Carbon credit fraud has become big news. It involves Delta and also JetBlue. But there was already a lawsuit against Delta for making fraudulent environmental claims.
As the pandemic started, Delta claimed to have gone carbon neutral. I argued that they were using sleight of hand for this – buying carbon offsets, which not only often do not offset carbon, but can increase emissions. For instance, a non-profit may already own forest land. Its mission may be to preserve the forest, so almost by definition it won’t chop down those trees. So it sells credit for saving that forest. And a company claims to have ‘offset’ their emissions by saving these trees that were already saved.
Delta has also used the fig leaf of the environment to mask service cuts, things like announcing that metal cutlery would never return to domestic first class by framing it as ‘replacing’ pandemic-era plastic with disposal wood. (Their announcement about limiting plastics actually featured… plastic cups, because it really was about costs.)
As Levine explains, “(1) the money kind of disappeared and (2) a lot of the carbon credits turned out to be fake.” The New Yorker‘s Heidi Blake has the owner of the forest generating the credits on the record, “I don’t know what you’re going to report on this, and I hope to God it’s not all of it, because I probably will go to jail.”
It turns out that they sort of made up numbers as a benchmark for how much deforestation would have happened without a forest’s preservation. There was a reference forest nearby and it basically showed not so much deforestation was happening without the preservations. So the credits weren’t really protecting forests. And they oversold the credits. Matt Levine:
The problem with this anti-deforestation project was that there was too little deforestation. That seems good? For the climate? But bad for the people hawking carbon credits. The idealistic Muench pointed out the problem, and the now-jaded Heuberger was like “meh still fine”:
Greenwashing in the extreme, but that was always the point. However virtue signaling over the environment shouldn’t take precedence over doing things that actually address environmental problems.
American’s efforts working with Google using data for contrail avoidance is actually meaningful. Most of the environmental impact of flying comes from a small portion of trips and can be avoided by changes in altitude. United is investing in direct carbon capture. Environmental problems are real, and deserve serious solutions.