Google is clearly taking solid steps to cut its corporate emissions. But it is worth taking a careful look at its reliance on carbon offsets to wipe out its historic carbon footprint, given the many complexities & challenges surrounding their use. bbc.com/news/technolog…
The types of offsets Google is using at least include land-fill gas capture, agricultural methane capture & forestry projects, according to the company's statements in the past: storage.googleapis.com/gweb-sustainab…
A problem with land-fill capture - as the BBC flags - is we'd capture a lot more of it if we mandated the practice through laws rather than incentivized it through offsets - yet the existence of such programs could create perverse incentives for firms to lobby against such rules.
Agricultural methane means turning livestock manure into fertilizer and "renewable natural gas" that we then burn for energy. It does release CO2 into the atmosphere, but that generally beats simply letting the waste decompose in the greenhouse gas math.
But ... the problem there is methane is far more potent than CO2 when it is released, and our infrastructure tends to be pretty leaky, as @emilygrubert points out here: theconversation.com/renewable-natu…
Plus, growing use of RNG "could delay climate mitigation because of induced demand for intentionally produced methane," as she notes here: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.108…
Finally, as for forestry offsets, I've written about some of the challenges with accurately measuring & verifying additional carbon uptake in trees here:
technologyreview.com/2019/04/18/658…
And here: technologyreview.com/2020/01/28/276…

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More from @jtemple

21 Apr
It appears the Superior Court of D.C. granted motions from the National Academy of Sciences & researcher Christopher Clack, each seeking awards of attorneys fees and costs, in a case involving Stanford professor Mark Jacobson that dates back to a 2017 PNAS paper.
We wrote about that paper here: technologyreview.com/2017/06/19/151…
Jacobson responded by suing Clack and the NAS for defamation, seeking a retraction and $10 million in damages, as we covered here: technologyreview.com/2017/11/02/391…
Read 6 tweets
21 Dec 18
Some personal reflections on California's Camp Fire, and how it shifted my thinking on climate change: technologyreview.com/s/612658/the-d…
In short, more and more, I’ve come to fear we’ll be overwhelmed by climate catastrophes, rather than inspired to real action
Read 6 tweets
30 Oct 18
Without initially setting out to, I've begun focusing my coverage on the "hard to clean" parts of the economy -- areas outside the power sector where we have no clear way to decarbonize with today's technology.
The bad news is, they add up to a lot of emissions (even before including agriculture), as @SteveDavisUCI @KenCaldeira et. al pointed out in Science earlier this year: technologyreview.com/s/611498/we-st…
The good news, as I've been writing, is that there are some heavyweight researchers and startups hard at work on these hard problems, including @dsadoway & Boston Metal's efforts to clean up steel production: technologyreview.com/s/611961/this-…
Read 6 tweets

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