Along with a Sunday night Oscar win and accompanying praise for his work on the issue of global warming, Al Gore received a heaping serving of criticism this week for his personal energy consumption. Gore’s defense to the criticism could eventually require some peculiar political posturing.
This week the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (http://www.tennesseepolicy.org/main/article.php?article_id=367) made public the energy consumption figures for one of Gore’s several homes, revealing consumption more than twenty times that of the average American home. Others have criticized Gore’s frequent use of private jets.
Gore’s response to criticism of his energy lifestyle choices, and of the apparent hypocrisy on the issue, was to say that he purchases carbon offsets to make up for the private jet trips and energy gobbling mansions.
Carbon offsets are currently the favorite defense of rich “do as I say, not as I do” celebrities when confronted with exposure of their lavish, and not so eco-friendly lifestyles.
Carbon offsets are explained at My Carbon Debt.com (http://www.mycarbondebt.com/) as follows: “Offsetting is the process by which you pay someone to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere by the exact amount that your day to day activities increase it, thus paying your Carbon Debt, and neutralizing your impact on the environment. “ One popular carbon offset is tree planting. Another is the purchase of carbon credits for companies and groups that promote and engage in activities that reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Putting aside for the moment whether or not anything man can do can affect global climate change, the concept of offsets presents some interesting political challenges for those promoting it.
One of those challenges is moral and ethical in nature. If global warming is truly a dire threat to the existence of life on earth as Gore and others claim, and if human activity contributes to the problem, what could possibly justify the excessive (I would even say obscene) energy consumption of Gore and other limousine liberals? If paying someone else to behave better than you do (through offsets) is a sufficient answer, I have to wonder just how real the problem is. I also wonder just how much bad behavior can be forgiven with the purchase of offsets.