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A challenge of Olympic proportions …

July 26th, 2012 · No Comments

The opening ceremony is hours away and sporting events have begun for the 2012 summer Olympics in London. Besides a life-long joy at exposure to new sport, great sports feats, and the basic global harmony concept of the Olympic games, the London games caught my attention for the organizers’ plans to make it totally green. From targeting 100% renewable energy to discussions of trying to transform London Greens into gardens to supply fresh vegetables for the games, this (sadly unachieved) ambitious goal seemed appropriate for the pinnacle of global sports.

As part of the greening, however, one might want to question the greenwashing. Perhaps the most egregious? Deepwater Horizon and “Beyond Petroleum” BP is the chosen sponsor of carbon offsets for transportation to the games. Yes, you two (even U2) can join BP’s “target neutral” and have carbon offsets for your travel to the Olympics.

Putting aside the debate over carbon offsets (are these simply 21st century indulgences) and leaving aside questions about the true value of BP-created offsets, reading the “BP Target Neutral” site while ignoring the words “BP” is an interesting experience because, well, so much seems reasonable and worthwhile.

The image below comes from the “Carbon Visualization” page and is described as follows:

The visualisation uses Spaghetti Junction on the M6 near Birmingham as this basic ground. The familiar image from the British road network makes the immediate point that this is about roads, but then uses the recognisable scale to locate a cube-like shape showing the volume of carbon our cars, lorries and buses put into the atmosphere every day. The cube presents this visually, while the simple captions fill in the specific details. This, the image is saying, is what 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide look like, and that’s what we’re pumping into the atmosphere every day. Suddenly the daily figure is something real and dramatic.

That same page has links on “eco-driving” and “how-to-reduce”. That one has an image of a bike with the words:

Explore ways you can reduce the miles you cover in a car, or improve the way you drive, and so reduce your carbon footprint.

Interesting and, in many cases, useful material but then one returns to the logo with the letters: BP.

BP is, of course, not just the BP of Deepwater Horizon and other drilling ‘accidents’ (crimes?), but also is named in Bill McKibben’s recent Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math:

what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work onBP -- Blowin' People [Up] a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”

According to the Carbon Tracker report, if Exxon burns its current reserves, it would use up more than seven percent of the available atmospheric space between us and the risk of two degrees. BP is just behind

Go ahead and read that damning article. As Bill put it:

The three numbers I’ve described are daunting – they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.

And, BP …

In light of this, should one take efforts like BP’s carbon offsets of flights for the Olympics as simply public relations activities to leverage the largest event on the world’s stage for greenwashing of the most malevolent kind or a sincere sign of BP’s recognition of the basic truth of Bill’s words?

As a thought, as one of my correspondents put it,

Is this bizarre or what?  Let’s see if we can get them to offset their own emissions…

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PS: One has to assume they aren’t serving Gumbo in a diesel sauce, but many on the Gulf Coast find this distasteful :

Louisiana Office of Tourism announced this week that [BP] would be hosting a series of events for Team USA that will pair three Gulf coast bands with chefs from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida preparing “the world’s freshest and best-tasting seafood”.

Tags: Energy · Global Warming · business practice · carbon offsets · green · greenwashing