Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Trading on Thin Air" examines financial derivatives based on reducing carbon emissions

Trading on Thin Air” (2010, 77 minutes), directed by Susan Kucera, from CinePartners and Netflix, explores the possibility that the financial services world will exploit the trading of “carbon offsets” and “cap and trade” as part of a worldwide strategy to reduce global warming.

Much of the film is motivated by two appealing male characters (Lee Attenberg and John Barnes)  acting in a stage play, in black and white, where their motives in trading these new kinds of “securities” are questioned. 
They explain how carbon credits are a financial allowance to do less of what you would normally do.  Imagine, for example, if you got paid for every mile you drove less than 12000 miles a year.  Now imagine this as a financial asset or “derivative” that could be traded on Wall Street.

The film also tracks this “derivative” concept back to earlier times in history, when money was created, put on gold standards, and then turned into a fiat system without a backing – currency based on “nothing” – it could vanish into thin air.  It also explains “fractional reserve banking”.

The film gets into some of the international complications possible from this kind of trading. China, for example, wanted credit for its population control policy, and Europe (ironically hampered by low birth rates) agreed. 
The film also says that climate policies, while well intentioned, will lead to massive displacement of poor people in low lying areas to be displaced by dams and hydroelectric projects.   It also says that some reforestation projects are not set up in a biologically or ecologically sound manner.

The official site is here.

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