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Flying shame: Greta Thunberg gave up flights to fight climate change. Should you? - Vox
“Greta Thunberg gave up flights to fight climate change. Should you?”



“Rosén said there isn’t anything unique in the Swedish soul that has made so many across the country so concerned about flying. “This could have happened anywhere,” she said. “We’ve had some good coincidences that have worked together to create this discussion.”

Nonetheless, the movement to reduce flying has created a subculture in Sweden, complete with its own hashtags on social media. Beyond flygskam, there’s flygfritt (flight free), and vi stannar på marken (we stay on the ground).

Rosén said that judging by all the organizing she’s seen in other countries, she thinks Sweden won’t long hold the lead in forgoing flying. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Germans would follow us soon,” she said.”



“Scientists are having a hard time overlooking their own air travel emissions

Kim Cobb, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has curbed her air travel by 75 percent.

“I really started thinking about my carbon footprint after Trump was elected,” she said. “Doing my climate science and donating to the right candidates was never going to be enough, even if you took that to scale.”

She created a spreadsheet to track her personal carbon footprint and found that flying formed the dominant share of her emissions. “By the end of 2017, 85 percent of my carbon footprint was related to flying,” she said.

Much of Cobb’s research — examining geochemical signals in coral to reconstruct historical climate variability — required her to travel to field sites in the equatorial Pacific.

While she doesn’t anticipate giving up those visits entirely, Cobb has taken on more research projects closer to home, including an experiment tracking sea level rise in Georgia. She has drastically reduced her attendance at academic conferences and this year plans to give a keynote address remotely for an event in Sydney.

[embedded tweet by Susan Michie (@SusanMichihttps://twitter.com/SusanMichie/status/1144799976377200641e):

"I have begun replying to invitations “Due to the climate emergency, I am cutting down on air travel …” Have been pleasantly surprised how many take up my offer of pre-recorded talk & Skype Q&A’s @GreenUCL @UCLPALS @UCLBehaveChange https://twitter.com/russpoldrack/status/1144368198227120128 "

quoting a tweet by Russ Poldrack (@russpoldrack):
https://twitter.com/russpoldrack/status/1144368198227120128

"I’ve decided to eliminate air travel for talks, conferences, and meetings whenever possible. Read more about my reasons here: http://www.russpoldrack.org/2019/06/why-i-will-be-flying-less.html "]

Cobb is just one of a growing number of academics, particularly those who study the earth, who have made efforts in recent years to cut their air travel.

While she doesn’t anticipate making a dent in the 2.6 million pounds per second of greenhouse gases that all of humanity emits, Cobb said her goal is to send a signal to airlines and policymakers that there is a demand for cleaner aviation.

But she noted that her family is spread out across the country and that her husband’s family lives in Italy. She wants her children to stay close to her relatives, and that’s harder to do without visiting them. “The personal calculus is much, much harder,” she said.

She also acknowledged that it might be harder for other researchers to follow in her footsteps, particularly those just starting out. As a world-renowned climate scientist with tenure at her university, Cobb said she has the clout to turn down conference invitations or request video conferences. Younger scientists still building their careers may need in-person meetings and events to make a name for themselves. So she sees it as her responsibility to be careful with her air travel. “People like me have to be even more choosy,” she said.

Activists and diplomats who work on international climate issues are also struggling to reconcile their travel habits with their worries about warming. There is even a crowdfunding campaign for activists in Europe to sail to the United Nations climate conference in Chile later this year.

But perhaps the most difficult aspect of limiting air travel is the issue of justice. A minority of individuals, companies, and countries have contributed to the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from flights and profited handsomely from it. Is it now fair to ask a new generation of travelers to fly less too?”



“Should you, dear traveler, feel ashamed to fly?

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” wrote Mark Twain in The Innocents Abroad. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Air travel has yielded immense benefits to humanity. Movement is the story of human civilization, and as mobility has increased, so too has prosperity. Airplanes, the fastest way to cross continents and oceans, have facilitated this. And while some countries have recently retreated from the world stage amid nationalist fervor, the ease of air travel has created a strong countercurrent of travelers looking to learn from other cultures.

Compared to other personal concessions for the sake of the environment, reducing air travel has a disproportionately high social cost. Give up meat and you eat from a different menu. Give up flying and you may never see some members of your family again.

So it’s hard to make a categorical judgment about who should fly and under what circumstances.

But if you’re weighing a plane ticket for yourself, Paul Thompson, a professor of philosophy who studies environmental ethics at Michigan State University, said there are several factors to consider.

[embedded tweet by @flyingless:
https://twitter.com/flyingless/status/1151524855982039046

"No need to tell me about your feelings of guilt. I see no reason for you to feel guilty. You already excel at ethical thinking in many other areas of your life and relationships. Judge for yourself what the times require of you, personally and politically. Act or don’t act."]

First, think about where you can have the most meaningful impact on climate change as an individual — and it might not be changing how you are personally getting around. If advocacy is your thing, you could push for more research and development in cleaner aviation, building high-speed rail systems, or pricing the greenhouse gas emissions of dirty fuels. “That’s the first thing that I think I would be focused on, as opposed to things that would necessarily discourage air travel,” Thompson said. Voting for leaders who make fighting climate change a priority would also help.

If you end up on a booking site, think about why you’re flying and if your flight could be replaced with a video call.

Next, consider what method of travel has the smallest impact on the world, within your budget and time constraints. If you are hoping to come up with a numerical threshold, be aware that the math can get tricky. Online carbon footprint calculators can help.

And if you do choose to fly and feel shame about it, well, it can be a good thing. “I think it’s actually appropriate to have some sense of either grieving or at least concern about the loss you experience that way,” Thompson said. Thinking carefully about the trade-offs you’re making can push you toward many actions that are more beneficial for the climate, whether that’s flying less, offsetting emissions, or advocating for more aggressive climate policies.

Nonetheless, shame is not a great feeling, and it’s hard to convince people they need more of it. But Rosén says forgoing flying is a point of pride, and she’s optimistic that the movement to stay grounded will continue to take off.”
climatechange  travel  carbonemissions  2019  gretathunberg  sweden  flight  airplanes  aviation  flygskam  guilt  shame  activism  sustainability  globalwarming  majarosén  arctic  norway  germany  science  scientists  carbonoffsets  offsets  electrofuels  carbonfootprint  kimcobb  academia  susanmichie  russpoldrack  highered  education  highereducation  flying  flyingshame  flightshame  emissions  airlines  climate 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home? - The New York Times
"In the age of global warming, traveling — by plane, boat or car — is a fraught choice. And yet the world beckons."



"The glaciers are melting, the coral reefs are dying, Miami Beach is slowly going under.

Quick, says a voice in your head, go see them before they disappear! You are evil, says another voice. For you are hastening their destruction.

To a lot of people who like to travel, these are morally bewildering times. Something that seemed like pure escape and adventure has become double-edged, harmful, the epitome of selfish consumption. Going someplace far away, we now know, is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change. One seat on a flight from New York to Los Angeles effectively adds months worth of human-generated carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

And yet we fly more and more.

The number of airline passengers worldwide has more than doubled since 2003, and unlike with some other pollution sources, there’s not a ton that can be done right now to make flying significantly greener — electrified jets are not coming to an airport near you anytime soon.

Still, we wonder: How much is that one vacation really hurting anyone, or anything?

It is hard to think about climate change in relation to our own behavior. We are small, our effects are microscopically incremental and we mean no harm. The effects of climate change are inconceivably enormous and awful — and for the most part still unrealized. You can’t see the face of the unnamed future person whose coastal village you will have helped submerge.

But it turns out there are ways to quantify your impact on the planet, at least roughly. In 2016, two climatologists published a paper in the prestigious journal Science showing a direct relationship between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice.

32 = The square feet of Arctic summer sea ice cover that one passenger’s share of emissions melts on a 2,500-mile flight.

Each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent — your share of the emissions on a cross-country flight one-way from New York to Los Angeles — shrinks the summer sea ice cover by 3 square meters, or 32 square feet, the authors, Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, found.

In February, my family of three flew from New York to Miami for what seemed like a pretty modest winter vacation. An online carbon calculator tells me that our seats generated the equivalent of 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Throw in another quarter-ton for the 600 miles of driving we squeezed in and a bit for the snorkeling trip and the heated pool at the funky trailer-park Airbnb, and the bill comes to about 90 square feet of Arctic ice, an area about the size of a pickup truck.

When I did that calculation, I pictured myself standing on a pickup-truck-sized sheet of ice as it broke apart and plunged me into frigid waters. A polar bear glared hungrily at me.

Calculating the harm

And what of my vacation’s impact on my fellow man? Actually, academics have attempted to calculate that, too. Philosophers, not climatologists. But still.

In 2005, a Dartmouth professor, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, wrote in a journal article provocatively titled “It’s Not My Fault: Global Warming and Individual Moral Obligations” that he was under no moral obligation to refrain from taking a gas-guzzling S.U.V. for a Sunday afternoon joy ride if he felt like doing so.

“No storms or floods or droughts or heat waves can be traced to my individual act of driving,” he wrote. Conversely, “If I refrain from driving for fun on this one Sunday, there is no individual who will be helped in the least.”

Other philosophers questioned his reasoning.

Professor John Nolt of the University of Tennessee took a stab at measuring the damage done by one average American’s lifetime emissions. (The average American generates about 16 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent a year, more than triple the global average.)

Noting that carbon stays in the atmosphere for centuries, at least, and that a United Nations panel found in 2007 that climate change is “likely to adversely affect hundreds of millions of people through increased coastal flooding, reductions in water supplies, increased malnutrition and increased health impacts” in the next 100 years, Professor Nolt did a lot of division and multiplication and arrived at a stark conclusion:

“The average American causes through his/her greenhouse gas emissions the serious suffering and/or deaths of two future people.”

Then Avram Hiller of Portland State University used Professor Nolt’s approach to derive the impact of Professor Sinnott-Armstrong’s hypothetical 25-mile ride.

“At a ratio of one life’s causal activities per one life’s detrimental effects, it causes the equivalent of a quarter of a day’s severe harm,” he wrote.

“In other words, going for a Sunday drive has the expected effect of ruining someone’s afternoon.”

Multiply that joy ride by a three-person Florida vacation and you’ve ruined someone’s month. Something to ponder while soaking up UV-drenched rays on a tropical beach.

Ships? Even worse

There are alternatives to flying, of course. Perhaps a cruise? After all, there’s more ocean than there’s been in thousands of years. With the Northwest Passage now mostly ice-free in the summer, new vistas have opened. One cruise company runs polar bear tours to check out “the Arctic’s ‘poster boy.’”

Perhaps not. Bryan Comer, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit research group, told me that even the most efficient cruise ships emit 3 to 4 times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet.

And that’s just greenhouse gas. Last year, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the air onboard cruise ships was many times dirtier than the air nearby onshore.

3x to 4x = The amount of carbon dioxide the most efficient cruise ship emits per passenger mile when compared with a jet.

“Some of the particulate counts were comparable to or worse than a bad day in some of the world’s most polluted cities like Beijing and Santiago,” said Kendra Ulrich of Stand.earth, the advocacy group that commissioned the study.

While most cruise ships run on highly polluting heavy fuel oil, many have begun using “scrubbers” to remove toxic sulfur oxides from their exhaust. But the scrubbers discharge these and other pollutants into the ocean instead, and they’ve been banned by seven countries and several U.S. states.

A spokeswoman for Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, said that the scrubbers comply with the new 2020 standards for air and water quality set by the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. agency. The spokeswoman, Megan King, added that it was not fair to compare emissions from ships and jets because a jet is just a transportation vehicle while a cruise ship is a floating resort and amusement park.

There’s always driving, which is less carbon intensive than flying, especially if there are multiple passengers. But “less” is relative, and most long trips are out of practical driving range anyway.

Considering carbon offsets

Maybe there is a justification out there somewhere: Personal decisions alone won’t stop global warming — that will take policy changes by governments on a worldwide scale. Tourism creates millions of jobs in places starved for economic development. Carbon offsets can effectively cancel out our footprint, can’t they?

Carbon offsets do seem to offer the most direct way to assuage traveler’s guilt. In theory, they magically expiate your sins. You give a broker some money (not a lot of money either — carbon offsets can be bought for $10 per metric ton). They give it to someone to plant trees, or capture the methane from a landfill or a cattle operation, or help build a wind farm, or subsidize clean cookstoves for people in the developing world who cook on open fires. All these things help cut greenhouse gas.

But nothing is that simple in practice. Carbon-offset people talk about concerns with things called additionality, leakage and permanence.

Additionality: How do you know the utility would not have built the wind farm but for the money you gave them?

Permanence: How do you know the timber company that planted those trees won’t just cut them down in a few years?

Leakage: How do you know the landowner you just paid not to cut down an acre of rain forest won’t use the money to buy a different acre and clear that?

While certifying organizations go to great lengths to verify carbon offset projects, verification has limits.

“Whether someone would have planted trees anyway, or taken some other action like building a housing development, is ultimately unknowable and something you have to construct,” said Peter Miller, a policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council and a board member of the Climate Action Reserve, the country’s biggest carbon offset registry. “It’s an endless debate.”

Some carbon offsets are surer bets than others. “With methane capture,” Mr. Miller said, “once you capture that methane and you burn it — you’re done. It’s not in the atmosphere, it’s not going in the atmosphere. You’ve got a credit that’s achieved and you’ve avoided those emissions forever.”

Not flying at all would be better, Mr. Miller said, “but the reality is that there’s lots of folks that are going to do what they’re going to do.” For them, offsets are a lot better than nothing.

But some climate experts call offsets a cop-out.

“It’s like paying someone else to diet for you,” said Alice Larkin of the University of Manchester’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, who has not flown since 2008.

She said that while governments do need to take tough action, they derive their courage to do so from the … [more]
flight  flights  travel  climatechange  globalwarming  2019  andynewman  emissions  carbonemissions  offets  carbonoffsets  flying  leakage  permanence  additionality  ayramhiller  johnnolt  waltersinnott-armstrong  dirknotz  juliennestroeve  flightshame  flyingshame  flygskam  aviation  airlines  climate  airplanes  carbonfootprint 
june 2019 by robertogreco
6, 73: Uummannaq
"Flight is a luxury even in the rich world, but so are most other particularly carbony activities. Eating beef and drinking milk, for example, causes twice as much climate change as every airplane combined. To imagine today’s standard of living without widespread beef-eating, envision bridge subsidies for ranchers and some thinkpiece-worthy changes in the rich world’s palate. To imagine today’s standard of living without widespread flight, envision gravity trains, I guess? Or, liklier, an industrial buildup as metro areas have to be more self-sustaining.

Flight is a problem. I’m not for more flying for the sake of more flying. But it’s also not the problem. We can manage it short of giving up on it. For example, manufacturers can push efficiency beyond immediate market demand. Really, like everything else, flight should have its CO2e cost priced in. Flying from LAX to LHR, say, is about 8.8k km, and for a single person (using typical figures; numbers vary by model) the CO2e released is 1 tonne. A cheap ticket for that flight is about $1000. A tonne of CO2e offset costs right about $15. That’s a 1.5% tax. Probably there are factors I’m overlooking, but it could be several times that much and still lost in the noise of seasonal ticket price variation. If we tackled it like we meant it, instead of with poorly grounded jokes and vague guilt, flight wouldn’t be a big deal.

I argue this forcefully because I’ve seen so many of my favorite people hesitate before flying, on climate grounds. I respect the question, but I want to say: Do it if you want to! Flying for your own sake is wonderful. Travel is worth it, to see somewhere new or to be with people you love. Maybe fly 10% less than you would, and use the savings to buy carbon offsets for the times when you do.

But people don’t like carbon offsets, do they? They’re sometimes compared to indulgences. The criticism is that we can’t individually buy our way out of responsibility for climate change. But in fact we can. I mean, not everyone completely and forever without externalities, but in practice, looking at CO2e per se, absent a substantive critique of the actual in-the-dirt methodology of offsets, we can. We can exchange capital for lack of atmospheric greenhousing. It’s affronting to a common-sense view of responsibility, but it’s how a properly run carbon offset works. We can’t, say, buy a given species back from extinction on a commodity model, but we can most certainly buy a batch of 50,139,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 carbon atoms and have them stuck in the ground – that’s really easy. We have a tech that does it pretty much autonomously once you get it set up. But the buying bugs people. I think a lot of what’s scary is the confronting abyss: the knowledge that we can buy carbon, but we’re not.

Another and more valid fear, I think, is about civics and performance: Offsets are private, but a lot of carbony behavior is public, so the norm-setting is tricky. Like, if you see me tweet “crazy week, TNM ✈️ THU ✈️ MAD ✈️ WLG ✈️ EDW ✈️ NKW ✈️ BDT + gonna hold a tire fire beef BBQ in the rainforest, bruhhh”, that’s likely to prompt you to more carbony behavior than otherwise, even if I’ve offset it all by a generous factor. Etiquette discourages us from mentioning in public that we’ve bought things like offsets, so there’s no symmetry of social effect between the positive and negative the way there’s a symmetry of atmospheric effect. That’s a problem in the way that being vaguely indulgence-like isn’t.

And it’s also a better argument against climate summit flights. If lots of people think the summiteers are wasting carbon, that matters, even if they’re wrong – even if the flights were offset, even if what the flights enabled was worth it millions of times over for the planet’s atmosphere. But I think most of us would agree that there are reasonable limits to how far we should go out of our ways to be intelligible to poorly informed people. We should behave in a way that sets a good example for and welcomes civil dialog with whoever is in sight, but we should balance that with doing whatever works best and trying to spread an understanding of why it works best. (In other words, sometimes we have to offset poor information, not just change our behaviors 😏.)

Climate is the super wicked problem. Offsets can’t solve it, and neither can any other single technique. I don’t know what getting through this will look like, but I think it’s going to be messy and involve a lot of rethinking. I say we should go after beef harder than after airplanes. I could be wrong. It’s very complicated."



"What is most valuable in these stories, for me, aside from knowing the life of someone close to me, is an understanding of evil. Grandma was clear that Nazis did not appear out of nowhere as interiorless, historyless avatars of violence. They were neighbors, uncles, the waiter, the mayor, the ladies who lunch, the teens laughing on their way to band practice, the woman who made your socks, dad’s army buddy who saved his life, the post office clerk with the lazy eye, the teacher who keeps the PTA running, the witty guy at poker night, the garbageman who whistles showtunes, the librarian who feeds your cat when you travel. They saw a way out of national and personal distress. They thought the angry politician was maybe not the most trustworthy person, and some of his ideas were a little extreme, but at least he was a corrective to the spineless Weimar incompetence. They found purpose and belonging. And they enabled a war of aggression, and many of them harassed, robbed, imprisoned, enslaved, gassed, drowned, froze, burned, buried, shot, raped, experimented upon, and worked to death their fellow people.

It’s not enough to remember Nazis as symbols of evil. What happened to six million people was not done by metaphors for wickedness, it was done by other people with hands and brains like ours. They were infected with the idea that there are intrinsically good people and intrinsically evil people. They were extremely evil, but not intrinsically. They were wrong in ways that you and I can be wrong. This is the most terrifying thing I know, and I know it from Grandma. What does “it can happen here” mean? I can’t understand as well as she did.

With this knowledge, she led a life of ideological moderation, active respect for other cultures, and firm but not rigid ideals. My sense of her worldview, and I’ll have to check this against transcripts and my mom’s and aunts’ interpretations, is something like: After WWI, her parents and their generation had been trying to educate everyone, to help build an enlightened culture and an equitable society. Fascism killed millions of people and erased that generation’s work. Now the important thing was to pick right back up – to rebuild a healthy human environment, starting today, and this time more fascism-resistant.

I knew Grandma as a grandmother. When I was very young, she was a gentle but earthy old woman with an odd accent, distinctive taste in art, and some mannerisms left over from working as a nurse. And some inexplicable habits, like eating the cartilage and marrow out of a chicken breast if not in polite company, or seeming uncomfortable about low-flying planes sometimes. These stories showed up slowly. “Well, when I was young, sometimes food was scarce. You know, mixing a little sawdust in the bread dough as filler, this kind of thing.”

For a while, I thought she had shifted gears in the ’50s: that she had turned away – that the war had turned her away – from the bohemian liveliness and the meliorist ideals of her youth, and that she had signed over to the American blandness of Disney, housewifehood, art in spare time, a comfortable retirement, and so on. Gradually I saw how much that idea came from books and not from her. I had tried to see her life in terms of Big Ideas And Social Trends: the Weimar times were Like This, WWII was Like That, America in the ’50s was This Other Thing.

I was going backwards. What matters first about the Weimar times is what they were like to live inside. That’s not all that matters, but nothing else matters if that doesn’t. We can’t see into a person’s life through copula sentences: “The Weimar period was materially difficult but intellectually productive”, “Some Allied bombings were ethically difficult”, “The midcentury Hollywood animation establishment was sexist”. Not enough. But maybe: Feeding the goat with dandelions picked from the sidewalks of Lichterfelde. The way the raining city-ashes smelled. That Betty Brenon exclusively hired women at her studio so they could get work done. I can only see Grandma starting with what she saw.

From there, it’s obvious that she did not let go, was not subsumed into the history textbook subheds of the century; she was always moving under her own power, in catastrophic times and in merely imperfect systems. And so was everyone. Grandma was special in many ways, but point to anyone and so are they. Some of us are lucky enough to get to a place where our work can accrete, where we can build a piece of the world we want. Many of us are not. War is only one of the forces that can destroy a person’s chances, or a generation’s work, or a generation. The weight of history is intolerable, an ocean-trench pressure, if we try to take it as a weight. Talking with Grandma helped me take it as a liquid, something that we can equalize against without being crushed, something whose unintelligible mass we can push against and move within.

I hope that we will remember the people who are leaving us now as people. I hope that, one day, we will be remembered as people."
charlieloyd  2015  memory  history  humaity  humanism  evil  wwii  ww2  moderation  fascism  society  climatechange  globalwarming  flying  carbonoffsets  climatetalks  indaba  negotiating  negatiations  listening  indulgences 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Great American Bubble Machine | Rolling Stone Politics
"From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression -- and they're about to do it again"<br />
<br />
"The new carbon credit market is a virtual repeat of the commodities-market casino that's been kind to Goldman, except it has one delicious new wrinkle: If the plan goes forward as expected, the rise in prices will be government-mandated. Goldman won't even have to rig the game. It will be rigged in advance."
carboncredits  carbon  carbonoffsets  goldmansachs  matttaibbi  2011  bubbles  finance  tarp  bailout  markets  manipulation  greatdepression  dotcomboom  technology  housingbubble  housing  energy  oil  gasoline 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Second thoughts about carbon offsets
"This article in the NY Times fits nicely with my belief that carbon offsets are bullshit.: ""The carbon offset has become this magic pill, a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card," Justin Francis, the managing director of Responsible Travel, one of the world's largest green travel companies to embrace environmental sustainability, said in an interview. "It's seductive to the consumer who says, 'It's $4 and I'm carbon-neutral, so I can fly all I want.'" Offsets, he argues, are distracting people from making more significant behavioral changes, like flying less.""
kottke  carbonoffsets  bullshit  scams  environment  elitism  behavior  sustainability  travel 
november 2009 by robertogreco
F.T.C. Asks if Carbon-Offset Money Is Well Spent - New York Times
"As more companies use offset programs to create an environmental halo over their products, the commission said it was growing increasingly concerned that some green marketing assertions were not substantiated. Environmentalists have a word for such misle
greenwashing  green  sustainability  environment  carbonoffsets  money  economics  advertising  marketing 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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