Video: Your “Carbon Footprint” Is A Scam

The other day I shared a video on how “net zero” is a scam, and I think this is a good follow-up to that. This is absolutely a trick I fell for, and I grappled for a long time with the misguided belief that climate action was all about individuals “making better choices”.  I’ve got a longer piece on this in the works, but these two “scams” do a good job of illustrating how the shell game is played. Pollution, destruction, poisoning, blame – it’s all shifted onto society as a whole. It works because it’s not some nefarious plan, it’s just how all the incentives of our society are arranged. Some of that was there from the outset, as feudalism gave way to capitalism, and the aristocrats largely kept their wealth and power. Some of it was put in place when individuals with power pushed for changes to benefit themselves, and that paved the way for everyone else.

Some of it is propaganda convincing the masses that the true guilt lies within us, and we should either seek purity through asceticism, or just enjoy the ride while it lasts.


  1. John Morales says

    Wow, that was a terrible video. I gave up after 7 minutes elapsed.

    Ah well, another channel I know to henceforth avoid.

  2. says

    Well, I found it cogent and engaging. Nothing new if you’ve been doing climate change action for a while, but it’s an effective intro to a lot of science, engineering, and politics.
    The one dimension the video only hints at is the benefits that people get from turning their eco-anxiety into some kind of action. If it only stops at recycling, or re-usable containers, that’s too bad, but the way such action is framed, and put in the context of the overall challenge can help people see their small steps as the beginning of more action and learning. It turns out that when people do SOMETHING out of concern (or worry), their lowered anxiety means they are more able to hear the science in a usable way.
    Doing anything like this in a community setting (study or action group, faith community, whatever) helps sustain the intent to take action privately and politically, since the problems facing us are so huge that there is always a temptation to deny, despair, or otherwise hit a wall.
    Thanks for posting!

  3. seachange says

    I too was unable to watch the entire video and started skipping around.

    In the 1970s Sam Yorty won the mayorship of Los Angeles because recycling was percieved as handling trash, and that was something that only bad people, crazy people, and people so poor that they had to be garbagemen would handle. (He ran against mandatory recycling) Recycling wasn’t something that people do. Once the rest of California started doing it then became the synthesis and LA dragged itself into the future.

    This video is criticizing taking individual steps. But how else would we get a necessary collective action if it isn’t already ‘something that people do’? (If you believe in democracy). The reason why taking individual steps, yes this is a scam. But more interesting to me is how best to modify it, which wan’t addressed before I got bored with it.

  4. xohjoh2n says

    Meh. I watched it all and I don’t know what your problems are. Maybe if you’d explained your issues then you wouldn’t be subject to the reaction of “that was a terrible comment, I gave up after 7 words, another commenter I know to avoid.”

    That said @3 does remind be of our local situation: for a long time in the UK recycling just wasn’t really available despite popular requests for it. Then it suddenly becomes mandatory with fines for not immediately using it to the fullest ability. Actually I’ve never locally heard of fines for putting the wrong stuff in the wrong bin, but the press says it happens in some places. Don’t know where that comes from really. But it is a peculiarly UK thing that things turn from basically impossible to suddenly a criminal offense not to do with no transition or in-between state. That definitely ought to result in torches and pitchforks outside the gates at Westminster.

  5. John Morales says

    xohjoh2n, are you addressing me?

    The issue is that the video is not actually setting forth its position and then justifying it.
    It’s just making vague insinuations.

    (Also, it’s 7 minutes of a 17-minute video. Nearly half of it)

    So, how is it supposedly a scam? The OP suggests it’s “the misguided belief that climate action was all about individuals “making better choices””. The video may have eventually got there, but certainly did not by the time it had sufficiently annoyed me.

    (I do tend to be literal, so I’ll just note that ‘carbon footprint’ is a metric, not a policy or an advocacy)

    The video, as far as I got — it didn’t exactly get to the point — intimated that fossil fuel companies use the concept as a form of greenwashing. Which is true, but hardly makes the concept a scam.

  6. xohjoh2n says


    I thought the video was fairly clear that:

    1. Carbon footprint is a metric with genuine academic credentials behind it
    2. But fossil fuel companies have appropriated it to suggest that dealing with climate change is all down to individual consumers making better choices by buying fewer or lower footprint goods
    3. The ability to choose such goods is constrained by what the power structures of capitalism will allow, of which the fossil fuel companies are a part
    4. The only way to escape from that will be collective action to force them to change, not individual choices

    If you’re complaining about that being padded to 17 minutes then you’re basically trashing every documentary ever made, every court case ever held, every legislative session ever held…

    If it’s not you cup of tea, so be it, but I don’t think the fault is with the video in this case.

  7. says

    I don’t mind that the video doesn’t do it for everyone.

    @John Morales – just to clarify, do you want me or someone in the comments to address your questions, or are you just annoyed that a point you generally agree with was badly made?

    If it’s the former, I’m more than happy to help if I can. If it’s the later, that’s fine too,

  8. John Morales says

    It’s OK, Abe. xohjoh2n summarised things pretty well @6.

    My view is that point #2 there does not justify the claim any more than that romance scams mean love is a scam.

    Also, it’s fair enough to say personal responsibility alone won’t fix things, but it’s too far to say it’s irrelevant on that basis. And, practically, taking responsibility (reducing personal greenhouse contributions) for the wrong reasons will still help things.

    In passing, I read this article earlier today:

  9. xohjoh2n says


    The scam part of it is that they (the fossil fuel companies) are saying that it must be down to your choices, not their practices, but on the other hand they themselves are part of the system *denying you the ability to make choices with meaningful consequences for mitigating climate change*. It’s a scam because they’re telling you to do something they are in effect stopping you from doing. It’s a scam because they are using it to divert attention from the things *they ought to be doing* which are the only things that will ultimately make a difference.

  10. xohjoh2n says

    (And to be clear, it’s not saying “carbon footprints” are a scam. It’s saying the fossil fuel industry’s promotion of them as “the solution” is a scam.)

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