Friday, December 11, 2009

Global Day of Action on Climate Crisis

I admit this is old news, but I have been meaning to put up a post about it and am just now getting around to it.

November 30 was the Global Day of Action on Climate Crisis. Around the world, activists held peaceful demonstrations against cap and trade, carbon offsets and other solutions to climate change that some consider insufficient.

In Chicago, just a block away from my office building, one of the nine major demonstrations in the U.S. was happening—protesters lay in the middle of the street, arms linked by tubes bearing messages like, "You can't trade away our future," while others crowded around holding signs with similar messages and police on foot and horseback kept watch. In the end, about a dozen protesters were arrested, I assume for lying in the street for too long.

In case you're not clear on these climate change solutions the groups were protesting, here's a quick rundown:

Cap and trade, also known as emissions trading, is when a governing body sets a cap on companies' pollutant emissions. Companies that need to exceed the emissions cap can purchase carbon offsets ("carbon credits"), which represent a reduction in emissions. The company is not actually polluting any less, but it is giving money to companies that are polluting less or to green energy industries, in essence trading for the right to emit the amount of pollutants that these other organizations have ceased emitting.

The idea is that, while individual companies may pollute more or less than the "allowable" amount, overall emissions would average out below the cap. Whether such practices actually reduce the amount of pollutants being pumped into our air and water is yet to be determined. There aren't many statistics yet on the resulting effectiveness or ineffectiveness, and some people—November 30's protesters, for example—stand firm that emissions trading is not the answer to our climate crisis.

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