Carbon trading; another con?

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boomer47's picture
Carbon trading; another con?

I've probably misunderstood the concept. Perhaps one more knowledgable than I will explain it to me.

I have only one question. Does the trading of carbon credits directly result in an immediate net decrease in carbon emissions? Not entirely convinced that say planting X million trees really counts immediately.

In trying to get my head around carbon trading, alI can see is a manipulation of figures, but no obvious benefit ,except to industry business

Gee, I wish Edward de Bono was still with us.

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Nyarlathotep's picture
When trees grow, they take

When trees grow, they take CO2 from the atmosphere to make wood. When the tree dies and is consumed by other life forms (or fire) they release CO2 back into the atmosphere.

It seems most plans we hear discussed never seem to address how this release will be prevented.

boomer47's picture


"It seems most plans we hear discussed never seem to address how this release will be prevented."

That's my thought too. I have not yet seen any plan which will reduce carbon emissions immediately. Eg ceasing ANY use of fossil fuels right now. --

Greta Thunberg is calling for the cessation of use of fossil fuels right now. Specifically, coal. (of which Oz has a surfeit) Naive? In expecting it to happen certainly. However, I think she's right. Industry is like the man warned for years about smoking and health. but disbelieves the science

While profit may still be made, industry will never agree. Industry and politicians insist on giving economic and political answers to a dire environmental problem . That is their nature, they can do nothing else.

About 20 years ago, I was of the opinion that renewable energy would occur as soon as it was profitable. That is beginning to happen, but far too slowly imo ----- In 1985 it was my understanding that a 20% reduction in carbon emission was needed AT THAT TIME. That within ten years it would be too late, no matter what we did. From the changes I've observed, that prophecy seems about right.

As part of the generation responsible for the present catastrophe, it seems to me there is still a chance I will die before climate change becomes personally inconvenient . (too hot for a/c to cope, my coastal city under water, that kind of thing) ----although I will be grateful if that is the case, it seems most unjust to me.

I call myself a misanthrope . This because so far, I have been unable to underestimate human stupidity and/or greed.

It is my sincere belief that the best thing which could possibly happen to the environment is the extinction of the human race.

The excellent documentary series 'Life After People' opines that it will take one million years before all trace of humanity is gone.

Who knows if sentient life will evolve again before our sun becomes a white dwarf .

algebe's picture
@Cranky47: It is my sincere

@Cranky47: It is my sincere belief that the best thing which could possibly happen to the environment is the extinction of the human race

That's a bit harsh. It'd be a duller world without us, and what's the point of the natural world with no David Attenboroughs to glorify it?

We've come a long way since WW2. Wars and poverty are vanishing, and we're even making progress on the environment. We have the brain power and the technology to fix environmental problems without causing mass poverty and disruption, but it will take some serious talking among the grown-ups. So Greta and Donald and Scomo should leave the room.

LogicFTW's picture
Fortunately, or perhaps

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I put humans high on the list of survivors of massive climate change disaster. Sure human populations will shrink massively, down to just thousands instead of billions, but I think it is likely humans will survive it, unless there's an event like a nuclear war that wipes out all but the most hardy (usually small more basic) life.

Even the very worst case scenario of climate change does not seem to me to be likely to end humanity, but life will get a whole lot harder than it is now for billions.

David Killens's picture
Not all carbons are released

Not all carbons are released back into the atmosphere when a tree dies. Many become fossilized, turn to oil or coal, and lay dormant beneath the surface for millions of years. Plate tectonics and other geological activities will eventually release this carbon back to the surface, but with so must stored underground, our desire for more power has mankind extracting and releasing carbon on a massive scale, a rate that the trees just cannot keep up with.

Sadly, the rate of carbon emissions is directly linked to mankind's progress in industry.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Not all carbons are released

David Killens - Not all carbons are released back into the atmosphere when a tree dies. Many become fossilized, turn to oil or coal, and lay dormant beneath the surface for millions of years.

That is what I'm concerned about. 300 million years ago the planet was covered with huge swampy forests, so when the trees dies they often fell into the water where the normal process of being broken down (which releases the CO2) was prevented, and the outcome eventually was coal.

I'm no expert, but I'm concerned that since the planet isn't a giant swamp anymore, that just planting trees without a scheme to prevent them from releasing their carbon seems kind of like chasing your tail.

David Killens's picture
Before the industrial

Before the industrial revolution, this planet was in balance between carbon being buried, and carbon being released. But once mankind started extracting and burning oil and coal on a global scale, that balance has definitely tipped towards carbon building up.

Planting trees is yes, a step in the right direction. But it is so small in comparison to ANNUAL global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide totaling 32.5 billion metric tons. it barely qualifies as a symbolic gesture.

Nyarlathotep's picture
@ David

@ David
Right! The combustion of coal and oil is returning all the carbon that was sequestered in the past, to the atmosphere today. It is my guess that it is going to have to be "re-sequestered" somehow. And I have no idea how we are going to undo what we have done.

boomer47's picture


"I'm no expert, but I'm concerned that since the planet isn't a giant swamp anymore,---"

Just so ,me neither, but I'll give my opinion anyway:

My understanding is that much of the primeval forrest and swaps were buried and frozen by the permafrost, which has begun to melt. That means that organic matter will begin to decompose, releasing I- have- no- idea- how- many- millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere.

The more I learn the more convinced I become that we humans are a very temporary species indeed. The genesis of homo sapiens is a mere 200,000 years at best (Africa) and as little as 40,000 years elsewhere---and THAT is why Australian aboriginal existence in Australia of between 40 and 60,000 years is such a big deal..

It is my opinion that our ability to change our environment meet our needs and a plethora of artifacts are not indicators of a successful species, but the opposite. The truly successful species ,such as sharks, crocodilians, and even whales and dolphins are sublimely adapted to their environment.

Grinseed's picture
I'd have to agree with you

I'd have to agree with you Cranky.

When the carbon trading concept first came up I thought it was simply an economist's solution for an environmental problem that satisfied fossil fuel investors with a new market they could rort, while at the same time offering a comforting sense of "something being done" for environmentalists.
Saving the biosphere with a nicely balanced set of ledgers seems like sending Carlton Football club to stand in for the Sydney Opera Company to perform La Traviata.
I remain open to reasonable explanations of how this is supposed to work.

David Killens's picture
I do not know the intent of

I do not know the intent of the framers of this carbon trading concept. But since it came from the Kyoto Protocol, it appears to be an initial step in curbing emissions while also keeping industries less hostile.

Instead of imposing a hard ceiling on emissions, this is more a form of tax.

David Killens's picture
From Wiki https://en

From Wiki

"Under Carbon trading, a country or a polluter having more emissions of carbon is able to purchase the right to emit more and the country or entity having fewer emissions sells the right to emit carbon to other countries or entities. The countries or polluting entities emitting more carbon thereby satisfy their carbon emission requirements, and the trading market results in the most cost-effective carbon reduction methods being exploited first."

The Kyoto Protocol began this process, where an attempt is being made to put a cap on carbon emissions by placing a monetary value on it. In theory it appears reasonable, but if one nation/entity already enjoys a low carbon emission footprint, then selling some carbon just adds the overall carbon emissions.

And of course, billions of dollars are at stake, the coal and oil industries do not want to have limits placed on their production, translated .. profits. And it is a statistical fact that a company investing a certain amount of money into "persuading" politicians yields a very positive return. Spend a hundred million buying off politicians, the positive impact is billions in added revenue.

algebe's picture
@Cranky47: Not entirely

@Cranky47: Not entirely convinced that say planting X million trees really counts immediately.

A tree consumes carbon from the moment it starts growing, so planting (or conserving) trees helps to offset carbon emissions. Of course, if you mismanage your forests so badly that they're constantly catching fire, then you're wasting your time.

If the trees are harvested as timber or even paper, the carbon remains trapped until those resources are burned or rotted. One thing I'm not sure about is biomass power generation. One of my clients owns huge areas of forest. Prunings and other debris are collected and burned in a power plant. They claim that's carbon neutral, since carbon was previously sucked out of the air to make the branches. I'm not so sure, but they also operate large-scale wind and solar facilities, so maybe they can be forgiven.

I like the concept of carbon trading and carbon taxes as a way of making polluters pick up the cost of their "externalities". If coal mining and coal-fired power generation were forced to pay for their externalities, they wouldn't be economical. Australia badly needs some politicians who can see beyond the shortsighed "dig it up and ship it out" mentality.

Whitefire13's picture
Just a simple comment back to

Just a simple comment back to your original question...
A tax on the air we breath

We have carbon taxes in Canada... yet we are low on the list of emissions

I know from past experience anytime humans start making money off a “problem” that problem doesn’t get “fixed”

Nyarlathotep's picture
Whitefire13 - I know from

Whitefire13 - I know from past experience anytime humans start making money off a “problem” that problem doesn’t get “fixed”

I'm so cynical, I'd say that not only will it not get fixed, it will get worse.

LogicFTW's picture
Going by historical data

Going by historical data human created greenhouse gas emissions are only going to go up, well at least until we have a massive global recession.

The only slight dip in growth we have seen in global emissions so far, since scientist have been raising the alarms, occured in 2009, and 2010, after the 2009 global recession. But not to worry! any dip we have had back then has been made up nicely in the last 10 years. Leaving the graph of total emissions showing nothing but increases.

The problem is well set to only get far worse. Cap and trade if fully implemented may slow down this growth, but most cap and trade plans are forced to compromise to allow emission growth, somewhere. And cap and trade only covers co2. While co2 is the majority of greenhouse gases, its does not cover everything, we could stop all co2 emission growth, and still have a huge problem on our hands.

I personally plan to live at least another 40 years. We have a lot of climate change already locked in, even if we did 0 emissions everywhere starting tomorrow, (impossible task) we likely have 2 degrees celsius already locked in. I am actually looking around and seeing which place I can live in the world that will be least impacted by this, to build the home I plan to retire at. I am certainly not expecting us to "fix" this problem. I expect it will just get worse.

"insert frog and pot of water on the stove analogy here"

David Killens's picture
@ Nyarlathotep

@ Nyarlathotep

"I'm so cynical, I'd say that not only will it not get fixed, it will get worse."

Trump is elected November 2016, on June 2017 pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

If the big oil and coal companies stand to lose billions from the Paris Agreement or just spend a few hundred million buying out politicians to just step away from an international agreement, to them it is just doing business.

Trump's own words.

“As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord—and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,”

Rizike's picture
Internal waves are gravity

[from a moderator: plagiarized post removed; if you need to refer to the work of others, post a link to it, or at least denote who's work you are using --Nyarlathotep]


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Whitefire13's picture
Logic... ugh I hate that

Logic... ugh I hate that analogy ...

We are not frogs.

I can usually sit in a hot tub for a certain amount of time. If some gradually turned up the heat, I’d get my skinny old ass out of there!

I know humans have contributed - how much? I don’t think that’s clear. I also know the earth’s climate changes. How much is natural...I don’t know.

I grew up in an era of acid rain, holes in the ozone, mass famine, litter, no seatbelt laws, major air pollution...

Again, my experience and rule of thumb - if there is fear, if there is propaganda- I’m being “sold” something.

LogicFTW's picture


Ah sorry, yeah its a tired analogy, used way too much, can you think of another one that states the same idea that is as well known/understood?

Actual human timelines, my guess it is more like quarterly, if it is not going to change much in the next 3 months, then human nature tends to not do much about it. Certainly not many of the biggest contributors of human caused greenhouse gas emissions, that only care about their quarterly profits along with profit growth trajectories.

I know humans have contributed - how much? I don’t think that’s clear. I also know the earth’s climate changes. How much is natural...I don’t know.

Humans have certainly contributed more then what is natural. Yes the climate changes, they have ice cores that goes back 2.7 million years now. And it shows a record of climate change. What is also tells us, is never before in 2.7 million years have we seen such a rapid rise in co2 levels, and co2 concentrations in 2020 are significantly higher than at any point in the last 2.7 million years, that.. normal cycle of up and down has been thrown out of whack.

Again, my experience and rule of thumb - if there is fear, if there is propaganda- I’m being “sold” something.

I do agree, and I have often idly wondered if climate change was was some giant 50 year old world wide hoax. Ya know a bit like the 1000's of year old religion hoaxes that many people on this board are aware of.

Then I consider the odds: the odds of a truly massive global conspiracy to create this fiction that no one has been able to uncover for the last 100 years or so, or that, ya know we are right to fear the consequences of human caused climate change.

And even if we were not able to conclusively evidence it one way or another, do you really want to take a gamble that the "climate alarmist" are NOT wrong?

And that graph does not even cover other signficant activity by humans such as deforestation loss, and terraforming/farm activity (especially for meat) as they are difficult to measure.

Then look at: say, this graph:

And that graph does not even include the 2.7 million year old core. (basically you can draw that graph and it will look largely the same, back 2.7 million years instead of stopping at 800k years ago.)

Either you can say that these graphs are a lie or some sort of trickery, or that they paint a very alarming picture.

All that said, I am actually most over the "fear" of climate change. Everything I have learned in this life tells me humans are going to do far too little far too late. And worrying about something I can do nothing about, to me is a pointless waste of time.

The way I see it, our only real hope is that we figure out a way to extract greenhouse gases from our atmosphere before the damage is too great to make it possible to sustain 7.8+ billion human lives. Most of the biological diversity is effed, but that already been well underway for some time now. We humans already have caused the 6th or 7th largest mass extinction event in the history of complex life on this planet, and we are just getting started on our environmentally destructive capabilities.

Meanwhile I am going to plan ahead so that the effects of climate change will be more minimal to me and the people I care about in my lifespan.

To end on a more positive note, I never cease to be amazed at the planet's and the life on it, ability to recover and continue on the life on this planet already survived 5 major extinction events. And we humans will likely adapt to a new climate reality. We can all go vegan, stop commuting everywhere, get off our fossil fuel addiction, and get rid of our green lawn fascination, and even if we lose 90% of our food and potable water, we won't starve, well as long as we do not have massive wars over dwindling water/food resources.

Ever try an impossible burger? It's pretty good, I suspect this sort of food tech will only get better.

boomer47's picture


"That's a bit harsh. "

Mate it's only my sincere and brutally honest opinion, not a moral judgement . IE cause and effect.

"It'd be a duller world without us," What on earth has that got to do with anything? Duller to whom? Do you think animals would be bored without us? Apart from most the domesticated ones, which would probably die, wild ones would either not notice or be indifferent.

"--- and what's the point of the natural world with no David Attenboroughs to glorify it?"

In context of my comment, a pretty flippant answer, although I must admit he bores me.

I've made it perfectly clear that I am a misanthrope** and was expressing a sincere opinion.

I don't expect anyone to necessarily agree. I also appreciate wit, but not witless comments which dismiss or trivialise my position.

What a can I say? I'm a cranky old crunt and sometimes I bite. .



"Definition of misanthrope
: a person who hates or distrusts humankind"

I don't hate mankind, but I most certainly don't like or trust us as a species . However, there are a few people I care about (first degree blood relatives) ,and some more I quite like, as on this forum for example. Overall, that must add up to at least 50 people!

algebe's picture
@cranky: I also appreciate

@cranky: I also appreciate wit, but not witless comments which dismiss or trivialise my position.

Actually I was trying to raise a more profound point. Human beings are the only known bearers of intelligence, and I see meaning and value in our efforts to explore and understand the world. David A. symbolizes that. I may be biased, but I also see humanity as by the far the most interesting phenomenon to emerge in the 4 billion year history of Earth. Interesting for whom? Valuable for whom? I don't know. Those are big questions that we should continue to ask. Nihilism is one answer, and religion is another. I think we can find better ones.

I also feel that you're condemning mankind unfairly. Despite our intelligence, we're still part of the natural world, and our actions and their consequences are largely driven by the attributes that evolution has given us. We may have intelligence (and perhaps a smidgen of free will) as individuals, but collectively we're as mindless as a swarm of locusts. We eat everything and shit everywhere. We surrender our judgment and reason to Hitlers and Trumps.

Now at last we're gradually starting to rise above our deterministic destiny as products of nature. We're developing a sense of responsibility as a species thanks to technology that lets us share ideas and information at the speed of light. But it's really hard, because we also have to make a living while we take stewardship over the well-being of this planet.

Whitefire13's picture
...cranky... George Carlin

...cranky... George Carlin “what are we all worried about - the earth will still be here”

I loved that line!

Whitefire13's picture I know what you I know what you mean (the analogy)...

I was thinking about the fuckin ice-age that covered where I live (Alberta) also, thankfully the home of the Tyrell Museum when we had tropical climate and dinos.

I’m not a quarterly forecaster but it does play apart in our earth’s current condition. Fukushima still spouting shit?

Judging by our group behaviour, the pulling/pushing - I’m not too worried that we won’t come through this.

And if we, as a species, don’t- well hell, we’ll just join the bejillions that are extinct.

Either way I’m enjoying the ride I’m in with my loved ones.

David Killens's picture
I lived near Red Deer

I lived near Red Deer (Penhold) for four years MANY years ago.

boomer47's picture
I understand and respect you

I understand and respect you position. I suspect our life experiences/perceptions may be a bit different, as I'm unable to agree with your views.

I am happy to agree to differ; we are each only expressing our opinion. Who is to say which of us is right, if either?

These days I appreciate each day, and am usually more content than than dis. I do tend to get a bit dismayed from time to time at how swiftly time passes. Seems as if another year has passed every time I blink.

Whitefire13's picture
Cranky... accepted and back

Cranky... accepted and back at you. I wish text could relay more of the “in person” nuances of conversation, because my intention isn’t to be harsh or obstinate... my George Carlin reference was for the humor. Obviously “we” want to save ourself but the humor is we refer to ourself as “earth”, when really it’s a planet that will outlive us all.

Logic ... I looked at the link charts, were both the same (link error?). Wow. We are literally “off the charts”.

Only one thing that raises my ire and that was you used Pascal - keep triggering me - ugh

Probably unaware of the similarity... I am environmentally conscious, but I experience things that I fucking hate tied to climate change. My grocery store changed from plastic to paper bags (if you forget to bring your own). The bags are thin and shitty... can only carry one at a time and ripped in my driveway. Plus they are paper! Don’t trees help reduce co2? And why aren’t we moving to hemp based plastics or paper? Or why doesn’t a car carburetor get more fuel mileage?

There are things we are capable of doing but are not doing - instead we are taxing the air we breath, “trading carbon credits” making money, and setting a mad little girl out on the world stage.

I see areas of the world that are using solar panels in sidewalks (awesome) but then I see these monstrosity of solar farms.

Perhaps I’m behind the curve with climate change...I sure the fuck was with science in general.
And I have biases as I live rural with oil and farming being a main economic base ...

And perhaps we as a species are just going through our growing pains in getting some things “right” and some things “wrong” as we balance out our use of these new toys and resources.

This is a pleasure to chat like this.

Whitefire13's picture
I checked the Tyrell museum

I checked the Tyrell museum on Alberta about 64 odd sum million years ago ... our climate back then. We had a annual temperature of 20c (68f) and high co2 (no number). Today we have an average annual temp of 13.7c (56.6f)

My guess is I’m biased because I also want to turn the heat up, up here (smiley face). It gets fuckin cold!
...or earth wants her dinosaurs back... mammals have caused too much shit...

LogicFTW's picture
Yeah, I have been to Alberta

Yeah, I have been to Alberta several times, but only in the summer, Edmonton is a cool place, I even kept driving north, all the way to Yellowknife in NWT, to basically where the road ended and I could not drive any further north.

Cold does not bother me much, but I have not experienced north Alberta winters cold. Where it stays well below freezing for many months. It dipped down to -20 celcius in Colorado last week, and I remember thinking, oh hey a cold front pushed down from canada/alberta, got a small glimpse of what it is like all the time up north in Alberta.

But yeah our planet's history is fascinating. Amazing to think at one point most of Colorado was a vast sea, and what we call Alberta at one point in the past was a tropical jungle, going back enough millions of years in the past.

Whitefire13's picture
-20 eh, you softy (wink) last

-20 eh, you softy (wink) last month we dropped to -40 I was outside in an unzipped hoodie and flip flops at -20. We’re positively sweating now it’s -2!

We’re due to head back to -20

Up down up down... we have a saying here in Alberta if you don’t like the weather wait 10 min.

I love our is fascinating. And I’m a horrible optimist.


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