carbon offsets

California Polluters May Soon Buy Carbon 'Offsets' From the Amazon — Is That Ethical?

Read time: 6 mins
Tropical rainforest and oil refinery
By Maron Greenleaf, Dartmouth College

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have outraged the world. But what can people living far from the world’s largest rainforest do to save it?

California thinks it has an answer.

On September 19, the California Air Resources Board endorsed the Tropical Forest Standard, which sets the groundwork for electric utilities, oil refineries and other California polluters to “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions by paying governments in tropical forest areas not to cut down trees.

Biochar 101: Climate Savior or False Hope?

If someone told you a charred black substance could help save the planet from the worst ravages of climate change, it'd be hard to believe, yet foolhardy to ignore.

Biochar, a form of carbon sequestration, has been sold by its promoters as an almost magical way to reverse climate change. Yet not only was the marketing protocol that would help scale up biochar production in the U.S. rejected by science peer reviewers in March 2015, but big oil companies like ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil — among the biggest climate change culprits — also have made a big bet that they can use biochar to “offset” their carbon pollution footprint.

Read time: 7 mins

Is Deploying Biochar as a Climate Geoengineering Tool Scientifically Premature?

Some of biochar's proponents say the substance will save us from climate change destruction, as we covered in Part 1.

At the very least, its proponents say it has great potential to simultaneously improve agricultural yields, produce clean energy, and mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. Its most enthusiastic supporters have hailed it as “black gold.” 

But scientists call biochar a false climate change solution, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Read time: 18 mins

How the Biochar Lobby Pushed for Offsets, Tar Sands, and Fracking Reclamation Using Unsettled Science

For the past several years, a well-organized, well-funded campaign has worked to include biochar in prospective carbon markets as an approved offset for greenhouse gas emissions.

The ardent push has occurred even though the non-partisan Government Accountability Office gave biochar a Technology Readiness Level of two out of nine in a July 2011 report and a 2015 National Research Council study on geoengineering came to similar conclusions about biochar. It also unfolded even though the climate change mitigation potential of sequestering biochar into the ground is far from a settled fact and long-term field trials are sorely lacking.

Read time: 13 mins

Bipartisan Report Claims Solving the Climate Crisis “Depends on Tropical Forests”

Read time: 3 mins

The bipartisan Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests released an extensive report today calling on the Senate to consider tropical forest preservation as a central necessity in the climate bill in front of Congress.  The group suggests that solving the climate crisis will be “nearly impossible without urgent efforts to stem tropical deforestation.”

New Report Urges U.S. To Avoid Reliance on International Carbon Offsets

Read time: 3 mins

Friends of the Earth U.S. released a new report today calling the use of international carbon offsets a “dangerous distraction” that could lead to climate disaster if relied upon too heavily as the U.S. Senate returns to debate energy and climate policy later this month. 

Offsets are a centerpiece of the Waxman-Markey energy bill that passed the House of Representatives in June, and are likely to appear in the Senate version as well.

The Friends of the Earth report warns that the U.S. must avoid the use of international carbon offsets, in which U.S. industries can skip making costly investments to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions by sending money overseas for clean energy projects in developing countries.  The theory is that these international investments will translate into equivalent reductions at the fraction of the price it would cost to change our ways here at home. 

Offsets Fall Short -- By Two-Thirds

Read time: 1 min

Only about a third of the climate-damaging carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in North America is offset by carbon-removing activities, a government report said.

According to the new U.S. study, North America released 1,856 million metric tons of carbon into the air in 2003 – 85 percent from the United States, 9 percent from Canada and 6 percent from Mexico.At the same time, growing vegetation and other sources took in about 500 million metric tons of carbon.

The Latest in Offsets: Homelessness

Read time: 1 min

Planting trees in Uganda to offset greenhouse-gas emissions in Europe seemed like a good idea - until farmers were evicted from their land to make room for a forest.

Monbiot: Methane Findings Highlight the Scam of Carbon Trading

Read time: 3 mins

The Scam of Global Warming Is That We Pay Others For Our Complacency
The most destructive effect of the carbon offset trade is that it allows us to believe we can carry on polluting

George Monbiot, The Guardian (UK),  Jan. 22, 2006   

[A] study published  last week in Nature showed, to everyone's astonishment that plants produce methane, a greenhouse gas… But while this study does nothing to threaten global warming  theory … it should shake our  confidence in one of our favourite means of tackling it: paying other people to clear up the mess we've made.

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