Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The true horror of global warming

We didn't know until Monday that the TVA was undertaken to eventually power Al Gore's house, complete with heated pool and basement warroom anchored by a wall-sized electronic map of Florida precincts.

But Al and Tipper have done us all a great favor. They have brought to light the greatest scam since, well, global warming. We're talking about "carbon offsets."

Until the other day, I had no idea what these were. Let's deconstruct the terminology for a second. Carbon of course is the byproduct of civilized modern society. Emissions from cars, factories, airplanes, etc. An offset means for every unit of carbon unleashed into the environment, an equal unit is replaced by planting a tree or reducing emissions somewhere else.

As Frank Luntz would phrase it—It's a pollution gift card! It allow energy hogs such as the Gores to assuage their guilt by buying some mystery credits that will be cashed in on the other side of the planet. With apologies to It's a Wonderful Life, every time Al Gore buys another flat screen, a poor farmer in Tibet gets another sapling.

I realize I'm not a scientist and that all the carbon goes into the same global atmosphere. But isn't this offset business leading us to country with even more SUVs and some continents elsewhere with a whole lot of trees?

The whole point of offsetting is for a person to strive to be "neutral." Carbon neutral, that is. We are headed for nation of plusses, minuses and zeroes. Will the rating be stamped on driver's licenses? Is a ubiquitous logo coming to signify the vaunted neutral status? Will the Swiss finally feel less isolated?

And what about the suddenly most powerful people on the planet: the carbon offset bureaucrats. They will hold in their hands the power to make us all neutral. They will decide how many points to assign to each offset and how the offset business is doled out. And who will enforce the offsetters? Who will go around and determine if the saplings are planted? And who will regulate how much profit the offset companies can make? We don't want any green gouging.

While we are at it, why don't we create corruption offsets? Because we don't want to upset the planet's harmony, every time a public official such as an Illinois governor is indicted, a McCain-Feingold program must be put in place in Vietnam. If a state senator in New Jersey takes a bribe, a Freedom of Information Act must be enacted in Kurdistan.

We could go on here with other undesirable behaviors but I think you get the picture. A nightmare is on the horizon: A society that allows you to buy off your bad behavior in order to create a massive economy of bureaucratic offsetters.

I am not worried about climate change. But thanks to Al Gore, now I'm terrified of carbon offsets.

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