The Big Cap-and-Trade Swindle

Last fall, environmental journalist Gar Smith authored an opinion piece for Earth Island Journal in which he argued that cap-and-trade for emissions–designed to allow polluting companies to purchase credits from greener peers to offset their environmental impact–is a morally bankrupt con game on par with the ancient Catholic Church’s doctrine of indulgences. The doctrine he describes is a “once popular practice” that “allowed rich parishioners to purchase remission for their sins by making contributions to the church’s minions.”

The comparison compels, particularly because Smith saves some space to wonder what would happen “if we applied the medieval logic that underlies the granting of ‘pollution indulgences’ to other aspects of human behavior?”

Admissions Trading: We know politicians lie. With Admissions Trading, politicians would no longer fear having to admit to their fibs: They could continue lying to the public as long as they purchased Truth Credits from Buddhist monks and young children.

Omissions Trading: Did you forget to recycle? Did you forget that vow to eat organic? With Omissions Trading, forgetful souls could “offset” their bad habits by purchasing performance credits from the conscientious. Thanks to the genius of market-based solutions, the morbidly obese could continue to overeat – just so long as they remembered to purchase Calorie Credits from health-conscious neighbors and malnourished Third World villagers. You want that extra helping of dessert? Just pay someone else to forgo dinner.

Remissions Trading: People with terminal cancer could buy Recovery Credits from cancer survivors and individuals who are cancer-free. Of course, remissions trading wouldn’t cure the cancer and the buyer would still die from the disease. In other words, it would be just as effective as cap-and-trade’s pollution credits.

Possessions Trading: The filthy rich could buy Poverty Credits from the very poor. This is one trading plan that could significantly improve the overall health of our planet and its people but, when it comes to redistributing wealth, this is one idea that the well-to-do just don’t seem prepared to indulge.

I missed this piece when it was first published, so thanks to the editors at Resurgence magazine, who reprinted a version in their March-April 2010 issue.

Source: Earth Island Journal

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