Sometimes it's better to laugh than cry, and believe me, the reality that we might rely on carbon offsets as a primary means to reduce our global warming emissions is enough to make me weep. The situation is so absurd that Greenpeace this week launched thecroc.org, a satirical look at how carbon offsets could undermine both U.S. legislation and the U.N. climate negotiations by giving big polluters a giant loophole to continue dirty business as usual.
Carbon offsets often do not deliver promised results. Offsets from forest projects are especially unreliable because the deforestation they are supposed to stop in one area can easily move elsewhere. The use of these sorts of offsets would not only give big polluters a giant loophole, it could actually increase global warming pollution.
In addition, as carbon credits are paid for and traded under a new cap and trade system, low-quality offsets threaten to corrupt those new markets. Cheap offsets could literally act as "sub-prime" carbon credits, creating huge financial risks. This risk was demonstrated yet again this week when the U.N. actually shut down SGS UK, one of the world's leading carbon offset accreditation firms, after it was unable to show that its staff had thoroughly vetted offset projects.
The SGS embarrassment was a blow to backers of offset schemes and it should be a wake up call to policymakers as they work to craft new climate agreements both here and internationally. The ACES bill that cleared the House earlier this year has up to 2 billion tons of offsets available per year.
Because the situation is so ridiculous, Greenpeace had a bit of fun and developed CROC, a fake government agency that confers the benefits of carbon offsets to the average citizen. Users can get credit for doing some good for the environment, which they can use to do some thing bad to it, just like corporate polluters do. Check out the PSA above and follow CROC on Twitter!