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Destroy the planet to save the planet

A new paper in Nature (some readers may prefer to discount the paper on those grounds alone) finds that efforts to abate emissions of two key greenhouse gases that are emitted as industrial wastes have managed to create incentives to produce more of them.

Carbon markets are considered a key policy tool to achieve cost-effective climate mitigation1, 2. Project-based carbon market mechanisms allow private sector entities to earn tradable emissions reduction credits from mitigation projects. The environmental integrity of project-based mechanisms has been subject to controversial debate and extensive research1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, in particular for projects abating industrial waste gases with a high global warming potential (GWP). For such projects, revenues from credits can significantly exceed abatement costs, creating perverse incentives to increase production or generation of waste gases as a means to increase credit revenues from waste gas abatement10, 11, 12, 13, 14. Here we show that all projects abating HFC-23 and SF6 under the Kyoto Protocols Joint Implementation mechanism in Russia increased waste gas generation to unprecedented levels once they could generate credits from producing more waste gas. Our results suggest that perverse incentives can substantially undermine the environmental integrity of project-based mechanisms and that adequate regulatory oversight is crucial. Our findings are critical for mechanisms in both national jurisdictions and under international agreements.

Oh well done Gaia lovers, well done. It seems that we have to destroy the planet to save the planet.

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Reader Comments (41)

Carbon markets have incentives to game the markets, which is why carbon taxes are better.

Sep 6, 2015 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Eli Rabett:

There are incentives to game taxes on an even bigger scale. Compare UK Carbon Floor price (a tax, not a market), and non-existent carbon tax in say India.

Sep 6, 2015 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

" It seems that we have to destroy the planet to save the planet."

We all knew it would come to that, didn't we?

Sep 6, 2015 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Eli, what are carbon taxes better at? Nothing has been achieved.

UK factories have been closed and workers laid off. The same widgets are now made abroad, cheaper, by workers with zero employment rights or welfare protection, with energy being supplied by the cheapest means possible.

Labours Ed Miliband expected the Climate Change Act to set an example to the world. It has. He is now looking for a new meaning to his life.

The EPA in the USA may make bunnies happier, but happy bunnies don't vote

Sep 6, 2015 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Carbon taxes are good at shifting industry to places that don't have carbon taxes.

Sep 6, 2015 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke in Central Illinois

Bloke in Central Illinois. Do make sure that US manufacturing and employment does not get sacrificed to the Green God of Greed, and Scams. How many Enrons can the USA afford?

Sep 6, 2015 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Angels on the head of the pin.
If anyone really believed that these emissions were going to destroy the world they'd do something to stop it.
But they don't so they don't.
And this is just a curiosity about hypotheticals.

Sep 6, 2015 at 10:42 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

'If anyone really believed that these emissions were going to destroy the world they'd do something to stop it'

But, plenty do!

Whether by fraud, lying, data-fiddling, multiple litigation, bribery, impersonation, coercion or just good old threats, these people not only exist in large numbers but are well remunerated, it would appear - apart from the unpaid 'Useful Crazies', of course.

The Climate Crusaders of the twentieth century are still alive, and unwell, in the twenty-first century.

Sep 6, 2015 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

M. Courtney;

You are assuming that they could actually do something sensible and constructive. It appears to me that this is not the case, that they only express wishes or demands and expect others to handle the action part. Given the mess they make when they do try to do something, that is perhaps a better division but the danger lies in their assuming that they are the leaders guiding the sheep. Refer UN efforts in Ruanda, Congo, Bosnia, the Middle East etc.

They remind me of George the fifth as a naval cadet drilling marines. With a confident voice he got them into formation and heading at double time towards the (close) stern, and then froze trying to choose the right command. The watching Petty Officer stormed over to him and said "for God's sake, Sir, aren't you at least going to say Goodbye".

Sep 7, 2015 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

Legislate in haste and repent at leisure.

This saving the planet is proving harder than they expected and many of the planet savers still haven't learned why it's not going according to plan. They keep up with the "only 5 years to save the planet" spiel in an attempt to generate naive solutions to putative problems with quick and dirty legislation.

What they have learned, is that pressing the panic button generates publicity and funding.

Sep 7, 2015 at 12:23 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

M Courtney & RoyFOMR,

The climate Change Act was not why Labour lost 2 elections, but history's rewriters may see it differently in years to come. It did have cross party support too. That traditional Labour voters are supporting Corbyn is not surprising, but no one is pointing at the Climate Change Act as being the reason for the loss of manufacturing.

In the US, a Democrat loss in the next election, will lead to another.

The UK is quietly undoing some of the worst energy policies, but is not out of danger. If France and Germany don't start soon, EU credibility will continue to collapse.

Toxic Green Socialism is poisoning itself. Which makes me a happy bunny. Unlike Eli.

Sep 7, 2015 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Scientists who discount papers in Nature on the grounds of the Bish's dishing the are hard to find as hypotheses so perverse that two nobel laureates cannot be found to endorse them.

Sep 7, 2015 at 4:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Scientists, true scientists, who discount papers in Nature on the grounds of the Bish's "dishing" will not be rare but non existent. The will discount because they have seen for themselves that it has become unreliable, not because of what anyone else says.

Sep 7, 2015 at 7:19 AM | Unregistered Commenterauralay

Booker was onto this in 2010.

If you believe in interference in markets then you are unlikely to foresee the effects of that. Its called naiveté.

Sep 7, 2015 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

A very good definition of an "eco-fascist" is someone who won't let anything stop them imposing their views about what is "good for nature" whether other people, science or even mother nature herself.

So, e.g. on our local nature reserve, the maps show an area has been woodland for more than 100 years. But because the eco-fascists have decided it is a "bog", this woodland must now be felled - making the area look no more attractive than a municipal carpark.

Sep 7, 2015 at 7:42 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

When I hear the word "mechanism" I know there is some "perverse" "regulatory oversight" going on.

Sep 7, 2015 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Also we significantly increase the risk of electrical fires by banning SF6. There really isn't a replacement other than rather less effective pressurised nitrogen. It's so easy for politicos to dump that bombshell on engineers without giving a rats arse about the costs and risks involved. And all to save a projected temperature rise of a few hundred thousands of a degree - if models are right, which they aren't. Another pyrrhic victory for gesture politics!

Sep 7, 2015 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

And the ultimate irony is that the water cycle ensures there is near zero warming from all well-mixed minor GHGs so there is no first order problem.

As for second-order issues, the biofeedback from higher [CO2] is benign because it increases plant growth kinetics.

Sep 7, 2015 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

As for HFC's we have replacement choices of highly pressurised CO2, explosive propane or poisonous ammonia. Just great! Of course ozone hole activists were warned prior to the Montreal protocol about HFC's greenhouse potential and that it was a leakier gas than those they replaced but they just ignored all that.

Sep 7, 2015 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Sep 6, 2015 at 10:42 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

In my view Mr Courtney is right.

If CO2 emissions are the greatest threat to us all, politicians could easily take steps to reduce CO2 emissions.

First on the list would be public transport. This should run only at commuting hours to get people to and from work, and for no other reason. How often do you see a bus with just a handful of people on board? The same with the train service. The London underground could stay as is, but perhaps with a reduced off peak schedule.

What about traffic lights? Other than periods of heavy road usage, traffic lights merely slow down traffic cause queues and lead to more emissions. At night say after about 8:30 pm all traffic lights could be set to flashing amber and all such junctions should be approached as Give Way junctions.

Planning could favour the High Street rather than out of town shopping centres, thereby leading to less road usage and hence less emissions.

School places could be filled on a nearest to locality basis, thereby avoiding the school run

The list of easy changes is endless.

But in reality no one in power truly believes that CO2 is a significant problem. If they did, they would not have rolled out waindfarms that do not result in any significant reduction in CO2, because of the need for conventional fossil fuel generated backup, but instead they would have rolled out nuclear. They would have had no detailed planning enquiries; they would just have mandated say 10 or 20 nuclear power stations being built here and here and here etc.

The political response to CO2 mitigation confirms that politicians do not truly believe that it is necessary to curb CO2 emission since not one single major response achieves that goad (eg. carbon taxes/ credits that just relocate CO2 emissions to another country, windfarms that do not result in any significant reduction in CO2, promoting electric vehicles that do not result in the significant reduction in CO2 given that electricity production creates as much CO2 as the internal combustion engine, most public transport plans etc etc).

Add on top of that all the international travel by politicians and the green brigade. Just consider all the unnecessary CO2 being emitted just for these jamborees, when everything could be done by video conference calls.

Al Gore (and his ilk) demonstrate from his/their personal life style what these people truly think. They know that it can make money (whether personal, or whether as a tax/income stream for government) and that is all they care about. Don't be fooled that anyone in power truly considers that CO2 is a major problem the emissions of which truly need to be curbed.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

If CO2 emissions are the greatest threat to us all, politicians could easily take steps to reduce CO2 emissions.....

.....But in reality no one in power truly believes that CO2 is a significant problem.

Agreed. Would just add that if any government really intended to meet the Climate Change Act targets they would be closing down the car industry, abolishing the private car, closing down out of town shopping centres, moving the rural and suburban population into dense energy efficient housing in cities, they would be insulating and rebuilding housing like mad, moving away from oil intensive farming, closing down all energy intensive industry.... etc

There would be no need for bikeways because all roads would instantly become dedicated bikeways with not a car in sight. The M25 and North Circular Roads would be wonderful and calm sights, and the rush hour would look a bit like Peking used to look before the boom. Minus the Mao suits.

There is a fairly clear route from today to reducing emissions by 90%, which is what the CCA mandates, but no-one has the slightest intention of attempting any of it.

The green leaning Corbyn appears to want to meet the targets while reopening the coal mines and opening the borders to immigration. Perhaps he means to stockpile the coal, and allow unrestricted immigration as long as those coming in use no extra electricity or fossil fuel? Its going be a long cold dark winter.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

When they put a price on not producing something (eg carbon credits), they essentially create a commodity. Something that can be forged or subject to some other fraud.

In the case of CFCs there was some justification for paying countries to destroy them and convert to alternatives but now that most countries have restructured for the new coolants, the credits are just an open reward for fraud. Time to stop. Russia etc will either revert to using CFCs or they won't but there's nothing the wider world can do about it.

Carbon credits are flawed from the start since there are no alternatives that can be swapped in with a bit of encouragement. Western countries will buy the credits they need to continue work because they're required to and unscrupulous people will sell their credits and at the same time continue to emit CO2, because they can. CO2 is braodly unaffected. Carbon credits or carbon taxes just make producing CO2 expensive in those countries that apply them. It drives work and emissions to those countries that don't. Is there a western government that really wants to kill its industries, while simply shifting CO2 abroad? It would ultimately reduce CO2 because as the population runs out of money, they buy less, do less, travel less. All the things that actually do cut emissions. I doubt there are many who envision that as our rosy future. There's a point where no politician will push for more reduction because they know it would end their career as well as those of thousands of workers.

Carbon credits/taxes are a fig leaf... possibly a cheap, artificial, fake fig leaf from China.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Sorry, but you just have to laugh , don't you.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

M Courtney, michel, richard verney, yes, there are radical ways we could change society but nobody is talking about them. I can't decide if they're too dumb to know that those radical ideas are what would be needed or they're scared that the public would say a clear 'NO' to that vision of the future.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2, check the comments at the Guardian. They know what would be required - it is in the public discourse.

But all the politicians, business leaders, Union leaders an most religious leaders won't do it.
If they really thought that it was genuine threat to all mankind then they would do it.
Why be more scared of the public than the Apocalypse?

They don't believe it. It's just easier to appease the zealots than to ignore them.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:51 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

...Our results suggest that perverse incentives can substantially undermine the environmental integrity of project-based mechanisms and that adequate regulatory oversight is crucial....

I don't believe anything the climate activists say - and I don't believe they do either. They have a different goal in mind. What they are after is 'adequate regulatory oversight' - by which they mean 'total control over everyone's behaviour in the world'...

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

M Courtney, some people know, yes, but I don't think politicians do. Even people like Naomi Klein, who sort of understand, are unaware of the hardship their plans would require. Nobody in their right mind would think there's a people's army out there calling for it.

As you say, people don't really believe that there's a crisis, not even the Emma Thompsons or Richard Betts of this world.

Sep 7, 2015 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

TinyCO2 (et al)
michel's solution is the only one that works 100%. It is what I have described as the eco-luddites' ultimate dream, unpicking the industrial revolution with tweaks.
I say "with tweaks" because either you go the whole hog back to a peasant society where the CO2 footprint is (allegedly) non-existent, though how that equates with wood-burning for cooking and heating someone would need to explain, or you take up michel's preferred option of concentrating the entire population into massive rabbit hutches directly next door to where they earn a living and you reduce the population to the minimum necessary to maintain itself.
And first you call in the Chiefs of the Services and brief them because, by God, you are going to need the army and its 100% backing and the transfer of 90% of serving naval and air force personnel (because you don't need either an air force or a navy) to "internal security", aka "shoot on sight any bastard who doesn't do what he's told immediately".
All of which (I suspect) is what is the ultimate aim of Common Purpose and Agenda 21 and all the other UN-inspired organisations, including several I have no doubt that even our politicians and eurocrats have not yet heard of.
And you are welcome to call me paranoid if you like!

PS Like what I've just noticed Dodgy Geezer said. See you in the gulag, DG!

Sep 7, 2015 at 10:01 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


...As for HFC's we have replacement choices of highly pressurised CO2, explosive propane or poisonous ammonia. Just great! Of course ozone hole activists were warned prior to the Montreal protocol about HFC's greenhouse potential and that it was a leakier gas than those they replaced but they just ignored all that....

I am very suspicious about the theory that CFCs cause an ozone hole. This theory was propounded by a model when a hole over the Arctic was found - there was no definite evidence that ozone was causing it, just an activist surge supported by politicians.

This was exactly the same process as the one that started the AGW theory about CO2. In both cases there has been no confirmatory work - the theory has been assumed to be 'settled science' and the political moves to ban the substance have been immediately applied.

Once we have put the CO2 scare to bed, I think we should look very carefully at the CFC scare, which I think is equally groundless.

Sep 7, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

@Mike Jackson

...See you in the gulag, DG!...

Indeed. I will be the one outside, hovering by the entrance in a coat with turned-up collars, doing deals with the commandant for diesel generators to power the floodlights. Because, when push comes to shove, I know which side my bread is buttered on...

Sep 7, 2015 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Probably not the right place to air this this thought but I read an article (on another topic) that noted that apart from the right to vote the essentials of democracy include a media that protects points of view other than its own and that without a free informed debate there is no choice, and without choice what is voting for?

In the case of the UK, the state broadcaster ( the BBC) resolutely, as a result of a well documented decision decided that it will not in any circumstances protect points of view other than its own on the subject of " Climate Change". This clearly demonstrates that the BBC is not, as an information service, an arm of democracy.

Sep 7, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterFriend of Botswana

...In the case of the UK, the state broadcaster ( the BBC) resolutely, as a result of a well documented decision decided that it will not in any circumstances protect points of view other than its own on the subject of " Climate Change". ...

The BBC is currently fighting for it's life (or, at least, it's unlimited funding) and has put up a headline saying:

"BBC will be a hub for UK creativity"

Indeed they will, and already they are. Their entire Climate Change output involves some of the most creative fictional work known to science...

Sep 7, 2015 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Mike H

>the eco-fascists have decided it is a "bog"

They have a curious obsession with wetlands. The local RSPB managed to get a fine stand of oaks felled because it was home to too many crows, who were interfering with their beloved waders in a nearby marsh. Being resourceful (and birds!) the crows simply moved house, while the oaks had their long-sequestered CO2 released prematurely.

I wonder how the RSPB would react to a charge of racism..? :-)

Sep 7, 2015 at 12:21 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

ssat confirms my recollection that India and China were early to jump on the money-making opportunities this scheme presented. No surprise that Russia joined the party.

Sep 7, 2015 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

jamesp, how dare you accuse the noble RSPB of Racism.

They are just playing at being God, and deciding which species should live or die. Racism, like fascism is something only nasty people do. The RSPB (I used to be a member) is more self righteous than God, and is never wrong. That is why verminous seagulls are protected by the RSPB. Assume they have become overbreeding greedy vultures, and you are about right. Seagulls are worse though.

Sep 7, 2015 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergolfie charlie

Auralay a more parsimonius explanation of their rarity is that your statement is counterfactual- which is why, despite its editorial Guadianization , Nature retains the highest impact factor in the scientic world .

The Bish's faves like Varenholt, Michaels , & Soon are hard tofind in first tier journals bcause t their PR receivables fail to make the grade in second and third-tier journals , and thus end up queuing for passage to citation hell in the literally thousands of pay-for-play fourth tier publications that welcome their custom.

Sep 7, 2015 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

I will say it again: I believe the UN and the IPCC gave the Chinese and the Indians wink-and-nudge permission to game the CFC credits, and the Russians a buddy-buddy deal on selling carbon credits based on Soviet numbers, in order to bribe them into Kyoto, with no expectation that they'd ever live up to its terms.

Sep 7, 2015 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

Tiny CO2,

The issue is denialism, but not of the usual sort. The activists and alarmists pretend to think that we are faced with catastrophe due to CO2 emissions. But what they actually propose mostly makes no difference whatever to UK emissions, let alone Global ones. So we get hysteria about stand-by mobiles and TVs, and religious fervor about wind turbines and solar, which will do nothing to lower UK emissions, and even if they did, that could not lower global emissions.

The other thing is the extraordinary passing of legislation which we have no intention of implementing. When people look back at the Climate Change Act they will see it as an exercise in total futility. We are taking no steps whatever to meet its targets, which the Greens even argued were too moderate, and even if we did meet them it would not affect global warming one iota.

It is a bit like a Pacific island deciding to limit its carbon emissions to 'tackle' sea level rises.

The true denial however comes in the pages of the Guardian and the comments. You find a chorus of laments and prophecies of the coming end of the world. But you find no-one prepared to abolish the autombile in this country, which is one logical and necessary conclusion of their supposed views.

The CCA specifies a reduction from present levels of 90%. No advocate, not even the Guardianistas, ever advocates any measures which would actually get close to that, or even start on it. They none of them will even admit what those measures are.

Where I differ from Tiny CO2 is that I think this is all there is. We have a social and psychological phenomenon which belongs in the annals of Great Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. We have a bunch of furiously active writers and speakers who don't at a serious level believe what they are saying, but do not realise this.

And so we have the prime example - Naomi Klein, who rambles about her personal circumstances including her tragic miscarriage in the same breath as her laments about Katrina or some Southern extreme weather event, doesn't seem to realise these are unconnected, doesn't have any idea what is going on or rather failing to with extreme weather, and concludes we have to abolish something undefined she calls 'capitalism'.

This is not so much the politics of gesture as the politics of disconnected speech. Its disconnected from any realistic political program, and its also disconnected from scientific reality.

We can all do this. I for instance was standing the other week on a lovely beach in Dorset and thinking about my sick child, and wondering if he would live to see the waves crash in and destroy Lyme Regis, and in that moment I had a profound revelation, we must close Birmingham tomorrow, for the sake of the planet and the children.

Right. There is a difference between hysterical and obsessive feelings, and thought.

Sep 8, 2015 at 5:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

Well who would have thought that?
Artificially distort the market and some nasty person (in green drag) takes advantage.

Sep 8, 2015 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

Responding to Eli: We already have truly huge carbon taxes on exploration, production and especially on the use of oil in the UK But does that reduce oil consumption any? Apparently not! The fact is that we need oil to enable us to move around. All these high taxes did was force development of more efficient ways of doing things - and those who didn't or couldn't went out of business.

Sep 9, 2015 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

And follow that to its logical conclusion.
When the current means of producing fuel for transport (ie hydrocarbon in liquid form) start to fail, which will not be within our lifetime or the lifetime of our grandchildren, then we will find an alternative fuel or an alternative mode of transport.
How do I know this? Because we always have ever since the invention of the wheel and there is no convincing evidence based on the discoveries and inventions of the last half-century that we have lost that ingenuity.
Do we know what these new means will be? No, of course we don't, any more than our great-grandparents could have envisaged colour television or the mobile phone or space travel.
So the question to these pessimists is as it has always been: why are you trying to second-guess your great-grandchildren? Why are you assuming that you know better now than they will then what needs to be done? Why are you flying in the face of all that we have learnt from human history about human ingenuity and behaviour?
Questions that should be hammered away at every time one of the doom-mongers opens his/her mouth.

Sep 9, 2015 at 9:43 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

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