Net Zero

Countries and corporations are pledging to get to “net zero” carbon emissions in the not-too-distant future. The promise rings hollow.

Net zero pledges are always made by polluting bureaucracies bent on improving their public image. And the promises always depend on false accounting of “offsetting” emissions.

The most common offset ploy is planting trees. Fossil fuel giant Shell Global, for instance, has sworn to achieve net zero by 2050 in part by “planting forests the size of Spain” – all the while continuing to produce oil and increase its natural gas production.

The United Nations estimates that such extensive planting would be 1/10th of the land available worldwide for such an endeavor. And planting trees does not necessarily lessen carbon emissions. If it does, the effect is much more meager than pollution emitters figure – and decades later than they suppose.

The wave of net zero pledges comes just a month after the UN noticed that the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions only accelerates global warming. Shuttering economies with futile covid restrictions in the past year hasn’t much slowed the global pollution machine.

The hot air of ‘net zero’ does have one positive effect: inflate cynicism. But not fast enough.

The time when overthrowing capitalist plutocracy might make a difference to self-extinction has passed. And it’s not going to happen anyway. The sheep are not smart enough to kill the wolves that have been consuming the herd at an industrial rate for centuries. The march to doom continues without missing a beat.


Rachel Kyte, “Opinion: Don’t be fooled by ‘net zero’ pledges,” The Washington Post (22 March 2021).

Ishi Nobu, “Tree planting,” (16 July 2020).