Archive for the ‘Carbon Checklist’ Category

The Problem with Offsets

November 18, 2009

Carbon offsets are an alluring commodity to compensate for our consumption. But as Paying More for Flights Eases Guilt, Not Emissions by Elisabeth Rosenthal on the cover of today’s NY Times illustrates, carbon offsets may cause as many problems as they claim to offset. As the article notes, offsets have the counterproductive byproduct of allowing us to feel we can emit CO2 and pay our way out of the problem. Like ubiquitous weight-loss programs carbon offset companies are selling false hope.

Don’t get me wrong I think carbon offsets can be useful – truly getting mitigation for ineradicable activities. But it is a razor’s edge – useful like electric shock therapy is useful…not for everyone. Buy credible offsets – but only after you have meaningfully reduced your carbon footprint. Then look to reduce more still. Instead, all too often, offsets are becoming a ready excuse to not change our behavior. Why eat less when you can just take this little pill? So we fly as much or more and offset.

For Mr. Francis of Responsible Travel, the final straw came when he noticed that carbon offsets were being offered by private jet companies and helicopter tour operators, which generate very high emissions per passenger. “The message was, ‘Don’t worry, you can offset the emissions,’ ” he said. “But you don’t really need to see Sydney from the air, do you? And you can travel in a commercial airliner.”

We drive as much or more and offset. We have pets, we insist on keeping the house too warm in winter and too cool in summer – but hey, I’ve got a carbon offset certificate that says my resulting carbon footprint zeros out – what a relief! NOT. If we are serious, whether we like it or not, no matter how difficult, we just need to consume less, travel less and reinvent a “full life” that is on a strict carbon diet. Otherwise our children’s lives will be ruined by our delusions of righteousness. More of us need to think like Mr. Dickinson:

Mr. Dickinson of the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project said that rather than buying offsets he had sharply scaled back on flying and was instead taking trains or conducting meetings by phone or teleconference. He said that if he owned an airline, he would now be diversifying into other modes of transport.

Because there is just no other meaningful way forward:

“Buying offsets won’t solve the problem because flying around the way we do is simply unsustainable,” said Ms. Kollmuss, who has researched airline offsets. A recent study in Britain concluded that one flight from London to Los Angeles produced more carbon dioxide per person than the average British commuter produces in a year by traveling by train, subway or car.

So what can I say, for peet’s sake, download Checklist Toward Zero Carbon, do what you can, edit it and make it your own and pass it on. Reduce, reduce, reduce and purchase offsets if you like in moderation.

and The Bad News….

January 27, 2009

It is now inexcusable for us to not radically drop our CO2 emissions….. NOAA reports.     To do otherwise is to doom our decendents to hell on earth.   Read the checklist and do what you can now.

A Checklist Toward Zero Carbon

April 12, 2008

Below is a reposting of the Foreword to this checklist. It is in some way a brief explanation of why I embarked on it and this subsequent blog. I hope you find this site useful.

A Checklist Toward Zero Carbon

In 2005 the eminent climate scientist Dr. James Hansen said, “We are on the precipice of climate system tipping points beyond which there is no redemption.” Just three years later, we are now crossing some of those tipping points. It’s time to stop talking. We must reduce now. Read the checklist. Download it, edit it, make it your own and distribute it.

Melting polar ice will soon disintegrate, raising oceans to threaten the existence of Miami, New York, Shanghai, Jakarta, Calcutta, Lagos, London and other cities. The polar bears are going to die. And 20 to 40% of animal species will be extinct by mid-century. The tropics are turning to desert. Monsoon rains will cease. There will be drought, famine, and millions of refugees. We could be among them. Hundreds of millions of lives will be at risk, quite possibly billions. Yes, billions.

We face these consequences not in 1,000 or 100 years, but in our lifetime. We face an emergency, the likes of which civilization has never seen. What is to be our legacy?

The tipping point for atmospheric CO2 concentration is approximately 350 parts per million (ppm). Past it we are on the road to catastrophe. It’s now 383ppm and rising 2ppm per year.

We need to take immediate action. We must halt the building of new coal and gas power plants that don’t capture the CO2 they produce, and require the conversion of all existing coal power plants to capture CO2. If the power plants cannot be converted, let’s shut them down.

There’s no “silver bullet” to fix the problem – we must also massively invest in clean energy sources, forest restoration, public transportation, and in building a carbon neutral society. We need to elect leaders who are serious about this emergency to every level of government and educate the ones who are not.

Let’s examine our own lives and make them as carbon free as possible. This checklist is a simple way to get started.

As the dynamic of climate change feeds on itself, shocks lie ahead. The previously benign Siberian soil, locked for ages in permafrost, is now melting, releasing greenhouse gases (GHG) that exceed the total output of U.S. manmade emissions.

The oceans – now absorbing 2 billion tons of CO2 annually – are becoming acidic dead zones. Eventually if they tip they’ll switch to being massive CO2 emitters, radically raising atmospheric temperature and sea levels.

While the challenges are enormous, let’s start with what we eat and how we live and work. Let’s begin by eliminating our personal carbon footprint.

Please read the lists. Think about it. Let’s all do what we can.

Ken Levenson

Feb 29, 2008

One step forward on e-waste

March 27, 2008

A bit of good news to share. The e-waste bill previously stalled in disagreement between the Mayor and City Council has been broken in two – allowing for passage of one part that begins the process of establishing an electronics recycling program with manufacturers. Mandates for manufacturers’ recycling, while ultimately necessary, will have to wait until the second bill is passed. While I’m not holding my breath, every step matters and with new perspective and momentum each new barrier toward lowering our carbon footprints may be more easily breeched. So a small hooray for NYC! May this small step provide momentum for the big fight now underway: CONGESTION PRICING.

Foreword

February 22, 2008

In 2005 the eminent climate scientist Dr. James Hansen said, “We are on the precipice of climate system tipping points beyond which there is no redemption.” Just three years later, we are now crossing some of those tipping points.  It’s time to stop talking.  We must reduce now.  Read the checklist.  Download it, edit it, make it your own and distribute it.

Melting polar ice will soon disintegrate, raising oceans to threaten the existence of Miami, New York, Shanghai, Jakarta, Calcutta, Lagos, London and other cities. The polar bears are going to die. And 20 to 40% of animal species will be extinct by mid-century. The tropics are turning to desert. Monsoon rains will cease. There will be drought, famine, and millions of refugees. We could be among them. Hundreds of millions of lives will be at risk, quite possibly billions. Yes, billions.

We face these consequences not in 1,000 or 100 years, but in our lifetime. We face an emergency, the likes of which civilization has never seen. What is to be our legacy?

The tipping point for atmospheric CO2 concentration is approximately 350 parts per million (ppm). Past it we are on the road to catastrophe. It’s now 383ppm and rising 2ppm per year.

We need to take immediate action. We must halt the building of new coal and gas power plants that don’t capture the CO2 they produce, and require the conversion of all existing coal power plants to capture CO2. If the power plants cannot be converted, let’s shut them down.

There’s no “silver bullet” to fix the problem – we must also massively invest in clean energy sources, forest restoration, public transportation, and in building a carbon neutral society. We need to elect leaders who are serious about this emergency to every level of government and educate the ones who are not.

Let’s examine our own lives and make them as carbon free as possible. This checklist is a simple way to get started.

As the dynamic of climate change feeds on itself, shocks lie ahead. The previously benign Siberian soil, locked for ages in permafrost, is now melting, releasing greenhouse gases (GHG) that exceed the total output of U.S. manmade emissions.

The oceans – now absorbing 2 billion tons of CO2 annually – are becoming acidic dead zones. Eventually if they tip they’ll switch to being massive CO2 emitters, radically raising atmospheric temperature and sea levels.

While the challenges are enormous, let’s start with what we eat and how we live and work. Let’s begin by eliminating our personal carbon footprint.

Please read the lists. Think about it. Let’s all do what we can.

Ken Levenson

Feb 29, 2008

Checklist Toward Zero Carbon

February 22, 2008

Below are the links to the Checklist contents.

Download the complete checklist. Copy it, edit it to your local conditions, make it your own and pass it on.

1. Your Food

2. Family Planning & Your Health

3. Money, Shopping & Stuff

4. Waste

5. Driving and Flying

6. Playing & Pets

7. Your Home

8. Work

9. School

10. Calculate your Footprint

11. Buy Carbon Offsets

Conclusion

Epilogue

Checklist Sources

About the Checklist