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In praise of freedom of expression…and Rupert Murdoch


This time a year ago, journalists were lining up to write glowing stories about TerraPass and other companies trying to find ways to let individuals help in the fight against global warming.

For one particular piece of coverage recently, Tom found himself having (environmentally friendly, presumably) make-up applied for a Modern Bride photo shoot. The bridal magazine announced our Chief Environmental Officer as one of the Top 25 Trendsetters for 2007 as we launched our new Wedding TerraPass.

Those with half an eye (or ear) on the world’s media must have noticed that the wind has changed a little. If you’re a fan of Fox News (I’m uncertain just how much crossover we have, but there may be a couple of you…) it seems the wind’s done a 180 and turned into a hurricane. Fox’s commentators are often to be found in the vanguard of the offset-loathers, variously describing them as “a sham” (Sean Hannity), “a euphemism for Escalade-driving environmentalists” (Terry Keenan), “a ridiculous concept that liberals are throwing on us” (Hannity again) and “a crock” (you guessed it: Sean Hannity).

OK. So maybe nobody really explained to Sean Hannity what the deal is with carbon offsets; how they can be used to stimulate the growth of renewable energy; to help small dairy farmers to reduce the environmental impacts of their farms; and to provide incentives to companies around the world to take action to reduce their emissions that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Indeed if this was just Fox News peddling the nonsense, I’d probably kick back for an evening and raise my glass to Messrs Hannity, Keenan and O’Reilly for their advanced sense of humor. Hey! We Brits understand irony!

But alas I’m not toasting anybody. Even as I sit in my favorite Prince of Wales pub (one of the finest in South London) typing away, pint of Fuller’s London Pride close at hand. In my last few days in London before I return full time to San Francisco I’ve been surprised to read another editorial bashing away at our well-intentioned industry. The Times of London last week ran a double-page feature on a UK carbon offset company, Climate Care. The piece was accompanied by an editorial that began:

Carbon offsetting is an infant industry that has made huge claims in order to establish itself. It is rooted in an assumption, which is still contestable, that the vast majority of the global warming since the late 19th century is due to man-made activity and, furthermore, that damage to the atmosphere can be canceled by virtuous intervention.

And you thought us Brits were way ahead of the Americans in our good environmental stewardship? Apparently we’re not even all that convinced, yet.

The Times and Fox News are owned by the same man that just purchased the Wall Street Journal, Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Perhaps surprisingly, given the tone of his media outlets, Rupert Murdoch is a big fan of emissions reductions. Despite being called a “sham, “crock” and “ridiculous concept”, carbon offsetting will be a part of News Corp’s efforts to reduce or offset all emissions by 2010.

In a speech to staff on May 9, Rupert Murdoch explained how emissions would be cut across all News Corp companies and facilities. He told staff that:

… some emissions will be unavoidable. As a last resort, we will offset these emissions.

A carbon offset is a financial tool to support projects that prevent carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Done right, they will widen the implementation of carbon-saving technologies, and give an incentive to create new solutions.

Nicely put. Rupert if you’re reading this, we’re hiring.

It’s reassuring to see someone with influence and general knowledge of the way the world works take such a strong stand on commonsense environmental practices. The emissions reductions promised by News Corp are significant. Now, if only Murdoch could get his employees to agree with him and say so in his various media outlets.

But I suppose editorial independence is a good thing. I’m allowed to write here whatever I like, and you’re allowed to respond in any (reasonable) way you see fit. So I’ll raise my glass to freedom of expression and the fact that Hannity et al. are able to continue their irrational denialism in the face of overwhelming evidence — despite their boss thinking otherwise.

And then I’ll make those edits Tom asked for, and remove that bit about him needing make-up.

[Ed. — the comment about Tom in make-up can stay, but I’ve removed the pictures of him in drag.]

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