Talk About Quality

Tom Harris

The Carbon Rush

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Rarely does a topic stir up more controversy than code review. And global warming doesn’t either, though perhaps it should.

I was grateful for the opportunity to see Al Gore’s very slick hour-and-a-half documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, about global warming and carbon emissions. Whatever you may think of Gore, blatant promos for Apple laptops, or computer-generated tear-jerker sequences of drowning polar bears, it is worth seeing as a thought-provoking presentation.

Remember to think.

Some of the questions I was left with after recovering from the “mild thematic elements” (yes, that’s what gave it a PG rating) are:

  • What does “carbon neutral” mean? And “carbon offset”?
  • Are carbon subtraction programs working as planned?
  • Is carbon emission reduction going to save us from a global warming disaster?

Nothing is as simple as it seems.

Carbon neutral refers to “calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset. (Related term: carbon negative.) “

(If anyone has a more formal source than a word popularity article, let me know.)

Hmm. What about “carbon negative”? It’s easy to get distracted on the web, but the only real answer is planting more trees. (All that stuff about buying carbon dioxide emission reductions from other organizations is nonsense — not that it’s not helpful, but it’s not taking carbon out of the atmosphere – just paying for someone else to put less in rather than reducing one’s own emissions.) A bit disturbing to find, then, that even Friends of the Earth has raised concerns about how carbon-reduction tree planting is being carried out. Humbling too—one more example of how we never quite know the effects of one man-made intervention carried out to mitigate another.

Finally, if one can entertain the thought that world climate change might be a bit more complicated than a 100-minute movie, there’s short, medium, and long reading to be found at JunkScience.com.

What seems to me, though, is that the reductions—that are currently fashionable to call carbon emission reductions—are probably good for “old-fashioned” (1960’s) reasons: reduce landfill, keep air clean for breathing, improve personal health through exercise, and increase spiritual health by slowing down.

Will all this get lost in the Carbon Rush?

Written by Tom Harris

January 16, 2007 at 2:37 am

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