Wednesday, August 8, 2012

So Laughable, Naive And Sad: UN Tries To Lower Greenhouse Gases And Uses Incentives That Instead Increases Production Of Obscure Gas With Huge Global Warming Impact

The UN, with the best of intentions, offers a bounty for the reduction of the release of greenhouse gases based on their comparative relative global warming impact compared to carbon dioxide. The production of an air conditioning coolant gas produces a waste product gas with 11,000 times the global warming impact and payment of carbon dioxide. The UN is surprised that gas manufacturers have ramped up production of the coolant and toxic waste gas to the maximum UN payout limit. If the UN stops paying, the gas manufacturers will likely release the extremely environmentally harmful gas into the atmosphere. As economists and organizational design experts know, but apparently not the UN, incentives, especially monetary ones, matter and change behavior. The negative outcome is predictable from the start and should not have caught the UN off guard.

From The New York Times, "Carbon Credits Gone Awry Raise Output of Harmful Gas" By Elisabeth Rosenthal and Andrew W Lehren:
When the United Nations wanted to help slow climate change, it established what seemed a sensible system.

Industrial gases were rated based on their power to warm the atmosphere. The more dangerous the gas, the more that manufacturers in developing nations would be compensated as they reduced their emissions.
They quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas.
That incentive has driven plants in the developing world not only to increase production of the coolant gas but also to keep it high — a huge problem because the coolant itself contributes to global warming and depletes the ozone layer.

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