Thursday, December 20, 2007

Xmas cheer

Well, it tickled me. A poster on an eco-forum asked the following about 'carbcon ratings':

I notice that the terms ‘carbon positive’ and ‘carbon negative’ are being used to mean the same thing (i.e. net absorption/reduction of CO2). Those using the term ‘carbon negative’ seem to be clear that ‘carbon positive’ is what fossil fuels are...

If we want to create a company that goes better than ‘carbon neutral’, how should we describe it? And does anyone know whether the understanding of these terms varies by geography? (e.g. US vs Europe vs Asia)

I was moved to reply:

How about 'carbon cautious'?

It ticks all the right boxes (a major plus already, at least in the UK/EU), being rather meaningless, pretty vague and in fact can be whatever anyone wishes to take from it.

Certainly an entire new industry and set of government departments could easily be created around it on this basis, especially in complement to all the rest doing roughly the same thing. In fact, one could probably score a nifty grant for it all. Especially to translate it all into Mandarin or Urdu come the next Kyoto/Bali round.

That aside, it may actually be a tad more accurate. At least it could be argued to not make any definitive claims (which in any case are often hard to weigh, at least on a consumer level. I have often cocked an eyebrow at some claims of 'positivity', as most new activities are almost inevitably worse in terms of enviROI (which is what I apply) unless directly creating some purely mitigating result) whilst conveying a truly warm and fuzzy sense of at least wanting to do the right thing.

However, as your question has ably demonstrated, a positive can as easily be a negative. So I look forward to how those better informed will explain it to us all. But then it would seem equally inevitable that it will all rather depend on which measure they have been tasked to endorse.

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