the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

by Jerry Stifelman, The Change Strategy

CLIMATE CHANGE IS A REALLITY AFFIRMED BY EVERY MAJOR SCIENTIFIC BODY ON THE PLANET. IT IS HAPPENING NOW. EXTREMES OF HEAT AND COLD, DROUGHTS AND FLOODING — AND A WARMER PLANET IN GENERAL ARE NOW FACTS OF LIFE. BASED ON MEASUREMENTS OF THE POLAR ICE CAP AND GREENLAND’S ICE LEVELS, WARMING IS OCCURRING AHEAD OF PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS.

IN THIS SITUATION, ANYTHING WE CAN DO THAT WE CHOOSE NOT TO DO IS LIKE WILLFUL BLINDNESS.

THIS IS WHY AL GORE, HUNTER LOVINS, BILL MCKIBBENS AND EVERY ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER I KNOW OF ENDORSES THE PRACTICE OF CARBON OFFSETS.

There has been controversy about offsets on two levels. I will respond to each below:

1. Do they work? For example, the value of planting trees as an offset is highly questionable and we do not support this method except in specific circumstances. The offsets we recommend are made by investing in projects that add clean energy to the grid (such as wind projects), that abate greenhouse gasses (such as landfill capping) and that improve industrial efficiency by directly taking carbon credits off the market via the Chicago Climate Exchange.

2. Are offsets the modern equivalent of medieval indulgences? Are they giving people a license to keep emitting carbon? This argument would only be valid if individuals and companies were making the choice between offsetting emissions or avoiding them entirely. For life and business to go on, we need to travel occasionally, we need computer servers and we need electricity. Most environmentalists, ourselves included, see offsets as a necessary piece of the equation to mitigate climate change.

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One Response to “”

  1. Casey First Says:

    Jerry I agree with you to a certain level, but when you address point #2, quoted, “this argument would only be valid if individuals and companies were making the choice between offsetting emissions or avoiding them entirely” leaves me feeling saddened and disheartened because the reality that we have to move towards is the realization that there is that elusive 3rd option (between the 2 you presented) and this is to CONSERVE and innovate technologies to do this (saving money in long term stands for the companies) One issue in the environmental debacle that we are all in that really fuels me is the idea of conservancy. I wish leaders would do like they have in the wake of other crises (i.e.-world wars; conserve food, conserve oil, ration) and go out and make the “unpopular” stand and say ” we are in a new environment (fig and literally) and we need to change our habits. Not demand that we get millions of barrels of oil and day and not that we get x amount of energy a day. We must be flexible, adaptable and convictous if we are to really change. And to do this requires contribution, sacrifice and commitment on everyone. Now this is unpopular and not digestible under todays ME society, but it is inevitably what needs to happen. Can you imagine Bush saying that we need to drive less, turn off the TV and not to let the water run? Instead, every attempt (war included) is made to ensure that the high quality of pampered life we are accustomed to does not change.

    Back to the carbon offsets, there is some very very good there, but there is also a black market on offsets that puts money into the hands of government officials that misappropriate monies, but more importantly we still live in a vacuum and everything we do has an equal and relative counterpart. So if we let these multi-nationals write a big check that may be a drop in their hats to “pollute all they want”, we are being counterproductive in this movement that at the core is about looking deeper at what we consume and how we tread. I, contradictory to what you may believe, feel that this carbon licensing merely propagates businesses to continue to harm and put a band aid on their moral wound. Lastly, if we think like this as a general means then we would logistically look at a system of an Earth that is half sweltering pollution and half green trees and green land that is untouchable for the most part. Conservation wins out for me. I like your opinion and appreciate this medium for productive feedback and crosstalk about these issues dear to us.
    Best, Casey

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