We have little doubt that history will look back on the 21st century’s going green-climate change movement as largely a fraud.
There is no escaping the constant bombardment of stories about sea levels rising by the foot, global warming melting the ice caps and carbon-based fuels destroying the environment — and all our fault. The thing is, it’s not true; there are no definitive studies beyond repute which verify these claims, so why do we keep hearing them?
Because somebody’s making money.
For instance, the United States Green Building Council awards what’s called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification at various levels to buildings that achieve green standards in design and construction. The federal government requires LEED certification for all new federal buildings; some 35 states and 170 cities also require it.
Certification comes at four levels — certified, silver, gold, and platinum — based on a point system for such things as using recycled material during construction, reducing the waste leaving a job site, and reusing materials — all well and good. But this isn’t some government program.
The council is a nonprofit, private organization and charges fees for the certification. And while it may be environmentally healthy to use the suggested practices, doing so adds as much as 20 percent to the costs of taxpayer-funded construction even as the government also offers grants and tax breaks based on the level of LEED certification attained.
As well, there are questions about the process. A New Republic magazine investigation in July found that the 55-story Bank of America building opened in 2010 in New York City received the highest LEED certification, yet generates more greenhouse gas and requires more energy than any other building its size in Manhattan.
According to the Washington Times, a study of 11 U.S. Navy buildings which are certified found that four used more energy and three were identical to non-certified buildings. “USA Today reported that buildings could get a credit simply for having a LEED expert on its design team. Hotels racked up credits for placing cards in rooms asking guests to reuse towels, and schools received credits for teaching about ‘green’ construction in the classroom.”
As the Times observes, “It’s all image without substance.”
The green revolution is largely a bust because consumers have found that it costs too much, and they rightly question just how much the environment, rather than individuals and companies that are raking in the cash, really benefits from it.
We all should be thinking about reducing our carbon footprint — in practical ways. But we see little difference in buying carbon offsets and buying 16th century indulgences.