Carbon accounting

Element Descriptor

Understanding the basic games that get played with “carbon accounting” – to make it look like something meaningful is being done when, um, nothing is, is a key skill for climate activists. Not having it means wool can be pulled over eyes….

Level descriptors

You can understand and explain the basic differences between consumption and production based metrics, and help other people understand scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions…You can explain where carbon accounting comes from, why some are so enthused by it, the uses to which it is put, and the ways inconvenient truths get massaged onto someone else’s problem list, at a local, national and even international level.You can trace the shifting patterns of justification for carbon accounting, the way that rhetorical devices are deployed for the benefit of whoever is paying for the accounting to be done, and the ways that it ties into a broader depoliticising and grotesquely neoliberal agenda of ecological modernisation and general technocratic shitfuckeryYou know all the tricks and sneakiness in shifting baselines, dumping carbon ‘off the books’ and statistical sleights of hand, alongside the irreducible messiness and slipperiness inherent in carbon accounting, and who benefits by it. The big emissions trading boys refuse to debate you because you make them look like shonky tits without getting out of first gear.

Element Overview Essay

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The reason most people don’t “get” carbon accounting and can’t critique it is that it is wrapped up in this language of precision, science and certainty that on further investigation is largely an illusion. But people have deference to numbers and graphs. And the people purveying carbon accounting have a vested interest in not explaining how dodgy their assumptions and methodologies are. Also, it’s very depressing once you realise that most so-called gains in carbon emissions most reductions are in fact, illusions where it’s simply a case that the numbers have been shifted to a different column in the ledger.

The consequences of not understanding carbon accounting are that our lords and masters are able to get away with all sorts of reassuring bland statements about “progress.” And people are lulled into a false sense of security and the status quo persists.The fixes are actually quite simple. It doesn’t take too much time to educate yourself about the difference between production based metrics, consumption based metrics and the standard ploys with shifting baselines, etc, that are used in carbon accounting nonsense. So this links very much to the use and abuse of statistics, climate science (esp biosphere feedbacks). This is part of a compound

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