The climate change industry is one of the only industries that is based on paying people for nothing. I’m referring to the actual carbon markets, not the science of climate change or the policy making or adaptation or mitigation or any of those activities. I was involved with the reduction of greenhouse gases and the selling of them. This career took me all over the world (see my travel blogs), but nothing was more bizarre than trying to wrap my head around explaining to my mom and dad that the industry was based on nothing – literally the absence of something.
In a nutshell, great sums of money were given to people to do lots of things that would produce nothing or specifically not produce greenhouse gas. And when they proved that they produced nothing (although I believe it was my 10th grade science class that taught me that you couldn’t prove a negative), they got the payoff. Even greater sums of money in the investment community was bet on the production of lots of nothings!
Ok, let me back up. I don’t mean to be flippant about this (well, maybe a little). It was just that we were all caught up in the entire carbon world and we spoke our own language and had our own in-jokes when really, we were able to get thousands of people to change their behaviour around the absence of something. The only other industry I could think of like this is the weight loss industry.
Additionally, in order to prove the nothing-ness, there is a ton of documentation that has to be constructed, saved and verified. Unlike a barrel of oil or a building where you can point to it and say “yup, there it is”, you have to point to equipment and then show records and logs and calculations of when it was working and that it worked properly. This is amazingly great work for consultants (who are people too). Remember though, it is the absence of greenhouse gasses that we want.
Ten or twenty years from now, how is the world going to look back at the carbon markets? There will be some derision, for sure, a great load of cynicism, but I hope in all of that, people will realise that the mobilisation across nations, creeds, industries and governments was a defining moment. The last time that the globe got together in this magnitude was for, I daresay, a war. And, there was a lot of pain and tears in the aftermath of that, but eventually, something new and promising came out of all the collective work.