11 April 2010

Global Warming & the Question of Good Versus Evil

Advocates of the Global Warming Hypothesis (aka Climate Change) are quick to disparage the morals and the motives of anyone who disagrees with them.  Although there are legitimate scientific questions about the extent to which human activities contribute to the recent trend of climate changes or GW-related phenomena (here, here, and here, for example), the advocates of GW label their skeptics as antiscientific “deniers” (an emotional play on holocaust deniers or evolution deniers) who are slimeballs in the pay of industries that spew CO2 into the air, like the coal industry -- the subliminal implication being that conflicts of interest lie on only one side of the issue.  In this portrayal, anyone who disagrees with them would destroy the world in their selfish lust for money and power or is an unwitting pawn of such people.

But this Manichaean portrayal of good versus evil hides the fact that huge amounts of money are at stake on both sides of the issue.  Financial speculators stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars off of the unknowable economics of carbon trading, for example.   Think about the possibilities for new derivitives: Bundled mortgage instruments are far easier to understand than bundles of carbon credits derived from the carbon sucking characteristics of forest planting subsidies (bundles of trees whose carbon sucking power varies over time according to the weather and season and the age of the trees, inter alia).  If you think derivatives like credit default swaps were undecipherable and difficult to regulate, just wait until you try to understand or regulate bundled carbon swaps.  That vultures like Goldman Sachs are licking their chops at the financial carrion implicit in the emerging carbon trading market ought to be seen as a giant waving red flag in this regard. 

The attached article in today’s Observer shines a tiny ray of sunshine into one dark corner of the question of conflict of interests among these self-styled “good guys.”


Carbon credit documentary should not have been shown, BBC admits
CorporationactsonObserverinvestigationintosecretivetrust linked to socialite Robin Birley that funded film on his carbon credits firm, Envirotrade
Mark Olden and Michael Gillard, The Observer, Sunday 11 April 2010
A BBC documentary about socialite Robin Birley and his carbon credits business venture in Africa should never have been broadcast, an internal inquiry by the corporation has found. Millions of viewers were misled because the sympathetic documentary shown on BBC World News failed to declare that it was financed by a secretive trust that was linked to Birley.
The BBC acted in response to an Observer investigation into Birley's "philanthropy capitalism" venture in Mozambique. Taxpayers' money was used to subsidise poor farmers there to protect forests and plant trees that absorb carbon dioxide. Envirotrade, Birley's company, then sells "carbon credits" to celebrities and businesses wanting to offset their emissions. Customers who used Birley's venture to offset emissions included the agency that handles Brad Pitt and George Clooney.  (more)