Think that global warming is a major problem and that, therefore, the College’s Climate Action initiative is a good idea? Read this (pdf) for a contrary view.

My complaint is not so much that the science of global warming is oversold or that the College has as much (or as little) responsibility toward climate change as it does to other issues (say, malaria). The issue is the rampant hypocrisy which pervades the Williams community. If the College were really concerned about carbon emissions, the faculty offices in the new Stetson would not be huge (300 square feet). Previous discussion here.

Also, stuff like this is absurd.

Amy Johns, environmental analyst at the Center for Environmental Studies, has been crunching the numbers to determine the environmental impact of travel by families and friends to attend Commencement ceremonies.

“A rough estimate of CO2 associated with running the campus for Commencement is 118 tons,” Johns said. “The estimated impact of family and guests’ air travel is about 650 tons and car travel about 50 tons.”

“One way for the college to promote sustainability is through the purchase of carbon offsets for the energy expended in running the campus during, and for family and guests’ travel to, Commencement,” said Boyd.

The college will purchase approximately $8,600 worth of offsets from Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm, a 30 megawatt wind farm being developed by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and from the Wanner Family Dairy Farm Methane Project in Narvon, PA. The anaerobic methane digester on the dairy farm is estimated to produce approximately 2,000 kWh of electricity a day.

Alas, time constraints prevent me from investigating these offsets (see the original article for links) but 95% of this stuff is bunk. At least, that is what my smart left-wing sources tell me.

Carbon offsets are the modern day indulgences, sold to an increasingly carbon conscious public to absolve their climate sins. Scratch the surface, however, and a disturbing picture emerges, where creative accountancy and elaborate shell games cover up the impossibility of verifying genuine climate change benefits, and where communities in the South often have little choice as offset projects are inflicted on them.

This report argues that offsets place disproportionate emphasis on individual lifestyles and carbon footprints, distracting attention from the wider, systemic changes and collective political action that needs to be taken to tackle climate change. Promoting more effective and empowering approaches involves moving away from the marketing gimmicks, celebrity endorsements, technological quick fixes, and the North/South exploitation that the carbon offsets industry embodies.

Think that sending money Owl Feather War Bonnet Wind Farm — I swear, I am not making that name up! — helps the environment? Educate yourself. Read the report. Anyone know anything about the two projects that the College just sent your alumni donations to? Interested readers would like to know.

If the College were serious about this topic, it wouldn’t have 1/3 of the meetings of the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni in locations like Portland. Think of the carbon that this sort of air-travel generates! Two years ago, everyone went on a fun junket to London. Cry for Mother Gaiea!

Now, my position is that global warming is neither certain nor necessarily harmful, but I have been having that fight with fellow Ephs for two decades. Maybe my opponents will be right someday! Stopped calendars and whatnot. In the meantime, the College should not involve itself in partisan disputes outside of its core mission.

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