Greenwash Alert: Reducing Means Less, Not More


It’s official: for the next 15 years, we need to release more and more greenhouse gases.

I hate to sound melodramatic, but that really is the spin from President Bush’s recent announcements on the curbing of US greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll probably have heard by now that by 2025 he promises that the growth of the amount of carbon dioxide American businesses release annually into the atmosphere will be halted. (Yes, “growth”).

It’s not hard to find which Greenwashing Sin category this belongs under (here’s the list). This proposal is saying that annual CO2 emissions in the US should not just stay at the same appalling level they currently exist at, but should continue to go up, every single year, for the next decade and a half. This, it is being suggested, is the responsible thing to do.

I can’t work out what I’m more horrified by. Maybe it’s the lack of concrete suggestions for achieving and regulating even this highly inadequate policy – for example, intensification of biofuel production is cited, never minding the global food crisis it is already creating at relatively modest current production levels. Or perhaps it’s President Bush’s comment that “the wrong way [to proceed] is to…..demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts.” This is an attempt to repaint pragmatic moderation – i.e. a commitment to stop emission levels from growing at all – with an extremist brush. It’s ugly.

The media backlash has been savage. Take this withering report by Gail Collins for the New York Times, or the quiet despair of David Roberts over at Grist.

And for contrast, have a look at the reduction targets announced by the U.K. government: by 2012 – it is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% below the level they were at in 1990. Progress is slow but promising. I don’t believe this is “political” – I believe it’s a matter of common sense. Am I wrong?

(Image: Aerial Photography).

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.