Carbon Accounting Isn't Working

This post is about a 2 minute read

The climate movement is engaging the world in the wrong discussion1.

The problem with focusing on carbon accounting is that it leads people on both sides of the debate into thinking that so long as we emit less carbon/sequester more carbon, business can otherwise continue as usual and everything will be ok.


Imagine Earth not as a lump of rock covered in a layer of soil surrounded by gases, but as a living entity2.

Her vital organs (complex living systems such as forests, wetlands, reefs, oceans, mangrove swamps, grasslands) are being destroyed. Imagine also that Earth has a high fever.

Bringing down the fever without restoring her vital organs will still result in her death.

Earth has been able to adapt to fluctuations in atmospheric carbon in the distant past because her living systems were intact and functioning.

Our problem now is that Earth’s climate regulation ability has been severely compromised, because her “vital organs” are in tatters. Earth’s climate has become deranged.

If we allow the discussion to stay focused on carbon accounting as opposed to caring for Earth as a living, dynamic, complex entity, then even if we stop emissions and draw down carbon rapidly, we will not avert disastrous climate change.

As well as reducing emissions we also, urgently, need to restore health and diversity to living systems such as soils, river systems, wetlands, forests, reefs, mangroves, and complex grasslands, which also includes protecting insects and other under-valued life-forms that underpin all food webs.

The good news is that regeneration of soil, forests, etc is fundamentally local work – forest by forest, farm by farm, even garden by garden. Individuals and small local groups can do some aspects of this work better than large organizations can.

Large organizations and things like drone planting of trees, for example, cannot know the local place in the intimate way that is necessary to restore a biome that fits that place and time.

Plant that tree. Join the community garden group. Add herbs and flowers to your vegetable garden.

Stop using pesticides or herbicides in any form. Boycott the stinky cleaning aisle in the supermarket and the chemical aisle at your gardening store.

Install a microbat box or insect hotel in your garden or park.

Show your children what happens beneath the soil’s surface, and why soil needs protection.

Restoring habitat to support and rebuild diversity is something we can all contribute to, on any scale.

Please leave a comment...

How do you feel about the "official narrative" around carbon and climate change? Do you feel we need a more holistic, multi-dimensional approach than "renewable energy sources + carbon sequestering schemes + business as usual"?

Please share your thoughts below the Endnotes section. 


  1. A little while ago I read Climate: a New Story by Charles Eisenstein. This post shares some of what I took away from it and some of the thoughts I had in response to it.
  2. The Gaia theory asserts that so long as her systems are healthy, Earth can self-regulate global temperature, atmospheric content, and many other factors …
  • A reader responded to this post in an email:

    Hello Kate

    Thanks so much for your thoughts about the “official” climate change narrative.

    I am a permaculture practitioner and educator, living in the south of Spain, and have been critical for many years of both the official narrative and the political agendas that have been and are being set up around climate change. I was glad to see Charles Eisenstein’s book when it came out and am glad again now to see your comments on the subject.

    My understanding is that simple “silver bullet” answers to complex situations always create more problems than they solve, as human history clearly shows. Humanity will either learn and evolve to think laterally, in multidimensional and systemic ways, or we will perish, taking much of earth´s life with us. Yes, that is dire and yes, that is a huge challenge for humanity. Whether we will come up to the challenge or not is not clear at the moment.

    My hope is that a more nuanced discussion will grow into a sturdy movement!

    Thank you for doing what you do and for being part of that discussion. I am curious about how your readers will react to your post….

    All the best

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