Answering Richard Dudley’s question:
How is this proposal moved toward implementation, or has that already been done?
This proposal has NOT been formalized into a motion. At this point, Allyson and I are simply encouraging conversation and discussion, in this Forum (for the Society members at large), at the Environmental SIG bulletin board (for those keenly interested in environmental issues), and within the Policy Council listserv (to access if there is support to implement it).
As Allyson stated, the views presented in this Forum will be aggregated and made available to the Winter PC meeting, and will help contribute to the decision to move forward (or not).
Bill Braun points to an important aspect involving offsets.
Are they verifiable?
That is, how do we know that the money donated is being invested in the ways that it was supposed to? What percentage of the contribution is reaching its purpose, as opposed to being consumed by overhead, for example?
I was not personally involved in the choice to set up CarbonFund.com as our provider for this service at the Albuquerque Conference. We asked that members of the Environmental SIG help us sort through these issues, make a choice and set it up for us (as a separate opt "in" feature). To the extent my knowledge:
"Carbonfund.org is a carbon offset organization that is non-profit(1), durable and third party verified(2), used by reputable academic institutions(3), NGO’s(4), and is endorsed by the Environmental Defense Fund(5)." (info provided by Allyson Beall)
Points 1-5 are substantiated at the bottom of this message.
Although, as you can see, deliberate thought and consideration was applied to this choice, it may need to be revisited, to the extent that problems with are identified and substantiated, and we come to learn about better alternatives. Perhaps another provider should be chosen to work with for the Seoul Conference. I don't know. I leave it to others, better informed than I, to make this evaluation.
In addition to verifiability, at least two other criteria are of utmost importance when evaluating offset options:
Are the they durable?
Better investments are those which last the longest. Planting trees is a good thing in general, provided the current pace of deforestation. However, a tree will only sequester carbon while it is alive. Once it is chopped down or dies, it releases its carbon back in the environment. If the investment is going toward planting trees which are then being harvested for wood, it is not as effective as if it is for establishing a preserve, for example.
Are the offsets non compensatory?
One example of a loophole here is for a large land owner to dedicate a portion of his land as a preserve, receiving credits for it, but then cutting down everything around it for raising cattle. All of the offsetting did, in this case, was to generate money and good will for the rancher to raise his cattle. Conceivably, he was going to leave an area untouched anyway. Similarly, it does not alleviate the problem to finance wind and solar projects that were bound to take place anyway. Ideally, we should invest in things that would not otherwise happen.
I used examples which involve planting trees and preventing deforestation, but Carbonfund.com, as well as other organizations offer offsets to be applied to energy efficiency (e.g., better insulation), and non-carbon energy sources (notwithstanding the issues mentioned above regarding, for example, wind and solar projects.
I would like to conclude by encouraging all of us to educate ourselves on the subject of offsets, as they may be an effective mitigation option to slow down the pace of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but they are not without their shortcomings and problems. The Wiki is a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_offset
. (As a separate message, I include an abridged summary.)
While carbon offsets may treat the symptoms but not the true cause of the climate change problems we are experiencing (for those of us who believe there is
a causal link between accumulation of green-house gasses in the atmosphere, and increasing global temperatures), it is still something that is within our reach to do in the context of our travel to the SD annual conferences.
This is not simply an individual issue and choice, however, to the extent that the Society promotes these conferences. Therefore we feel it is not only desirable, but actually recommended (or perhaps required), that the Society takes a proactive standing in affording a proper mechanism to address the problem that it is contributing to.
What we are proposing is primarily:
a) That the SD Society declare as its policy, to strive toward holding carbon neutral conferences
b) That in order to achieve this goal, it will begin including a carbon-offset fee (optional) in the cost of registration
c) That, to preserve individual choice, and to respect differing points of view, anyone who does not wish to participate may opt “out” during the registration process
As of today, there have been 265 viewings of this topic on the Forum, but only three postings from people other than the proponents of this initiative. Please consider stating your views on this subject, asking questions, and otherwise taking part of this conversation.
(1) http://www.carbonfund.org/site/pages/fa ... statements
(2) http://www.carbonfund.org/site/pages/ou ... _Selection
(3) http://www.carbonfund.org/site/pages/ou ... rs_schools
(4) http://www.carbonfund.org/site/pages/ou ... nonprofits