The hypocrisy of the environmental religion has never been more on display than at — imagine this — the United Nations climate talks, which concluded Friday.
The confab in Lima, Peru, was expected to have the biggest carbon footprint of any previous climate conversation, The Associated Press reported. And not only the biggest but one and a half times bigger than the norm, according to Jorge Alvarez, the project coordinator for the U.N. Development Program.
Not only did Peru have to disturb a huge grassy area to build 11 football fields of temporary structures for the 13-day session, but the parts to build them came from as far away as France and Brazil.
Further, it was dubious whether the 580 square miles of forest in three different reserves that were protected by the country to offset the carbon footprint could remain undisturbed for the necessary next 50 years.
Indeed, that's one of the problems with carbon offsetting. Some offset ideas that involve tree planting have been debunked, proven to be scientifically unreliable and are said to only invent savings.
In addition, carbon trading has no worldwide standards, so there's no real way to tell if the trades that allow a continuing carbon footprint are offset by whatever is proposed to be traded. And if carbon continues to be produced in one country and is offset in another country, the first country sees no measurable gains.
Worst of all, carbon trading does little or nothing to address global warming, the decriers of which seek to get rid of fossil fuels. With carbon trading, a country or industry continues to produce using fossil fuels but attempts to ameliorate that with an impossible-to-measure goal elsewhere.
"Offsets," says researcher Dan Welch in "A Buyer's Guide to Offsets," "are an imaginary commodity created by deducting what you hope happens from what you guess would have happened."
Back in Peru, host city Lima can get hot, but weather statistics say the sun is not reliable. So solar panels that might have been expected to be used for power generation at such a summit were not employed. Instead, organizers hoped to use the country's power grid, which is about 52 percent fed by nonpolluting hydroelectric power, but, despite upgrading transformers and generators, the plan did not work.
Ultimately, the talks relied exclusively on less efficient diesel generators for electric power.
Even holding the talks in Peru might have raised an eyebrow for those whose concern is more the environment than the people who live in it. The South American country, after all, has doubled its carbon output in the past decade.
A few other tidbits:
• A bicycle parking lot was requested and built for the talks, but, in one of the world's least friendly cities for bikes, only about 40 people per day in a metropolitan area approaching 9 million used it. Bikers, according to the AP, so fear drivers in Lima that they prefer to compete with pedestrians for sidewalk space.
• Most delegates, in traveling the six miles to the talks venue from their hotels, spent about an hour in traffic.
• No hybrid or electric cars were spotted at the talks. Although Japan donated 121 hybrid and electric cars, mostly for dignitaries, "most didn't arrive," Alvarez said.
• The country did save a bit, it was noted, because "we did not put in strong air conditioning," despite the Southern Hemisphere approaching its summer solstice. So delegates were encouraged to adjust "by wearing business casual attire" to most events.
As the talks wound down, with observers saying little progress was made, many of the problems boiled down to, as they do elsewhere: Who pays?
Developed nations for years have made most of the carbon-cutting commitments at climate summits but now want everyone to take part. Even United States Secretary of State John Kerry, whose country has cut more carbon pollution than any other nation, was pointed in saying no one should have a "free pass."
"I know this is difficult for developing nations," he said. "We have to remember that today more than half of emissions are coming from developing nations, so it is imperative that they act too."
China, which emits nearly twice the amount of greenhouse gases as the U.S., and India, which has plans to double coal production to alleviate its blackouts, have resisted such a request.
So as delegates gather at the airport to return to their various countries on fuel-gobbling jets, they can pat themselves on the back for their good environmental intentions. But, back home, hungry and homeless people have a hard time getting by on good intentions.