very bad utility maximizer to go for that deal…

John Bailo October 22, 2007 at 12:39 pm

I’ve been biking back and forth to work a lot lately and I though: gee, someone who takes a car should pay me to offset their CO2.

Is there an exchange where I can list myself?

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