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15 Dec 2021 | OP ED Watch

It is fairly common among climate activists to condemn corporations for “greenwashing,” that is, pretending to be carbon-neutral and environmentally responsible purely as a matter of PR and without actually reducing their footprint. But Alex Epstein suggests that it’s worse than they think, because the reason even very woke outfits like Starbucks are faking it rather than making it isn’t that they’re lazy, greedy or hypocritical. It’s because genuine carbon neutrality is a pipe dream they share but cannot grasp when they get up from the couch and face the light of day.

It’s not just companies, of course. A great many governments are in a similar position, having made glittering promises that were as sincere as they were popular, only to go home and continue to burn fossil fuels or even burn more. For instance Japan, which talked a good game at COP26 (though not good enough for the usual suspects), while actually busy building 22 new coal-fired plants because it went to ill-advised war with its own nuclear industry after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. And now they’re trying to do something else with the coal plants, like burning ammonia or hydrogen. They really are. It just can’t be done in any economically sane way.

For all the abuse big corporations take Toyota is right on board, along with hundreds of Japanese firms big and small. Companies really love this stuff, and not only for the PR. A lot of their staff, from front-line sales to management, and many of their customers, are very much committed to the green vision. In Toyota’s case hydrogen cars not conventional battery-powered EVs. (Which Elon Musk has called “stupid”, incidentally. But then, he’s a battery guy.)

So where to get hydrogen? Especially if you’re allergic to nuclear? Well, you simply burn fossil fuels in large amounts, then capture and store the carbon. But as the BBC blurted out, “Climate change campaigners are horrified by this plan. They say the technology to capture and store greenhouse gases is unproven and it will lock Japan into digging up vast quantities of brown coal for decades to come.” Which it will.

The BBC goes further, in an economically sensible direction for once, and quotes an expert that “Using fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage will always be more expensive than using fossil fuels alone, and now in many parts of the world renewable electricity is already cheaper than fossil fuels without carbon capture.” The first part of which is true. Besides, as Paul Homewood points out, if carbon capture works, it’s more efficient to use it directly on coal plants generating power, and never mind coal plants generating hydrogen or other “pie in the sky”.

Nuclear doesn’t need carbon capture, of course. And as of 2010 about a third of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear. But now it’s down to about one fifteenth. And you have to get power from somewhere. Even if you’re a big company or a super-woke government.

In fact NBC recently produced an exposé on a “Crude reality: One U.S. state consumes half the oil from the Amazon rainforest” and it’s not some deep red Trump state. It’s woke California, whose government cannot possibly be supposed to be full of people cynically faking it. And yet “As oil companies carve up more of the rainforest, a new study says no place in the world uses more oil from beneath the Amazon than California.” Well boo oil companies. And for that matter, if you want, boo the Ecuadorian “state-run oil company that subcontracts its field operations to the Chinese… building a road to reach what will be a new section of wells deep inside Yasuní.” But boo Gavin Newsom?

Even activists are vulnerable. In a revealing Guardian essay “Why climate-change gardening means breaking all the rules” Kim Stoddart, “a gardening journalist and editor of The Organic Way magazine” who also “runs climate change gardening courses through her social enterprise Green Rocket”, talks about having moved to Wales a decade ago to escape the rising seas and grow organic veggies. “Concerns about the climate crisis were at the heart of my move: I was living at sea level, near an underground river, and worried about flooding…. After considering the options – Spain (extreme heat) and New Zealand (attractive but too far away) – I decided on Wales.”

Which turned out to be cold, so to growth her veggies required her to put up “polytunnels.”  But Eric Worrall swoops in to observe that “Polytunnels are cheap plastic greenhouses… the cheap plastic Polythene is produced from ethylene, a petroleum product.” And then he says “But a Guardian gardening expert expressing surprise that Mediterranean vegetables refuse to grow on a Welsh hilltop, without lots of help from our friend plastic – what was she expecting? Did she really think global warming had already made Northern Welsh hills a suitable location for warm climate vegetables?” Even though “The BBC predicted in 2005 that Britain would have a Mediterranean climate by 2050.”

As for companies, NBC reports that “Corporations are turning to forest credits in the race to go ‘carbon-neutral.’” But, it immediately adds, “Advocates worry about ‘greenwashing.’ Environmental groups warn the system doesn’t deliver the carbon reductions promised but offers companies a way to avoid the tougher work of actually cutting emissions.” Now it would be tempting, to a certain mindset, to assume that right-wing denialist CEOs are cooking the books and the planet. But what if the executive suites are staffed by people who have believed since college that carbon offsets work and that, indeed, simple solutions are available if only someone cared.

6 comments on “Brownwashing”

  1. When are 'journalists' going to learn the simple facts of CO2 biology? When are they going to learn that without CO2, all life dies? BECAUSE LIFE ON EARTH IS CARBON BASED! That is not controversial science. It is one hundred year old biology. The most common element in any living organism is oxygen - because life is made from little carbon sacks of water (H2Oxygen). The second most abundant element is carbon. We call these little carbon sacks of water cells. Again, life cannot exist without carbon dioxide. Life is made of it. What journalists don't know is that life essential CO2 has been dangerously and inexorably DECLINING from life luxuriant levels more than twenty times those of today at life's birth. Declining to within 30ppm of a lack of CO2 DEATH OF ALL LIFE ON EARTH. A tiny increase in this dangerously low margin for the security of life on earth dangerously not enough. Using fossil fuels recycles life essential CO2. More CO2 (120ppm, a 41% increase) has been the best thing to happen to the environment (and agriculture) human beings have ever contributed. It has made the environment greener, stronger, more drought tolerant, and more abundant. Using fossil fuels not only make us the best fed, longest living, most prosperous human beings that have ever existed. Using them makes them the ONLY GREEN ENERGY! Because using fossil fuels recycles the dangerously low levels of life essential CO2. Remember, a 41% increase from next to nothing is still next to nothing. Any increase in CO2 in an environment starving for it is a good green thing. The science of the CO2 fertilization effect is very simple and clear. Unlike childhood indoctrinators and fearmongers - more CO2 makes fossil fuels THE ONLY GREEN ENERGY. Hardly pollution. And that applies to any level of CO2 less than 2,000ppm. Yet television 'journalists' are completely silent on CO2 biology! These science naive 'journalists' are also naive about the science of climate. They speak of it as if climate began at the moment they became aware of it! As if before they first made their inaccurate assumptions of the relationship between CO2 and temperature, climate was in some sort of unchanging steady state. It was not. They appear completely ignorant that CO2 FOLLOWS temperature changes. That CO2 goes up and down with temperature because CO2 solubility is temperature dependent. As water warms, CO2 outgasses - and vice versa. Warm a bottle of soda and watch the cap blow off (do it safely!). That is CO2 outgassing. Temperatures remain well within the natural levels of the last three million years of the Pleistocene/Quaternary Ice Age. Yet on television we hear fearmongers and indoctrinators of schoolchildren spew their ignorance and baselessly frighten schoolchildren. Ignorance of CO2 biology. Ignorance of climate. Fossil fuels are the only green energy. Climate moves in two great natural cycles. The one hundred thousand year twelve degree C ranged Milankovitch Eccentricity driven cycle. In which temperature ranges so much that in glacial (coldest eight degrees C) phases, ice sheets thousands of feet thick accumulate and advance to latitudes as far south as NYC! And interglacial phases (warmest four degrees C) when ice sheets retreat to today's polar regions. As Bjorn Lomborg, author of several climate books (including "False Alarm" says, the climate is ten times safer today than one hundred years ago. And Dr. Patrick Moore, cofounder of Greenpeace says in his latest book "Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom", more CO2 has been great for the environment! Do not fall for the CO2 driven climate fraud. It has no basis in science. Warmer with more CO2 is ALWAYS better.

  2. By and large, the term 'climate science' is a misnomer. It should be 'climate religion'. Religions do not require facts or logical consistency, they merely require faith. Of course, a few saints and prophets come in handy as well. The climate religion has Saint Al Gore, the Holy Prophet David Suzuki, and the ever-reliable Cassandra of Climate, Saint Greta the Grumpy. Most journalists, with a few honorable exceptions, are merely choirboys singing anthems of praise in the cathedrals of climate. Repent ye, O ye SUV-driving sinners, for the day of judgement is at hand!

  3. The same people that engage in green/ brown-washing are those that are morally comfortable with rent seeking. Truth and honesty are trumped by expediency and short term goal accomplishment. In a world awash in deceit, truth can be seen as radically unacceptable. It certainly doesn't sell at the polls.

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