Carbon Offsets: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Transcript

John Oliver explains what carbon offsets are, what they claim to do, how they might be making climate change even worse, and, of course, how Oscar Isaac is getting hotter.
Carbon Offsets: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Season 9 Episode 21
Aired on August 21, 2022

Main segment: Carbon offsets
Other segment: 2022 Alaska’s at-large congressional district special election

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[Cheers and applause]

John: Welcome, welcome, welcome to to “Last Week Tonight”! I’m John Oliver. Thanks so much for joining us. It’s been a busy week. Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, the C-D-C announced a major reorganization, and the fallout from the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago continued, with Trump’s associates spinning increasingly outlandish rationalizations for why it was okay for him to keep sensitive documents there, including this one.

Really, if you look at the espionage act, it’s not really about taking the documents, it’s about destroying them, or hiding them, – or giving them to the enemy. – Right. It’s not about taking them and putting them in a place that’s roughly as safe as they were in in the first place. Okay. Uh,

John: Look, putting aside Rudy walking right up to the line of pleading guilty on Trump’s behalf — he took the documents. If you’re comparing the security of two places, the two worst examples would be the White House and the Florida resort where a failed bachelorette contestant actually claimed on Instagram, “I snooped around pretty dang freely and the secret security wasn’t too worried about which room I went in.” And it’s not exactly a secure storage facility if youth pastor Ryan Reynolds here can just wander around the ****y lights. But we’re going to start with the midterm elections. More primaries took place this week. In Wyoming, republicans overwhelmingly voted out Liz Cheney, despite her father’s last-minute emperor palpatine-like endorsement. And in Alaska, a lot’s been happening. They have open primaries, where the top four finishers, regardless of party, go on to the general election. So, on the senate side, there’ll be at least two republicans on the ballot this fall: sitting senator Lisa Murkowski, and the more extreme Kelly Tshibaka, who not only questions the 2020 election results, but also, puts out alliteration-heavy ads like this.

Together, I’m confident that we can block Joe Biden’s business-busting, crime-cascading, defense-decimating, energy-annihilating, freedom-flattening, gun-grabbing, mandate-militating, parent-punishing, police-persecuting, socialist-sympathizing, America-obliterating agenda.

John: Okay, I have a million problems with that. First: “crime cascading” doesn’t work. Cascading doesn’t really take a direct object like that. Next: “energy” and “annihilating” don’t start with the same letter. Which is weird, because there are tons of other options for “e” — “extinguishing”, “exterminating”, even just a simple “ending” if you’re feeling lazy. Then there’s “mandate militating”, which makes no sense and I’m not even going to try and explain it. And of course the grand finale of “America obliterating agenda”? What the **** are you doing going “a” to “o” to “a” there? You know what would be a great replacement for “obliterating” in this situation? “Annihilating.” But it’s too late, because you blew that one right at the start. Other than that, no notes. [Applause] Alaskans also voted in a special election this week, to fill a vacant house seat, and for “that” one, they got to use ranked-choice voting for the first time, which their local news explained in the most Alaskan way possible:

Imagine elk, polar bear, penguin, and owl are running for office. You prefer elk, and you’re definitely anti-penguin. So maybe you’ll fill out your ballot like this: elk, polar bear, owl, and penguin. You could also choose to only partially fill out the ballot, and just leave off penguin entirely.

John: Excellent. I love so much there, from the fact that host didn’t feel the need to take his festively-wrapped cell phone out of his breast pocket, to the offensively Alaskan choice of candidates. It’s the equivalent of New Jersey explaining ranked choice voting using Bon Jovi, Tony Soprano, a deer that’s never eaten food intended for deer, and melanoma. Also, good call losing penguin, which, of course, don’t even have the decency to live in the state. But I guess it just goes to show, even when they’re made up of fictional animals, every election has to have its dr. Oz. Now, the reason Alaskans need to fill that house seat is that Don Young, who served since 1973, died earlier this year. And if you’re not aware of Don Young, he was a “lot”. John Boehner once claimed that young pinned him against a wall in the house and held a ten-inch knife to his throat. But he also had less likeable moments, like calling the BP oil spill not an environmental disaster but “a natural phenomena”, referring to Latinos using a racial slur, and behaving like this during a discussion of naming a post office after a marine who was killed in Afghanistan. Just watch the left-hand side of your screen.

Staff sergeant Deaugustine was killed on March 27, 2012, in Helmand province, Afghanistan, a fierce battleground where over 19,000 marines were deployed.

John: What are you doing? That was supposed to be a somber moment! How would you feel if someone disrespected your memory like that? Watch.

Don Young, the so-called dean of the House of Representatives, has passed away at the age of 88.

John: Yeah, see? Doesn’t feel good, does it, don? You’re so lucky you’re dead right now! And then there was young’s congressional office decoration choices, which were striking, and always had the capacity to surprise.

That’s a heck of a gavel.

You know what that is, don’t you?

Uhhh, yeah.

You do, huh? What is it?

I dunno.

It’s a walrus’s penis.

John: Yeah. The question “what is it” could really only be answered with “I dunno” there. The biggest red flag possible would be for someone to say, “hundred percent, no doubt about it, I could tell you blindfolded: that’s a walrus dick.” Also, I’m not sure where Don Young got that gavel, but I’m just going to assume he used to host a paternity court reality show for walruses. Which all we’d watch. So clearly, Don Young is leaving some big, weird shoes to fill, and there’s already a name-brand contender to fill them. And deep down, you already know who it is, right? Alaska needs a politician? You know what’s coming.

If I were asked to serve in in the house and take his place, I would be humbled and honored and I would. Yeah, in a heartbeat, I would.

John: Yep! Sarah ****ing Palin’s back, and it’s like it’s 2008 all over again! She’s running for office, the u-s entered a bear market, and Sex and the City is making spin-offs it, quite frankly, doesn’t have the material to back up. Society is going backwards. Unsurprisingly, Palin’s platform is full of culture war bullshit. She’s said we “can’t give up” on Benghazi and Hillary’s missing emails, and has vowed to fight gun control and abortion rights. But some Alaskans worry she’s only running for the fame. Local press has said she’s been notably difficult for Alaskans to track down, and pointed out she’s turned down candidate forums, including one hosted by the anchorage republican women. Something they handled with sublime passive-aggression by leaving an empty chair for her with her name on it and the word, “no”. [Laughter] And I know chairs don’t have agency, or access to a printer, but it does look like someone taped the name “Palin” to a chair, and now the chair itself is protesting it. One conservative publisher in Alaska even said, “Sarah knows how to work a crowd, but it’s Sarah, Inc.” Which honestly sounds like the title of a sitcom starring Kat Dennings that’s already quietly disappeared from HBO Max. HBO Max: it’s not tv. It’s a series of tax writeoffs to appease Wall Street. Look, Palin has always been a grifter. And if there was any doubt about what she really cares about, check out this chaotically shot and edited video from her Instagram account in May, where she spouts a stream of campaign platitudes, then makes clear what she’s really up to.

I’m standing here getting ready for a ride back to my home with other candidates running for the United States congress to really make things right. Things are going on in our world, in our country, and we’re gonna take it back. Yahoos running our country right now. Whoo, yeah. They need to replaced. So, John. Happy birthday to you. And know that those around you who love you so much and speak so highly of you-especially Justin-but others, they too wishing you happy, happy birthday.

John: Yeah, it seems to be an ad for both her campaign, and her cameo, with the caption even reading, “don’t forget father’s day cameo orders for your loved ones”. Which is a spectacular racket, since she’s essentially saying “don’t forget to pay me to brainwash your dad!” Also, fun fact: the John in question? That was me. My buddy Justin — he loves me and speaks very highly of me — got it for me, and it was the best gift I’ve ever received. But being Sarah Palin is good business — on her financial disclosures, she revealed that last year, she made over two hundred thousand dollars from cameo. Which she did by charging $199 per video. And that’s just too much to pay for an incoherent message from a parking lot. Especially when, for just $75, you can get a message from Carson Kressley, who’ll tell you you look great. Look.

Hey, John, Carson Kressley here! You look great! Have you been moisturizing? That’ll be $75, please.

John: Thank you, Carson! I haven’t been moisturizing! And look — will Alaskans fall for Palin’s bullshit? Maybe! They’ve done so in the past! But I sure hope they don’t this time. Because frankly, the only conceivable step down from don young would be Sarah Palin, who, like a walrus’s penis, is a fun Alaskan novelty, and one that has absolutely no business being in congress. And now, this.

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And now 60 seconds of Tucker Carlson being right about stuff.

America is a racist country. White supremacy is our biggest threat. Republican senators are psychosis bigots and they don’t care about women. This is a bad country run by racists. It’s here history is inherently racist. Immigrants’re facing prefect just smarter modern industry is creating even if you’re American The phrases all live matters American exceptionalism and the celebration of Columbus Day are racist. The capital was a white supremacist insurrection. Only losers and freak support Donald Trump year ago I’ve enjoyed white privilege. I’m a racist. Racist! White people are a holes! This is propaganda at work! Fox news is propaganda! This is the greatest kind of propaganda designed to divide the country by race! Too stupid. None of this is real. It’s all just noise. All of this is crazy. This is total lunacy. It’s easy to laugh at this but it’s also horrifying. Think about the brainwashing required to do this. This channel shouldn’t be allowed. [Laughter]

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John: Moving on. Our main story tonight concerns earth. It’s basically the Oscar Isaac of planets in that it seems to be getting alarmingly hotter every year. It’s pretty clear this planet’s not doing great. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now higher than ever in human history, and the recent U.N.-Commmissioned climate report was called “an atlas of human suffering”. Which, coincidentally, is also the slogan for Craigslist. Luckily, though, one group is here to fix it: giant corporations. Many are now claiming they’ve hit upon a solution — becoming “carbon neutral” or “net zero”. Basically, running their businesses in such a way, they don’t increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. As of last year, “one in five of the world’s two thousand largest publicly listed companies have now committed to a “net-zero” emissions target.” Which sounds great! You may have even seen them bragging about their claims in ads, like this one from United Airlines, this one from Apple, this one from Shell, and this one from an unexpected source.

Kit Kat is committing to becoming carbon neutral by 2025, reducing emissions by 50% through forest regeneration, planting five million shade trees, supporting regenerative farming, and securing 100% renewable electricity for our factories worldwide. And we’ll offset any remaining carbon by investing in climate projects. Let’s give the planet a break.

John: Yeah, even Kit Kat is getting involved. Which is a strange sales technique. It’s not like you decide to eat a Kit Kat bar because of their net zero targets. You decide to eat one because you’re at rock bottom and you’re out of Reese’s peanut butter cups. As for the shovel made out of a Kit Kat, that seems less like a sustainable farming tool and more like what you’d use to bury the body of the red M&M. But the key phrasing comes at the end there — that they’d “offset any remaining carbon”. That’s actually a common tactic. In fact, one study that looked closely at the net-zero promises of dozens of companies in heavily-polluting industries found that two-thirds of them are relying on offsets instead of emissions reductions. Offsets are wildly popular — even bands have promised over the years to use them to reduce the environmental impact of their tours. All the greats — Dave Matthews, Bon Jovi, Coldplay, and even sergeant pepper’s angsty victorian ghost club band: My Chemical Romance.

A big tour like this uses lots of energy: trucks, vans, lights, sound, and more, and that has an impact on the environment. So we’ve partnered up with a really cool non-profit organization called reverb to help us green things up.

One of the things that they do is figure out how much energy the tour uses. Then they invest in alternative energy projects to help make up for it.

John: Cool. Thanks guys. And I admit it’s nice to see them represent their core fan base: middle schoolers who have to give a presentation in front of the class against their will. But I don’t particularly care for the phrase “green things up”. It sounds like something Shrek would say right before he reaches a sexual climax. “Look out, I’m about to green things up! Watch me, Donkeh!” I want you to watch me look me in the eyes. And yet, if the idea that you can simply invest a little money and make your carbon footprint disappear sounds too good to be true, that’s because it absolutely is. Study after study has indicated that most offsets available on the market don’t reliably reduce emissions. And yet, offsets are now the backbone of the environmental policies of many of the biggest polluters on the planet. So, given that, tonight, let’s talk about carbon offsets. What they are, what they claim to do, and how they may actually be making things even worse. And let’s start with some basic definitions. The idea of a carbon offset is that, if you emit co2 into the atmosphere, you can offset it by, say, planting or protecting trees, which remove carbon from the air, or building a wind farm to replace a fossil fuel plant. Here’s how BP — a major polluter, of course — sells the idea.

I’ve been driving around and generating three tons of carbon dioxide, which of course I’ve released into the atmosphere to join all the rest of the greenhouse gasses that are already out there. Now, imagine that miles away, maybe on the other side of the world, somebody else takes three tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. So, what’s happened? Three tons in, three tons out, result: zero.

John: That violently British man did a pretty good job of illustrating the concept there. I’m not sure he needed to use the decorations from a clown’s funeral to do it, but I guess, without them, I’d never have known what it looks like when you add three to something but then take three away, it simply can’t be done. But if that simple explanation didn’t do it for you, here’s one idiot explaining offsets to another idiot, using the worst possible metaphor, given who the second idiot is.

Of course, you can buy carbon offsets, which is the equivalent of buying, you know, a diamond watch, ring, and necklace. If you’re unfaithful to your wife and say, ‘oh it’s just an offset honey, no problem.’ That’ll work… Which a carbon offset is ‘oh I can sin all I want. I can put out all the emissions I want-but you got to get rid of your caravan and drive a bicycle.’

John: Okay, set aside Hannity’s inability to decide if he thinks carbon offesets are like buying your wife a necklace “or” forcing someone else to ride a bike. Let’s just dwell on him saying the words, “if you’re unfaithful to your wife” to Newt Gingrich, a man who was famously unfaithful to “two” of his three wives, so far, trying to get one to sign divorce documents while she was recovering from cancer surgery, and asking the second for a divorce shortly after she was diagnosed with m.s. No wonder he just sat there silently until Hannity started speaking again. I’m sure he desperately wanted to walk out, but I guess newt would never do that to Sean — he only does that to people with severe illnesses. But the point is: offsets allow businesses that can’t immediately “reduce” their emissions to balance things out by buying emissions reductions somewhere else. And in some parts of the world, they’re actually a way to meet regulatory requirements on emissions. Places like China, Korea, Australia, and California have set caps for how much companies can emit. And if you go above that cap, you might opt to buy an offset to get back below it. But companies operating outside of those areas might still choose to buy offsets voluntarily, so they can make claims like the ones you saw earlier in those ads. The voluntary market is smaller, but it’s growing incredibly fast — it quadrupled to nearly two billion dollars in 2021. Even you as an individual can now be sold offsets. You might have seen checkboxes like these on sites like ups, offering you the opportunity to offset the carbon of your delivery, or maybe you were offered one as an impulse buy while traveling.

Travelers through Austin’s airport can help offset the emissions their flights put into the atmosphere. It only costs $2 and offsets more than 1,000 miles of air travel.

John: That price is obviously too low. It’s pretty suspicious that you could walk into an airport, and offset more than a thousand miles of air travel for just two dollars, then head over to a Cibo Express where it costs at least five times that to buy a soggy chicken wrap that somehow looks — if I had to pick one descriptor for it — recently divorced. There are even boutique companies popping up, like “world’s first human breath carbon offset service,” where you can, for seventeen dollars a year, offset your own breath. And if you just let out a huge exasperated sigh at hearing that, bad news: that’ll cost extra. Yep, you also offers you the chance to offset your pets, ranging from $.06 for a hamster to $6 for a cat, all the way to $10 to offset your pig. Which seems great, aside from the fact that “$10 to offset your pig” sounds like a Dutch sex act that was sent back and forth through google translate one too many times. “For $10, Basilius, he offset your pig, so good, so strong, your eyes will pop and your brave testicles will switch.” So while doing this we really offset up pig. And look: on some level, you probably know carbon offsets are bullshit. Both because you’re a reasonably intelligent person and because you know exactly what show you’re watching right now. I don’t open my beak to squawk out good news; this thing pops open for sad news and porridge, and I’m all out of porridge right now. But exactly how they’re bullshit is interesting. Because it’s easy to say you’re reducing carbon emissions, but it’s much harder to prove it, and the truth is, there aren’t many checks and balances in place to prevent abuse. And let’s start with the fact that a key criterion for any offset project is what’s called “additionality.” The idea is that an offset should provide an “extra” reduction of carbon, that wouldn’t have happened any other way. For instance, if you planted a tree that wouldn’t otherwise have been planted, that’s additional. As is saving a tree that would otherwise have been cut down. But there are many cases where the claim of “additionality” is shaky, at best. Take J.P. Morgan, which announced it had achieved “carbon neutrality” across its operations in 2020. One of the ways it claimed to have eliminated its carbon footprint is by buying a million dollars worth of offsets, claiming to protect an area in Pennsylvania called hawk mountain sanctuary. But it turns out that the threats to the sanctuary were wildly overblown.

This is the project’s planning document submitted in 2018 to the American carbon registry, and this is the baseline the project’s built upon — that if it weren’t for intervention, the forests will be subject to aggressive clear-cutting and high grading. The problem was hawk mountain preserve, as its name would suggest, was already a preserve. Since the 1930s. This area has been closely looked after, managed, and protected. The forest didn’t need saving. It wasn’t under threat.

John: Yeah, of course it wasn’t. And that probably should have been obvious from the fact it was a preserve, and not called the “hawk mountain chop-chop zone and tree murder playground”. As a reporter from Bloomberg uncovered, that offset was sold to J.P. Morgan by the nature conservancy, which has been very active in selling carbon offset projects. They also sold one hundred and eighty thousand credits to Disney, which ostensibly went to protect this forest in rural Pennsylvania from what the conservancy warned was a risk of significant commercial timber harvesting. But you should know: the nature conservancy itself had owned most of that land since 1999. And they’re not, famously, in the commercial timber harvesting business. And you might think, “well, good for them. They’re taking Disney’s money, and not having to give them anything in return.” But they are giving them something, though — namely, the ability to make claims like, “Disney reduced over 4 million tons of carbon dioxide, equal to taking over 900,000 cars off the road.” Which we already know isn’t true but, if it were, I do hope they would start with mater. I don’t care if he’s lightning McQueen’s best friend, he’s choking us. He’s choking our planet to death. Also the money from offsets doesn’t always go to places like the nature conservancy. Remember that airport plan where you could offset more than a thousand miles of air travel for $2? Records show that this year, a significant portion of the money from that program has gone to support trees at the “Hudson farm club,” in new jersey, a 3,800-acre private hunting club set up by peter Kellogg — billionaire and model for the L.L. Bean “heart failure at the yacht club” collection. Here’s one member explaining what happens there.

Peter had this vision of having a place for several of his friends and additional members to hunt in new jersey and to shoot in new jersey and to develop one of the best sporting clays spots in the whole northeast, if not the country. It’s called Hudson farm. It’s approximately 3800 acres. It’s in Andover, New Jersey. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth I’ve ever seen. And it is a hunters’ and shooters’ paradise.

John: Okay. First, it’s not just me, we’re getting strong “get out” vibes from. Is it right? Its not just made second, the Hudson farm club and the carbon company blue source claimed without the money from carbon offsets, 77% of the trees could be clear-cut in just five years. But that clearly wasn’t going to happen. It’s owned by a billionaire, and exists for rich guys to fantasize about shooting animals in the wild, right down to this life-sized cardboard cutout of a buffalo on four wheels. In fact, I’d argue the only real damage that might happen there is from that guy you saw talking earlier, who seems in danger of casually shooting off his own nutsack. And with the market for carbon offsets increasing, and now the companies are actively recruiting almost anyone who has a tree, to get in on the action. Firms like these are in the business of finding small landowners and connecting them with companies who’ll pay them not to cut down their trees, pitching themselves with like this one from NCX.

We’re in a critical decade for the climate and forests are a powerful natural solution for removing carbon from the atmosphere. Ncx’s forest data scientists developed the first high-resolution forest map of every acre of America. Now, every landowner and every acre of forest can be part of the climate solution.

John: Yeah, basically, they’ll pay you to leave your trees alone. Which is a pretty good deal, as it should be easy not to cut down trees, unless, of course, we’re talking about this one. Because **** this tree. It has at least seven different eyes, “teeth”, and it seems to be vomiting up a bush. You look like the giving tree if all it gave you was nightmares H.P. Lovecraft. I hate this tree! And with NCX, you don’t even have to promise “never” to cut your trees down, as they give you the option to still get paid simply to defer cutting them down for “as little as one year.” But a twelve-month delay doesn’t really benefit the planet much. As one expert we talked to framed it, it’s akin to selling a carbon credit for holding your breath for fifteen seconds. Also, there’s a much bigger problem with all these tree-based programs, which is that even they do protect one section of trees from logging, that doesn’t necessarily mean much, if a logging operation simply cuts down the trees on the land next door instead. Plus, given that forest fires are now on the rise thanks to climate change, offset programs can, and have, literally gone up in flames. All of this is why, while companies love to make big, broad claims about the benefits of their offsets, they really don’t like getting into the details. Take the airline a few years ago, they began a voluntary program where customers could contribute one euro to help offset their flight, pointing to tree-planting schemes in Ireland and Portugal that would help do that. But an expert later found those schemes offset less than 0.01 percent of Ryanair’s 2019 emissions — and when its CEO was pressed on this, he got a little defensive.

The point here is that you’ve got a large and growing airline that emits a lot of carbon dioxide and your offsetting scheme nowhere near meets that.

Absolutely wrong!

But there’s an Irish forest, isn’t there, in Roscommon?


Which is 7 hectares. I mean, it is nothing.

From little acorns grow mighty trees.

If you’ve only got 7 hectares, you’re only going to get 7 hectares of mighty oaks aren’t you?

We’ve only started this in the last year. I mean, we’re working with four projects. We’re re — you know, we’re replanting trees in Monchique in Portugal. We’re supporting whales and – dolphins in Ireland as well. –

Whale tracking which has nothing to do with carbon dioxide.

And the bizarre one – which has nothing to do with carbon dioxide.

No, but it’s good for the environment. I don’t think any of our customers would object to supporting whales and dolphins in Ireland.

John: Okay, it’s not that people would object to that. Of course people love whales and dolphins. Whales are big honkin’ boys who upshit water out of their heads, and dolphins are smooth, friendly water dogs who cackle like demonic babies — they’re both excellent. But protecting them isn’t the thing you promised. It’s like if you asked your husband to pick up your kids from school and he came home childless, but with a pizza. You’re not mad at the pizza — no one’s ever mad at the pizza but it’s not the important thing he said he was going to do. The problem with carbon offsets is, everyone wants to believe in them. Buyers want a cheap way to make a big claim, and sellers want money for doing as little as possible. And ideally, there would be an entity in the middle charged with keeping both sides honest. And there actually is — they’re called carbon offset registries. They’re supposed to be neutral third parties who sign off on the efficacy of potential offsets. These four are the major ones in the voluntary offset market. But those registries aren’t really accountable to anyone — technically, you or I could start a registry. And given that they’re paid by the companies selling the offsets, it won’t surprise you to learn many experts say their standards are far too low — as exemplified by the fact the hawk mountain preserve, the Disney forest, and the hunting club, all met the standards of the American carbon registry. Basically, getting a sign off from a carbon registry is like winning a kids choice award — it doesn’t really mean much, but it will help you temporarily look a little greener. And look: the problem isn’t those projects themselves. It’s good to protect forests! But the issue is claiming they cancel out carbon emissions. Because truly offsetting carbon is technically possible. Theoretically, if a wind farm gets built to replace a fossil-fuel plant, that had zero likelihood of getting built otherwise, that could be a genuine offset. But real-world examples of that are extremely hard to find. One study of wind turbine projects in India, for instance, found that at least fifty-two percent of approved carbon offsets stemmed from projects that would very likely have been built anyway. Which causes real damage. Because polluters in countries that cap emissions bought those offsets. And when you buy an offset so you can pollute more — and that offset is bullshit — you’re actively making things worse. In fact, that study argues the sale of those offsets substantially increased global carbon dioxide emissions. Which clearly isn’t good. And there’s one final way carbon offsets can cause harm. Because when that BP spokesperson with the goth balloons referred to building an offsetting project “miles away, maybe on the other side of the world”, it’s worth remembering that people might be living there. A decade ago, the Swedish energy agency announced that it had bought carbon credits from a company called green resources, which said it had planted pine forests in Uganda, that could offset carbon emissions elsewhere. The problem was, thousands of rural Ugandans were evicted by the Ugandan government to make room for the plantation, including this man, whose family once farmed a large plot of land there.

When I was seven years old, I started herding cattle. The other kids and I herded the livestock on our land. There were rocks, which were remnants from my great great grandfather’s day.

Narrator: Odongo, do you have a possibility to just show us where your land was?

No, that would be a problem. I can get in trouble if I show you the land.

John: That’s obviously awful. No one should ever be scared to show someone a piece of land, unless, of course, that ****ing janky tree is on it. If there were any squirrels living in you, they’ve died of embarrassment, I hope you know that. And the Swedish energy agency will point out that they’ve now backed away from that Ugandan project, but I’ll point out they only did that after that news segment you just saw embarrassed them on Swedish television. They were completely fine with it until then. So, it seems, at best, the benefits of carbon offsets are wildly overstated, while the harm they can do is very real. And while there are ongoing efforts to at least improve the standards of registries, the truth is, offsets aren’t the answer here. Fundamentally, we can’t offset our way out climate change. Even the current CEO of United Airlines knows this. He’s one of the few heads of a fossil-fuel-dependent company who’s actually willing to acknowledge how inadequate offsets can be.

The real challenge we have globally is that mankind produces 4,000 times as many emissions as we did in the pre-industrial era. And most of these carbon offset projects are about planting trees. There is not room on the planet to plant 4,000 times as many trees. It simply can’t be the answer. And the problem with it is is it’s the easy solution. It’s the solution that if you’re sitting in the c-suite, you can write a check and check the box and have a marketing message that I’ve offset all my carbon, but you really haven’t done anything.

John: He’s right. That airline CEO is right. Although it speaks to the seductive power of offsets that even his company can’t give them up. If you go to the united airlines website right now, you’ll find a page where you can offset your flight, in front of a picture of a ****ing forest. So at least one of those people sitting in the c-suite, checking a box is the ghost of Mark Zuckerberg future. But it’s true that there literally isn’t enough space for every company to plant trees and fulfill their own net zero pledge. By one estimate, there’s only about five hundred million hectares of land left that can be dedicated to new forests for carbon capture. And shell alone, has proposed planting a tenth of that amount. The bottom line is we have an offset system that places profits over science, and the rules regulating it are far too lax. And the reason I know that is, remember when, five minutes ago, I said that I could set up a carbon registry? You already knew where this was heading, right? You knew, if they had a loophole where I could set up a registry, establish whatever standards I want, and start listing projects, that I was going straight through that ****ing loophole, right? You knew that was going to happen. Well I’m glad to say you were correct. We set up Oliver’s offsets carbon registry, and I’m thrilled to announce an exciting new project that meets our exacting standards. Please — come with me. As you’re about to see, we have trees in the studio now, trees you can help protect, while also offsetting your personal carbon footprint. Now, are any of these trees under threat? I’m certainly going to tell you that they are. Because I’ll cut every single one of these ****ers down. I’ll do it! Maybe there are birds living in here, or whales! Who knows? But don’t worry — you can save them, simply by sending me one dollar! We’re issuing ten thousand carbon credits, each of which will stop me cutting this tree down for exactly five minutes. All you have to do is go to, pay me a dollar, and in return we’ll send you back a card that you can use as proof that you’re now “carbon neutral.” We’re making big claims while doing very little, which honestly, is entirely reflective of the system we currently have. So why not offset your carbon today? All proceeds will go to saving Irish whales and dolphins. And who would have a problem with that?

Anyway, that’s our show, thank you so much for watching!

[Cheers and applause]

[chainsaw whirring]

Good night! I’ll do it! I’ll do it! Give me money! I’ll do it! Give me a dollar! I’ll cut this ****ing thing I’ll do it!


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