Marketing and Making Carbon Dumps
Commodification, Calculation and Counterfactuals in Climate Change Mitigation

by Larry Lohmann

first published 20 September 2005

Although the Kyoto Protocol failed to gain the support of the United States, the country by whom and for whom it was largely written, environmentalists, politicians and journalists elsewhere generally hailed it as a crucial "first step" toward more serious efforts to address global warming.

Yet the Protocol and associated schemes such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme were never designed to do what any constructive approach to global warming must do: check the upward flow of fossil carbon into the overflowing above-ground carbon dump. Instead, they attempted to secure the existing global carbon dump mainly for heavy fossil fuel users, while developing speculative new carbon dumps also for elite use.

This approach was confused, regressive and divisive. It squandered science and technology on scientifically-impossible programmes while taking the climate issue out of the hands of the public and sowing the seeds of future social conflict. Its incoherence can only be countered by a broad political movement.

This article appeared in Science as Culture, Volume 14, issue number 3, September 2005.