Carbon Consciousness & Action

Archive for the category “Stigmatizing Carbon Use”

Advertising and Climate: Who’s on Top?

Clean coalHave you ever seen a television ad or billboard asking you to cut your carbon usage?  Aside from a very small amount of innocuous advertising promoting energy efficiency, the vast majority of energy-related advertising promotes fossil fuel usage.   The coal industry has spent tens of millions of dollars on its “clean coal” campaign.    Oil giants such as BP and Chevron and their front organizations spend lavishly promoting their commitment to “meeting America’s energy demand.”    Auto companies such as GM, Ford, Toyota, and Chrysler are all among the top 15 U.S. advertisers, each spending billions of dollars annually to promote their gasoline-burning cars.   Climate-denial organizations and politicians have received nearly $1 billion from the Koch brothers and their allies to advance a carbon-friendly message in the media in recent years.  The combined power of this advertising explains a lot about the American public’s muddled and ambivalent attitude on climate issues. 

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Can Carbon Offsets Make A Comeback

Carbon OffsetsCarbon offsets allow users of carbon to “offset” their carbon use by funding projects which reduce an equal or greater amount of carbon emissions elsewhere. For example, a person who flies from Seattle to New York and back emits about 7,000 pounds of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere.  To counteract the emissions from the flight, a person can “buy an offset” to help fund a project (a typical project is purchasing high-efficiency cookstoves for people in Africa presently using carbon-spewing stoves) that will prevent 7,000 pounds of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.   By purchasing an offset, a person can theoretically make the cross-country flight without adding to the atmospheric over-saturation of CO2 that is threatening our planet.     Some people purchase offsets to counterbalance their entire carbon footprint, which averages about 17 tons or 34,000 pounds for the average American.  Most voluntary carbon offsets are purchased by businesses interested in “greening” the image of their business.

Given that carbon offsets provide just about the only way for individuals and businesses to zero out their carbon footprint, one would think that carbon offsets would be increasing popular, given growing concerns about global warming.  Just the opposite—voluntary carbon offset transactions in 2013 totaled only $78 million, off 42% from 2010 levels, and sufficient to offset only 9 million tons of CO2 (the CO2 emissions of 500,000 Americans).  A flurry of press articles and academic studies about carbon offsets from 2006-2010 has tapered to nearly nothing.  The last time the New York Times wrote about offsets was in 2007. Read more…

Calling Don Draper

don draper cropped and editedWhat if Americans came to view excess carbon use as obnoxious and socially irresponsible as bad breath?

Our carbon habit is deeply ingrained, not only by established patterns of automobile use, but also by oceans of advertising that have told us that self-realization and social approval can be achieved by driving a new Lexus, Lincoln, or other new car. We have internalized the message that gasoline and electricity multiply our personal power and pleasure, and that our ability to afford them is the only legitimate restraint on their use.

We perceive our discretionary CO2-emitting activities through the narrow prism of our personal utility, heedless of their environmental effect.  Commuting 70 miles a day in a big SUV?  I need a comfortable car because I drive a lot.  Flying from LA to New York for the weekend to catch a couple of shows?  I just love theater.

How can we break through our established patterns of behavior and consciousness with respect to carbon use?  Read more…

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