Eg do you count secondary services your employees use, like food services or emissions from their commute? Do you count partner services, like shipping providers for physical product? These, along with your direct emissions, are categorized into three "scopes" of emissions. Do you include purchased offsets against emissions, and at what rate? This is what most companies (including MS, since 2012) use to be "carbon neutral". Companies are selective about which scopes they include, and they pay for the total in offsets.
The point of the blog lost is to be clear (and holier-than-thou) about MS's announced goal: to remove more carbon than they produce in all three scopes each year by 2030 ("net negative"), and to remove all the carbon Microsoft has ever produced in all three scopes from the atmosphere by 2050. Actual carbon removal, not offsets.
I have not read this article so I have no idea what google is or isn't claiming here. But I learned a lot from the MS blog post so I thought I'd share.
I find this question to be a classic ridiculous slippery slope. For example: Do you count the foot print of the plane that takes employees on vacation bought using the company's salary? Or the foot print of the extra child they decided to bear thanks to the finical stability the company offers?
I feel these type of claims should not be taken literally but rather as "We made a substantial dent in our footprint".
I would expect companies to count plane emissions when their employees go on business trips, but not on holidays.
I would also expect companies to count emissions produced by their employees when they work remotely, which should be a part of the total emissions of their home.
Sure, they may not be able to get an exact number, and it will be lots of estimates, but it does not mean that we should accept some approximate statement such as "We're trying our best"
Should the company also reduce their carbon footprint calculations since paying employees more will make then more likely to own a tesla or other electric?
A given employee might or might not fly or whatever. But statistically, the average is going to be pretty predictable, and it's not intellectually honest to pretend that because one doesn't know individual behavior, the average could be anything.
Though I think the MS article is easier to understand. If you think this is not a reasonable or accurate way to measure emissions, there are some great peer reviewed journals you could write to.
Totally separate things.
The parallel that I'm drawing is that recycling was largely touted in the 90s as the solution to the world's pollution problems, but what ended up happening is that people's impression of recycling and their actual implementations turned out to be woefully out of sync. One can argue that the long term damage of this discrepancy is that people will mindlessly buy plastic bottles of coke, ultimately contributing to the microplastics problem because they've been largely trained to think that recycling plastics works (instead of a hypothetical alternative reality where people might instead bring reusable containers to stores to buy things).
On the contrary that's not how i remember it - everyone was talking about how recycling was the worst out of reduce, reuse, recycle.
However people want to clear their concious for free, so they chose recycling above all else.
Curious to hear some of these examples.
If you look at Japan, for example, they obsessively went all in on recycling. Look at how many different types of recyclables they have, the new electronics craze, the apartment complex obasans that would bring your unsorted garbage back to your unit door as a form of passive-aggressive social peer pressure, etc.
I distinctly remember being taught about recycling in school, and reading about it in children's books, but reduce and reuse were at best afterthoughts, if mentioned at all.
Governments spend a considerable amount on recycling education (e.g. pamphlets about what can and cannot go in a recycling bin), but the taxation incentives I'm aware of don't really paint a super convincing reduce/reuse-oriented strategy.
Separately, one of the things that gets to me with companies like Google claiming a zero carbon footprint is that if you look at its corporate headquarters, it's mostly parking lot, and some building. The first time I visited Google's HQ, my first impression was just all the parked cars and no way to get to the HQ without Uber/Lyft. Same with Facebook. That picture alone seems wrong to me from an environmental standpoint. Why isn't there a train station there with electric trains instead of a parking lot?
(Google's Boston (Cambridge) office, on the other hand, is right across from a subway station which totally feels right.)
It aint perfect, but still seems to be in the right direction towards getting to where we need to go.
Its not like this is a new problem - regulation of markets for fake goods has been a thing for a long time.
And also, 10 miles is a really long distance. Most people consider anything more than 1 mile un-walkable for a commute, so what about all the people between 1 to 10 miles?
And what about visitors, contractors, interviewees, partner company employees, and everyone else who can't take the bus? Why aren't the buses a part of the local transit agency, and why does the local transit agency not even bother running frequent route anywhere near Google, Apple, Facebook, et al.? Why aren't there air-conditioned express Wi-Fi VTA buses, or better yet, fast (>80mph) electric trains, plying up and down 101 and 280 serving all the tech companies in one go, stopping at each HQ, considering they are almost all right next to either highway? That would be a low-carbon world.
Also, one of the inherent problems with employee shuttles instead is that they compete with public transit, and also reduce the flexibility for employees to go to other places after work. I've known many employees regularly go to FLAG companies via the shuttle but drive to work on days they have dinner appointments with friends. To a great degree this also propagates the cycle where public transit becomes progressively worse in coverage and maintainence, and progressively more for low-income individuals only.
Compare to many other public-transit-first countries which have trains/buses that are actually fast, clean, nice, comfortable, and not worse than taking a company shuttle + you have the flexibility to go whenever you want, as well as wherever you want after work.
You are describing something close to the original vision behind BART  that was proposed in 1956, but bear in mind that a significant number of people - predominately in the wealthy suburbs - opposed such a vision for a variety of reasons, and many of those same voices hold sway today.
> Why aren't there air-conditioned express Wi-Fi VTA buses, or better yet, ultra-fast electric trains, plying up and down 101 and 280
Rather than 280, they should serve 880, which goes to more affordable housing in the East Bay.
And as sibling comment mentions, climate change is bad for business too, so that's the incentive for net-negative.
Can't help but note, flood or wildfire insurance (for people in risk areas) has climbed in cost a lot more than $375/yr.
$375/household/yr sounds downright cheap to me, if it gets us out of this hurricane/wildfire/drought/flood cycle.
But speaking a bit more broadly, you'd get a good idea from the Wikipedia page on corporate ethics. It's a whole field of study.
Mostly, it does.
> think of the clean air act and a host of others (e.g. OSHA)
Those laws are at odds with capitalism, because they limit the control of private capital owners over the application of that capital in favor of social direction or limitation by the State on others’ interest.
Now, you can support that as necessary for the good of society or oppose it as an infringement on the liberty of owners, but in either case you shouldn't mistake it for capitalism.
Like how my computer is technically a regular expression because the universe is finite so it can be simulated by a large enough finite state machine.
No, you don't. If you pull the food service thread, you can go through the food wholesalers to farmers, then to John Deere, then to steel plants, then to miners, then to hard hats and eventually you'll end up in China where the game will be declared lost.
The credit must be given when it's due.
This is not some abstract game to be won. This making real changes in the real world.
And no: when the stakes are this high, it being extremely difficult is no reason to just assume it's impossible.
There are many more academic sources just a duckduckgo search away. (Or Bing, I guess) personally I find the MS blog explanation really clear, but obviously the EPA or a peer reviewed climate science journal are more reliable sources.
Isn't stuff like this kind of out of their hand unless the state itself tries to fix this.
1) They have enough money to start initiatives, even geographically dispersed initiatives, independent from the state
2) They have a history of working hand-in-glove with the city of Seattle and the state of Washington; it can be hard to distinguish "What Microsoft is trying to do" from "What Washington state is trying to do" sometimes.
> people with a choice will prefer to drive just for the one time that the kid gets sick and they have to leave early
This used to be a major (underestimated, in my opinion) issue, and I used to bring it up all the time as something that needed to be addressed before people who were accustomed to driving would voluntarily leave their cars at home, but I think Uber and Lyft solve it, full stop.
This is not going to help you with "speaks to a large number of voters who don't respond to environmental appeals"
There is a MASSIVE over lab in people that do don't respond to (government regulation based) environmental appeals AND have no desire to live in densely populated cities.
Speaking as one of those people, the idea of living in an area of high population density is a non-starter for me, my current area is about 2,000 people per square mile that that is FAR FAR too dense for me. living in Seattle or LA with a Population density of 4x time is something nightmares are made of, and NYC at about 13x that is just a total night terror....
However, there is a massive undersupply of dense living in the US, because it has been legislated out of existence, not because people don't want it.
And I would point out that many "rural" towns have fantastic dense living in their core, that allow people to walk for daily errands, etc.
The real enemy of density is not rural vs. urban, because these do not tough each other at all. The people who prevent density are the suburban enclaves that, through heavy and excessive regulation, prevent people from building anything except for single family residential sprawl for miles upon miles, necessitating a car for something as simple as getting a pint of cream.
Which is the way that many people want to live, which is great for them, and they should be allowed to do that! But we need to stop letting them say to others: "I don't want to live in density, so you shouldn't have the very option of it because the mere existence threatens me."
I've been fighting for smart density in my town for quite a while, and no rural person would ever oppose this, because they are not in town! And I think they realize that the more people in town, the fewer crowding into their rural life.
It seems especially obvious at the moment that companies could simply eliminate tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of commutes instantly by letting the vast majority of their employees wfh permanently (or much more frequently at least).
Additionally it'd probably be pretty easy to brainstorm a dozen more less common ideas/incentives companies could start trialing: pay people to take public transit instead of just subsidizing partial costs, have more satellite offices or pay for wework type space, a welcome packet that includes an option for a bicycle and fitness trainer, additional shuttle services, long term plans such as working with the government to invest in bicycle/public transit infrastructure, etc etc
The courts already let them get away with it. There's nothing illegal about discriminating against people based on their commutes. The employer can do anything they want, up to and including termination (or refusal to hire someone in the first place).
Commute discrimination already happens, here's one article detailing research on the topic: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-30/inner-cit...
Here's another article about it: https://www.boston.com/news/jobs/2018/03/26/no-offer-because...
> Facebook even builds their own employee housing.
I wasn't aware about this, where are they building these?
This statement always throws me - did we just make a complete context-switch from talking about car emissions to talking about gas turbines? Or is "gas" being used to refer to petrol ("gasoline")? The subject of the previous post was clearly cars, but that sentence is talking about gas and coal, better re-read the entire statement several times to double-check the context!
I don't want to be rude and shit on peoples' language, but FFS I hate the shortening slang-version of "gasoline" so much. THAT WORD IS TAKEN, IT MEANS VAPOUR.
"You fill up your gas tank at the gas station and get a gas can just in case you get low on gas before you can hit the next station to gas up."
“You call returned soldiers vets, but they don’t work with animals.”
The definition of the difference between gas and vapour is that a gas cannot be liquefied by pressure (so water vapour heated over ~374°C becomes a gas)
The sheer number of vendors google has makes it nearly impossible to be 100% carbon neutral.
Large vendors already offer the estimated carbon emissions of an order, and they certainly do when Microsoft or Google ask them to.
Aside: the moral high bar MS sets here is being "net zero", which is quite different than carbon neutral.
If you watch the two minute video or read the 5-page essay “I, Pencil”, you will see why.
The vendors’ vendors’ vendor is not in the loop. They will not know that the raw materials they are mining in a 3rd world nation are being consumed ultimately by google.
Does this include all carbon produced by all devices that have run MS OSes? All servers, computers, mobile devices, gaming platforms, etc.?
(IMO the MS post does a better explanation but this is obviously a more reliable source)
I doubt anyone counts indirect use of a general purpose tool, but hey read the link and you tell us.
Seriously, you cannot just cut a deal with the building next door and say, I'll give you a bunch of cash if you claim you're using the coal power so I can claim I am using the solar power. And then pretend to be carbon free.
You seem to be mixing green energy and carbon offsets.
I'm not convinced that offsets are complete BS, even though a lot of bullshitting and optimistic metrics are likely involved.
"Additionality" and accurate measurement are usually the big questions. I'm pretty sure many "offsets" are just getting extra money from credit-selling for measures that would be taken anyways because they make economic sense, but in theory, additionality (e.g. by pushing something that wouldn't make economic sense into economic feasibility through the added reward from selling credit) is a requirement for offsets (or at least "high-quality" offsets).
Let's say you go to a third world country where people are cooking with wood on open fireplaces, and start handing out stoves that need 1/3rd of the fuel. (This is actually a real offsetting effort). You've not only improved the lives of those people, but you've also reduced the amount of wood that will be burned (and potentially forest that will be cut for it), which creates a calculable impact.
At least that's the theory. The carbon savings from all of these projects are estimated, and of course everyone involved is incentivized to make the project look successful by overestimating. For example, the cookstove projects' effects are disputed: https://www.climatechangenews.com/2016/08/10/are-carbon-mark...
Company g pulls 1 unit of electricity from a coal power plant that produces just that 1 unit of electricity. By buying carbon offsets, g indirectly funds a power developer to replace the coal plant with a solar plant.
In this example, offsets produce the same net reduction as building their own solar power plant. As long as you purchase offsets from reputable organizations that require the deployment of proceeds to directly offset carbon that would not otherwise have occurred, then it works.
That's even their reasoning for targeting "net zero" instead. They are actually paying to have carbon removed from the atmosphere, and funding companies who are trying to make that cheaper.
Technically, this is also a small contribution towards reducing the carbon footprint.
This isn't an indictment of all carbon reduction. Most meaningful policies will have reshuffling. There are no perfect moves.
That said, it's important to try and get into the nuance, be skeptical. In this case, the guts are in the "what does carbon offset really mean?"
Any carbon accounting system (tradable credits, carbon taxes, etc.) is abstract. You can achieve "carbon neutral" by buying credits or by actually reducing carbon. FWIW, I think there definitely is a value to DIY as opposed to carbon accounting stuff. IE, powering your own data centre with clean energy is superior to using gas electric and offsetting that with purchased credits.
It just happens to be the case that when you look back at carbon reductions, deindustrialization is one of the key contributors. Clean energy too. A lot of europe already had a lot of clean energy though.
The IPCC stipulates negative emissions in the second half of the century.
Lastly, our carbon budget is not zero, if everyone kept to carbon budget of 3 tons of CO2 per person we'd never have climate change to begin with.
It still reduces emissions on the whole.
CO2 is a stupid thing to focus on. There are so many other forms of pollution that are so much worse. Factory cities in China that have lakes of toxic sludge waste. The massive amount of plastic particles in the ocean. Colossal e-waste from electronics only designed to last two years.
Real, meaningful changes that will stop environmental devastation require reduction of consumption. Unless Google finds a way to reduce their data center footprints, the CO2 numbers are most likely just cooked books; displacing CO2 with other environmental disaster.
We need to consume less things.
That's strictly cleaner than running the region on fossil plants only
> Natural gas to startup
That's strictly cleaner than running the region on natural gas only
>CO2 is a stupid thing to focus on. There are so many other forms of pollution that are so much worse. Factory cities in China that have lakes of toxic sludge waste.
Lakes of toxic sludge are bad, but they're a localized problem. Atomspheric CO2 balance threatens to crash the global ecology for everything larger than bacteria. Of the things you've listed, the risk factor for killing everyone is CO2 --> ocean plastic --> e-waste --> toxic sludge lakes.
> We need to consume less things
That'd be cool, but unfortunately, have you met humans? We've been trying the "Consume less things" approach my entire life; it doesn't take. We need the consumption to be more efficient and less environmentally impactful.
Nobody can move away from the consequences of CO2 saturation. There's no second planet to move to.
> That's strictly cleaner than running the region on fossil plants only
True, but from a CO2 and climate standpoint that's strictly dirtier than nuclear. And reducing emissions by enforcing good insulation norms, taxing the hell out of kerosene, etc.
It's a little hard to weigh those costs vs. benefits, since nuclear byproduct sequestration is relatively cheap but the consequences of failure are relatively high (dirty bombs). On the whole, I'd peg the risk factors for solar and wind as lower, but I'd still prefer to see nuclear plants replace fossil fuel plants if other options aren't available.
Would they have invested 300 billions in nuclear, Germany would run on 100% CO2 neutral electricity today, with an hefty margin (arguably 200 billions would have been enough).
Then while everybody speaks about electricity, they conveniently forget that it represents only 20 to 25% of all of our energy needs. The remaining 75-80% for industry, agriculture and transports are almost 100% fossil-fueled...
Why the downvote. Seriously, if we believe we need to consume less, it might be a good idea to put it into perspective what that will actually mean for each individual. I am including myself into this as well.
CO2, and other greenhouse gasses, are exactly what we should be focusing on. Sea level rise alone is more urgent than everything else you've mentioned, let alone unpredictable weather changes and their potential for causing war.
There are lots of known ways to deal with this, including grid scale batteries and demand-response, both of which are now reaching the electricity market.
What we need is the political and cultural shift to support massive investment in these technologies. There will be room for natural gas as a bridge fuel, but coal has no future. And yes, it's not happening fast enough, and no snap of the fingers will do it.
> CO2 is a stupid thing to focus on
Only if you're willing to ignore the clearly visible impacts of global warming amplified destructive events worldwide. The waters are rising and the global warming denial island is getting smaller with every passing year.
> We need to consume less things.
We need to consume less-carbon-intensive things (hyphenation intentional). We can start by consuming longer-lasting things, consuming things whose materials are more readily recyclable, and reducing waste (where no utility is derived from the consumption). But the first step is to reduce the carbon intensity of things we already consume.
Also, the thing is that panels expire after 20 years, so new ones will need to be manufactured and the process to make them and mine the materials to make them is not exactly clean I guess..
(1) This is, of course, the foolish way to go about it, since distribution costs would be enormous and that kind of centralization is dangerous for a robust system. But it's a fun thought experiment to visualize the scale of the problem and the gap between the inefficiency of the modern system and potential improvements.
Emphasis on a ton — not all. Nuclear basically is. And as of this millennium at the latest it’s been safe. The nuclear deaths in the US add up to a grand total of 0 (zero). That’s better than eg. wind can say — at least one turbine has burst into flame during maintenance, forcing the workers to choose between burning or leaping to death. Google’s Ivanpah solar plant has also killed thousands of birds by burning them so they plummet out of the sky (not to mention the endangered desert tortoises who lose their habitats when land is bulldozed for solar, or human injuries from falling of roofs while installing solar panels).
And of course CO₂ danger is exaggerated, most scientists from the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union for the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) don’t believe there will be catastrophic effects of global warming (including from more potent greenhouse gasses like methane) in the next 50-100 years. And deaths from natural disasters are declining.
> And of course CO₂ danger is exaggerated, most scientists from the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union for the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) don’t believe there will be catastrophic effects of global warming (including from more potent greenhouse gasses like methane) in the next 50-100 years.
Have they looked into what's going on in the west coast of the US right now?
Despite the current fires, wildfires are down and have been for decades. A lot of the current wild fires stem from reducing the number of controlled burns we use to do.
Also there is quite a significant amount of arson:
https://archive.is/GWLYq, https://archive.is/cFPbd, https://archive.is/xHiFO, https://archive.is/mhKtG, https://archive.is/US23e, https://archive.is/JyfJe, https://archive.is/owMeD, https://archive.is/rl2cm (and there are a ton more)
14 of the 20 worst wildfires have occurred in the past 15 years, and the size of fire season is growing.
The west coast has had catastrophic human intervention in the natural fire cycle, piling up fuel year after year until it was too big of a hazard for humans to handle. https://www.wsj.com/articles/californias-paradise-lost-15420...
Tsunamis, by themselves, don't contaminate ocean-water with radioactive material to a density high enough to create a 10-km no-fish-zone.
And while Chernobyl didn't happen in the past 20 years, I think it's naive to consider nuclear power safe when a continent-threatening disaster occurred in the past 40 years. "One massive disaster per generation" makes people justifiably leery. Personally, I think the grand calculus may tilt slightly in nuclear's favor over fossil fuels, but the risk can't be swept under the rug.
> The west coast has had catastrophic human intervention in the natural fire cycle, piling up fuel year after year until it was too big of a hazard for humans to handle
This is a concern, but I think we shouldn't discount that the hottest years recorded in California history of record-keeping have been, with only a couple exceptions, the most recent years (https://www.climatesignals.org/sites/default/files/resources...). The "natural" fire cycle will get further and further from its historical nature as ambient temperatures climb and rainfall diminishes.
OK, fair enough, I think it may be a good idea not to build nuclear reactors in potential direct paths of tsunamis, or at least not on the seashore <20 meters above sea level, when there’s a local fishing industry, to minimize economic risk. But if the fact that the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, the fourth most powerful earthquake in the recorded history of the world, causing the only nuclear “disaster” to share the same maximum classification as Chernobyl, killed at maximum one person singular, a thousand times less than an average year of rooftop solar https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2008/03/deaths-per-twh-for-all... § The safety issues with Rooftop solar installations / http://www.osha.gov/Publications/Construction_Fatalities/Con..., “raise[s] serious questions about the safety of nuclear power,” I don’t know an appropriate adjective to describe the questions raised by one form of solar killing 3 orders of magnitude more yearly.
(Edit: On fires)
Heat may exacerbate fires, but it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t burn what isn’t there, and there simply wouldn’t be anywhere near as much flammable undergrowth, etc. if firefighters didn’t fight to prevent nature from removing it in smaller, safer quantities. The number of deaths from natural disasters relative to population is decreasing and there’s no reason for the west coast to be an exception (other than blaming the weather and ignoring inconvenient facts and logic).
No one except the Soviet Union said the Chernobyl style plants were reasonable designs. That kind of design would have been illegal to build anywhere else in the world.
The death rate from Fukishima is far less than the death rate from any properly working fossil fuels source (or wind or rooftop solar for that matter). One estimate is that worldwide use of coal causes up to 800,000 deaths a year - this is much worse than all deaths from nuclear, including the bombs that were dropped on Japan!
A NASA estimate is that the use of nuclear power has saved approximately 1.8 million lives in the years 1971-2009:
No one ever promised that there would never be a nuclear accident - that would be unrealistic for any power source. But historically nuclear power has been safer than all the alternatives that were available.
Unfortunately anything at all related to nuclear is covered by the media orders of magnitude more than other power sources so many people have an understandable perception that it is much more dangerous than other sources of power. 200 thousand people had to be evacuated in CA a couple of years ago because of a lack of maintenance on a hydroelectric dam could've let to catastrophic failure. We got lucky that time as the rains stopped just in time, but how much did the media cover that story? How much would they have covered it if 200 thousand were evacuated because of a nuclear power plant?
It is possible there will be some major advances in grid storage that will allow us to stop using natural gas to cover for the intermittent nature of wind and solar. But what if that doesn't pan out? The dangers we are facing in the coming decades are immense. Is your fear of nuclear power so great that if you had to choose, you would prefer the world to suffer through catastrophic climate change rather than use nuclear power?
Didn't, in thirteen years ago, when that survey was conducted.
I wonder (actually I really dont - it is clear that it doesnt) if 0 emission include also creation of silicon resin, PCBs, wiring, electricity,... And to back up parent claim - where where they produced?
I am not saying it is nothing - surely better than nothing - but it is "a tad" spitting into the sea.
The major footprint comes from heavy industry that is creating the materials so google can actually operate and if I would be sarcastic - they actually create a greater need for materials where its production produce large amount of emissions.
I would even claim, that they would do far more if they would stop showing ads. The electricity footprint on world wide scale must be enormous - not from google serving them but actually reaching destination and browsers processing them - and not all electricity is coming from "green" sources.
I can claim 0 emission for myself except from (sorry, I just had to say it :D), farting and breathing. But once I start to count in how my food was produced, how the goods I am using were produced etc. this is just not true. Anyway as a decades long vegetarian, strictly driven on public transport or bicycle (:D) I do my best here.
This is just publicity stunt from google PR and it doesn't really mean anything.
But looks like it worked. BBC cached it and is doing an article about it.
Compare: a company dedicated to nothing but planting trees can reduce its carbon emissions extremely quickly, well past the point where they're at net negative carbon emission, even though it probably took gasoline to drive the trees out to the planting site, the laborers eat food, the truck was made in a factory, etc.
Edit - I need to read more carefully, OP already went into this, apologies.
> once I start to count in how my food was produced, how the goods I am using were produced etc. this is just not true.
I wasnt clear enough?
Heating, electricity, transport and food are by far the majority of our emissions. Industrial processes are like 15% of uk emissions or so
"I spread germs all over town today but I bought coronavirus offsets so we’re all good". via https://twitter.com/WeiZhangAtmos/status/1245890907511181312
Paying people to stay home so that other people with essential roles can carry on with less chance of spreading covid?
And while the point of your analogy is clear, your neighbor could only travel the world without remorse if they fund a huge number of new trees.
Offsets are not as illogical as you make them sound.
I'd love to read the details.
Here , Easyjet pretend to be offsetting 100% carbon emitted during their flights: https://www.easyjet.com/fr/developpement-durable
Where are the huge Easyjet forests? Planted just so the rich can fly?
I'm sure they have some kind of contract, somewhere, but I can't verify that. And of course any "new" tree can be attached to an offset, that isn't the problem. How can a third-party says that this tree wouldn't have been planted otherwise, when whole world has no choice but go greener/cleaner? All those who make genuine efforts would be stupid not to take the cash (prisoner dilemma). Carbon offsetting is buying time to slow down changes in devastating behaviors.
But I wasn't able to find any articles wrt. that anymore, so it might be wrong or outdated.
I think the distinction you're overlooking is marginal price vs true price. It could easily be the case that reducing carbon on the margins is cheap.
Going from 100% of current levels to 99% may involve giving up some very low value activity. Especially because in most of the world the cost of carbon emissions is zero to begin with. But going from 1% to 0% could be extraordinarily costly, because it involves the highest value usage of carbon.
Another way to think about it is that carbon offsets may be very cheap, because so few people buy them. If the practice became more widespread, either because of social norms or government regulation, then the demand could easily push up the price to where it does become a significant cost.
In other words, if the whole world were trying to offset its carbon emissions, the price per offset would rise dramatically.
Say now the reason people still burn coal is because it's cheap and you can offset it cheaply, once offestting becomes more expensive, you may as well spend the same total amount, but buy green energy instead of coal+an offest.
I think this is a big part of it. Just look at carbon tax proposals. A commonly suggested initial tax is $40/ton. My family racks up about 4-6 tons of CO2 each year driving. That's $160-240/yr. By comparison, registration is ~$300 and insurance is ~$700.
A large portion of the voting public opposes virtually all regulation & taxes simply on principal. For this cohort, it simply doesn't matter what the math says.
I have to add though, while carbon taxes would have challenges to implement, adding a carbon tax to fuel specifically is not hard to measure at all! We know exactly how much carbon is in the fuel. A $40/ton carbon tax means +$0.36 per gallon of gasoline.
P.S. The US federal fuel tax ($0.18) was last increased in 1993, and was not indexed to inflation.
Now don't get me wrong, I am in favor of carbon taxing as it's probably one of the best tools we have to fight climate change. But the only way something like this is going to see widespread approval is if all of the proceeds are guaranteed to be paid back to the people and not disappear into the ether of government bureaucracy.
Many of them just involve getting very poor people access to clean water (so they don't have to burn hydrocarbons to boil the water) or cleaner-burning cooking gases. Prices are as low as 10-15 USD per tonne of CO2.
If we ever make a serious attempt to decarbonize the entire economy, we will run out of cheap/easy options and be forced to make harder, more expensive tradeoffs.
Yeah, that the trick. To put it boldly: What they offer is not sustainable. This means that these green initiatives hide the real price of CO2 or at least give a very wrong impression.
Well asymptocially it is. And then the real intersting stuff happens, because economy becomes aligned.
> But currently there's still an absolute glut of fairly-cheap CO2 reduction methods that just aren't being done, or wouldn't be done without the offset pricing, so it's still a net benefit to do them.
There also is a net harm if people get the wrong impression of what the real cost of CO2 is.
Like you can fund an already-built wind turbine plant - the capital is already built, so even without your funding this is going to stay open...
But even if we forget that, the people buying energy from these plants will be buying a 'green megawatt' - so surely that means each megawatt will have been both offset and sold as 'green energy'?
And then to add to that - these power plants are also claimed against national emission reduction targets (at least the one in Indonesia is) and were actually built as part of a government fund - so then it's kind of triple-counting too!
(i.e. well for every green megawatt we sell, the company we sell it to gets to say they have a green megawatt, the offset company gets to say that they offset a megawatt, and the government gets to say it's generated 1 megawatt of green energy! In reality no actual carbon was saved other than the government intervention)
The poor people by definition are resource strapped and will use any means of energy available, just for different purpose.
On the cynical side: clean water -> less mortality -> more population -> more carbon use to sustain said population.
Wealth is a far larger source of pollution than life.
It's both. Wealth drives down the birth rate (as does empowerment and higher education of women ), but it also drives up the rate of pollution . You need "Clean Wealth" (high quality of life with low or zero CO2 emissions, pollution, etc) if you want lower birth rates (which we do, we're on track to hit 10 billion people by the end of the century) and less pollution.
Way I see it, any help or financial aid to 3rd world countries (with high birth rates) needs to be coupled with comprehensive and mandatory contraceptive, health-information and birth control drives that is overseen by independent 1st world entities such as the WHO with the intent on lowering mortality rates and birth rates. And if these countries' birth rates don't start following a downward trajectory after a short period, then stop giving fancy aid and switch to bare-bones humanitarian aid. Seems way better than "lending" them the money they need and then making them dependent on the 1st world in perpetuity.
Starts to sound a lot like eugenics.
All the evidence suggests that if you raise standards of living and give women control of their own fertility, then birth rates drop naturally (and fairly rapidly). Turns out, when given the choice, most women prefer to have one or two children. This trend has been replicated across (all?) developed countries with very different cultures.
There's no reason to believe the kind of coercion you're proposing is necessary, if you could even justify it ethically.
"comprehensive and mandatory contraceptive, health-information and birth control drives"
You make it sound like like I'm saying people need to be forced to use contraceptives. Guess the phrasing is not great. Maybe 'program' would have been better? But the mandatory modifier was on the drive/program, not the usage of contraceptives.
If you were serious about a programme like this, you should at least phrase it in terms of carrots, not sticks: if you embrace feminism, educate and empower your female citizens, we'll reward that with increased foreign direct investment.
The flight in question was a roughly 1500 km + 1500 km = 3000 km roundtrip. I remember the airline offered to make my flight CO₂-neutral for about €20 or so. ICAO's emissions calculator  put my total contributed CO₂ emissions at about 280 kg. An economically very very inefficient baseline for counteracting CO₂ emissions is just extracting it from the air and storing it . This is hard and expensive because the concentrations are so low in the atmosphere in general (away from emissions sources), but even in that case, numbers from pilot projects come out at $94-$232/ton . Taking the optimistic estimate, that would mean my emissions could be undone for as little as roughly $26. Things seem to work out in roughly the right ballpark.
Of course the airline doesn't use direct air capture for this offsetting, but I looked into it and seem to recall the money going to sane projects. Another comment points out some of the much lower-hanging targets for emissions reductions out there, and they are of course much more effective per buck spent than direct air capture: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24469438
I think you can probably trace that information source back to someone who makes their money pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
Committed is not the same is doing. Everyone was more "committed" for Kyoto too.
Consider: if you don't do that, you're emitting a lot of CO2. You could wait until everyone upgrades to electric cars but it takes several decades for the vehicle fleet to turn over, so even if everyone started buying nothing but electric now, it would take decades to phase out the old vehicles. And they're not all buying electric cars now. So on the kind of timescales that governments are making these "commitments" the only way to stop people driving petrol powered cars, given how useful they are, would be to seize and destroy them.
As for why they're committing to it, well, they still think academic models are accurate for COVID and are acting as if that's true. Climatology is mostly a modelling based discipline. 2+2 = ...
Given that electric cars require new factories and supply chains to scale up, the chances of this being achieved by 2030 is minimal. Not only can't the cars be built fast enough short of some Manhattan-style program (very expensive for all but tiny countries), but neither can the factories that build the cars.
And this evades the whole question of people who like or want ICE vehicles for whatever reason.
I bet this is something that isn't regulated properly so we have Airlines straight up misleading customers about how much offsetting does cost.
For one, yeah, those offsetting companies calculate very generously. E.g. I once looked a bit into this and they make arguments like "we don't consider construction of the airport, because it's already there". The calculations for the offsets are also often calculated very generously, e.g. they often use the same mechanisms as the so-called Clean Development mechanism (which is part of the european emission trading system), which is known to overcalculate savings enormously.
The other thing is they offset things the cheapest way possible. That works as long as there are cheap ways to save carbon. It doesn't scale.
Carbon emissions aren't about servers. They are about, in order of priority:
* How do we feed people cheaply without fossil fuels (both as fertiliser & for crop transport)?
* How do we extract minerals cheaply (especially aluminium) without fossil fuels?
* How do we maintain the cheap logistics network that gets us stuff without fossil fuels?
The first two are non-negotiable, the 3rd is quite important. If those 3 problems were solved then fossil fuels would just go away quietly. Google isn't involved in any of those things; it is part of the 'these carbon emissions are incidental' category of emissions that we can reasonably get rid of.
But, again, good on them for setting clear goals and achieving them.
I'm curious about how you offset an accident to get back down to net no accidents. Can you explain?
1. Ensure all employees traveling to work had zero emissions
2. The production of energy to power their offices and servers produced zero emissions
3. The sourcing of materials to build and maintain the energy production produced zero emissions
4. The food required to feed the people working for them produced zero emissions
I think 3 and 4 are going to be the hardest for the world to figure out
1 and 2 we have good solutions either solar/ hydro or mass transit or electric cars. But the supporting infrastructure that’s harder maybe?
But the infrastructure in California is actually quite impressive, and they were early to the game on that.
But better than making driving less CO2 intensive is to have people not drive at all.
Agriculture (even without fossil fuels) has a far greater impact on the environment than all fossil fuel use combined. Why the focus on fossil fuels for all your points?
Can I get a source for that claim?
A quick Google gives me the following:
> Globally, fossil fuel-based energy is responsible for about 60% of human greenhouse gas emissions, with deforestation at about 18%, and animal agriculture between 14% and 18% (estimates from the World Resources Institute, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Pitesky et al. 2009
I did watch this documentary, and while I don't agree with some of the conclusions or outlook, it does serve up some facts I wouldn't have looked into had I not seen it.
The US EPA says that 24% of global emissions are attributable to all agriculture and land use changes as of 2010:
The IPCC's more recent accounting says 23% of global emissions are attributable to all agriculture and land use changes:
Here's a detailed critical review of Cowspiracy from the Union of Concerned Scientists:
According to Cowspiracy, the major source of global warming pollution isn’t fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, as the world’s scientists are telling us. No, it’s animal agriculture—not just eating cows, but all other kinds of meat, and eggs and milk and fish too. So the principal solution to global warming isn’t renewable energy. It’s for everyone to become a vegan.
Central to Cowspiracy’s conspiracy theory is the supposed “fact” that a 2009 study found that 51% of all greenhouse gases are produced by animal agriculture.
A good deal of the movie is taken up with interviews with people from environmental organizations, such as the Rainforest Action Network, Oceana, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, who don’t seem to accept this “fact,” and therefore must be part of the conspiracy to cover it up. Greenpeace politely declined, twice, to be interviewed, proving that they’re part of the cowspiracy too. ...
Sure, there have been environmental impact from this as others have pointed out, but since they were one of the earliest movers on these things, we can expect them to run into issues which hopefully they will work towards fixing for everyone. Also, we do need to compare the impact with the impact of what it replaces to keep things in perspective.
I am glad that more companies have joined them on this, since it looks like it will be very hard to convince some governments to course correct on these issues.
Obviously two tech companies with drastically different carbon footprints, considering Google doesn't own a global multimodal logistics fleet.
This reminds me of Bezos’s announcement that Amazon would be making deliveries by drone by 2018.
The only sustainable solution is reduction in usage. I'm not sure how feasible that is, or how to achieve it necessarily, but that's the only sustainable basis to proceed on.
This is actually why I 100% believe we will not be able to change any amount of global warming, and if anything will make it worse as more and more countries become industrialized.
The only way to reduce usage is to change our lifestyles. Less consumption, less travel, less of the 'modern conveniences' people in wealthy counties have become accustomed to.
Maybe I'm too cynical, but I genuinely believe humans are incapable, en masse, of that type of sacrifice - the tragedy of the commons and whatnot.
The only time something will change is when everything crashes down around us because of major disruption, famine, migration, and other life-altering events. Only then will we change, but not by choice - only because we will have exhausted all other options to keep our soft lives the same.
> The company tells me its offsets so far have focused mainly on capturing natural gas where it's escaping from pig farms and landfill sites. But arguably governments should be ensuring this happens anyway.