I have previously noted that the very concerned environmentalists could show that they aren’t hypocrites by using videoconferencing rather than taking long, fossil-fueled trips to bemoan the use of fossil fuels. Alas! my poor site is far too small to have any impact, but this opinion piece in The Washington Post might do more:
By Jack Miles¹ | November 2, 2017
According to former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres, we have only three years left in which to “bend the emissions curve downward” and forestall a terrifying cascade of climate-related catastrophes, much worse than what we’re already experiencing. Realistically, is there anything that you or I can do as individuals to make a significant difference in the short time remaining?
The answer is yes, and the good news is it won’t cost us a penny. It will actually save us money, and we won’t have to leave home to do it. Staying home, in fact, is the essence of making a big difference in a big hurry. That’s because nothing that we do pumps carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than air travel. Cancel a couple long flights, and you can halve your carbon footprint. Schedule a couple, and you can double or triple it.
Atmosfair is a German public interest group that recommends limiting your air travel to about 3,100 miles per year — if you live in Los Angeles, that’s one round-trip flight to Mexico City. If you must exceed that limit, Atmosfair invites you to compensate by sending conscience money on a prorated basis to support climate stabilization efforts around the world. Last fall, having accepted an invitation to speak in Morocco, I used this online calculator to determine the carbon cost of my trip. My seats alone on the round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Casablanca (with a layover in Paris) helped emit about 8,400 pounds of carbon dioxide, prorated, into the atmosphere. Double that because my wife accompanied me. In sum, our seats alone on the planes to and from Morocco helped unload about 16,800 pounds of carbon dioxide. And this, of course, was just a small fraction of the emissions cost of the flight as a whole.
I will admit it: I chuckled at the author’s concept of sending “conscience money” for taking an unnecessary trip. It’s all too reminiscent of Al Gore’s carbon credits scam, in which people and industries which won’t reduce their own ‘carbon footprints’ can ‘buy’ into the lower carbon footprint of people and companies which have lower emissions. It brings to mind the abuses of the Catholic Church in the sale of indulgences during the late medieval period, a particular corruption which helped lead to the Reformation started by Martin Luther.² Former Vice President Gore was once a divinity student at Vanderbilt, so it is quite probable that he knew of and understood the concept of indulgences.³
However, the author then continues, further down:
The delegates meeting in Bonn, Germany next week for the U.N. climate conference recognize this. “The lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions” from the COP23 conference, the organizers note, “is from long-distance air travel.” After the conference, a COP23 sustainability task force will tally up the overall carbon footprint and seek to offset as much as possible by buying certified emission reduction credits, many of which will go to green development projects in small island states in recognition of Fiji holding the presidency of this conference. . . . .
So for the love of the Earth, our common home, our only home, start conducting more remote work meetings and training sessions virtually. Inform those jet-setting friends that you won’t attend their destination wedding in the tropics — you’ll send a gift in the mail. Tell that conference organizer that while you’re honored to be invited, you would prefer to participate in live online sessions instead. Start taking vacations by train or car, rather than flying to Paris or beyond. Explain to your ecological public interest group that the Galápagos will be much better off without you. And please, all you professionals bouncing between New York City and Washington D.C., take a train, not a plane.
There’s more, of course, but it waxes spiritually in a way which will probably turn off more of the people he wishes to reach than it will inspire them. Nevertheless, the author makes an important point when he notes that the very delegates of the COP23 conference pointed out that, “The lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions is from long-distance air travel,” but weakens it by failing to mention that they took a whole bunch of long-distance air travel flights to get to COP23 in Bonn next week. Laughably enough, the hosts for COP23 will be the Republic of Fiji, which is just about as far away from Bonn as one can get and still be on this planet; the hosts will have to travel further than anybody else!
Perhaps the author considered, and rejected as too harsh, the word which he should have used; that word is hypocrisy! The plebeians among us — and that’s most of the world’s population — are quite able to see that when the patricians jet off all across the world to conferences designed to chide the rest of us about our greenhouse gas emissions, they are being rank hypocrites.
I don’t see that word as being too harsh; I see it as being both descriptive and coldly accurate, and we commoners are not particularly interested in being lectured to by hypocrites.
Staff writer Emily Atkin of The New Republic fatuously claimed that the hypocrisy of the left doesn’t matter, because they are doing so much good, don’t you know:
This is not to say that celebrities and other wealthy people should be given carte blanche to consume as much dirty energy as they want. If Gore and DiCaprio and Obama and Musk want to be good advocates of emission reductions, they should do as much as they can to signal that they’re doing their part. But if we’re to take this hypocrisy argument seriously, then every rich person who wants to advocate for climate action must live in the smallest home possible and bike to work and not fly anywhere; they’d have to give all their speeches via Skype, I guess. And unlike Tucker Carlson or Ann Coulter, who almost certainly have above-average carbon footprints, people like Gore are using their wealth for good. “He’s devoted his life to making sure we act in time to avert a global climate crisis,” the climate scientist Michael Mann told me. “The lowering of carbon emissions resulting from his efforts dwarfs whatever his own personal carbon footprint (which I know he is mindful of) might be.”
Well, yes, they should be giving all of their speeches via Skype! Mr Gore should be living in a home smaller than his 8,000 ft² home in Nashville, and his 6,500 ft² mansion in Montecito, California. Mr Gore is single, though possibly shacked up with his girlfriend; why does he need two homes, with 2,000 miles between them, when he is just so worried about climate change? Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter? Perhaps their carbon footprints are bigger than average, but they aren’t being hypocrites about it, because they aren’t lecturing people about the subject.
When the climate change mavens want to convince us that they are right, they ought to behave as though they take their own warnings seriously. When the Church of Climatastrophe wants to persuade us that we must all turn away from environmental sin, they ought to realize that we look at what they do, as well as hear what they say. Hypocrites never persuaded anyone.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.
¹ – Jack Miles, a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur “genius” award-winning author, was a contributor to the University of California’s “Bending the Curve” report on climate stability. His forthcoming book is “God in the Koran” (Alfred A. Knopf 2018).
² – This is not an anti-Catholic statement; I am, in fact, Catholic! But that does not mean I am unable to recognize that not everything the Church has done in the past has been noble or holy.
³ – Well, maybe: Mr Gore failed five out of eight classes he took in divinity school, before dropping out.