All posts in Climate Change

  • James Hansen
    Peter Jones - September 21, 2014

    Peter Jones reports in from New York

    We (Anthony and Mary Ketchum and Marg Anne and I) met with the representatives of the Norwegian Grandparents Climate Campaign at supper tonight.  James Hansen attended and spoke of the need for citizens to march in the streets in large numbers.  In his view without  demonstrations of that size and nature politicians will not recognize that public opinion supports steps to reduce climate change.  As it is, politicians in the US have little incentive  to break the deadlock in the Houses of Congress.

    Tomorrow Hansen, his wife, Anik, and three grandchildren, will be marching as part of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. Hansen supports the lobby’s proposal for a carbon fee and dividend.

    4RG and the Norwegian contingent will be joining the parade as the second wave “We can build a future!”.

    It is estimated that the numbers could be as  much as 250,000 people marching although the thunderstorms that will hit the New York City area at about the time when the match was to start may reduce the numbers.

    That weather doesn’t bother us .  . . . We have large umbrellas.

    Will give a further report tomorrow after the March.

  • wg3cover 2014
    Peter Jones - September 17, 2014

    A misguided policy

    The Canadian Government has used a number of catch phrases to legitimize its support of fossil fuels.  The Government described its environmental monitoring and regulation of the tar sands as “world-class”, also referring to Canada in this context as “a world leader”.  Although the international community recognized these words as meaningless hype, many Canadians were re-assured that environmental risks were under control.

    The value of Canadian dollar, also known as our petrodollar, soared.  Most Canadians considered that this development validated the goal of Canada as “an energy super-power”.

    The Canadian Government countered criticism that an inflated dollar was detrimental to Canada’s manufacturing base. Supported by the Alberta Government and the fossil fuel industry, it emphasized that the exploitation of the tar sands resulted in substantial purchases of goods and services from suppliers in other Provinces.

    In April of this year we noted that Canada was on track to being a failed energy super power.  Today’s (September 17th) Toronto Star re-emphasized this development in an editorial entitled “Is our energy superpower vision slipping away?”

    Why this pessimistic view of the Canadian Government’s policy?

    In 2013 Canada produced more fossil fuels than before, principally due to increased output from the tar sands. The US Energy Information Agency projects that for the period 2010 – 2040 Canada will have the largest increase in crude oil and condensate among non-OPEC Countries.  Clearly these are “business as usual” projections, consistent with Canadian government policy.

    But it is clear that fossil fuels will not be the primary source of energy in the future, whatever the level of their consumption in an interim transition period.  This is the conclusion of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who advises the world community on energy and climate change.  The IEA points out that to stay within acceptable limits of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there must be

    1. a dramatic shift towards renewable energy,
    2. greater energy efficiency,
    3. and reduced GreenHouse gas(GHG) emissions.

    Canada will not make a dramatic shift towards renewable energy as this would mean limiting production of fossil fuels.  Canada’s failure to regulate tar sands emissions also makes it unlikely we will meet our Copenhagen target for reducing GHG emissions.

    Unless there is a change of Government in the fall of 2015.

    For More on Renewable Energy go toWriting on the Wall: the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

     

  • 10365332_1445264969057815_3950629561011550905_o
    Anthony Ketchum - September 13, 2014

    Why are we marching in New York?

    Why? Because our grandchildren’s future is at stake and thousands of people from all over North America are sending a message to world leaders. At least five chartered buses are travelling  from Toronto alone. The March starts at Central Park and world leaders in the General Assembly of the nearby United Nations headquarters will, we hope, take note of this outpouring over the climate crisis. We know that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will urge leaders to take greater action than we did to defeat the Nazis in World War II.
    We will be joined in New York by James Hansen, former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, and author of Storms of My Grandchildren, along with a dozen of our grandparent friends from Norway. Bill McKibben, who started  <350.org>  (the organizers of the march) and James Hansen have been champions of the battle to bring about clean energy. And battle it has been. The Bush Administration even cut out parts of Hansen’s early report before releasing it !
    Nonetheless, like other grandparents, my wife and I are looking forward to a positive future for all grandchildren. And the march on Sept. 21st could be the start of a quiet revolution as all of us begin to comprehend what the space travellers have told us for years: there is only one fragile, jewel of a planet and we have the responsibility to care for it, not poison it or exploit it.
    Our four grandchildren know that solar/photovoltaics and wind, not hydro, provide the power for our off-grid house not far from Pearson Airport. But they don’t know that in February of this year over 80% of new generating capacity in the U.S.A. came from solar and wind. Nor do they know about the huge number of institutions in the U.S. and Canada which are getting rid of their investments in fossil fuel corporations.
    Even if a million marchers descend on Manhattan on Feb. 21st, filling a large section of Fifth Avenue, we might still end up with another Copenhagen:  that is, no legal obligations to reduce greenhouse gases radically. We all know there is enormous pressure to maintain the status quo. But our hope is that our leaders will show the courage to face up to civilization’s dire threat – and recognize the warning signals from the climate disruption which we are already experiencing.
    Hiking in our spectacular parks with our grandchildren, canoeing in our vast wilderness, and skiing in this magnificent country are just some of the pursuits our grandchildren must be able to enjoy in the decades to come. On our grandchildren’s behalf, we seniors have already marched with other grandparents in Ottawa and Toronto, but Manhattan will signal to our leaders that they must ACT NOW.
  • Canada Coat of Arms
    Peter Jones - September 11, 2014

    The New Economy

    There are countries whose existing industry interests create problems for adoption of renewable energy.   Australia and Canada have very large investments in fossil fuels.  Australia has enormous coal reserves, and Canada has its tar sands.  The US has large investments in coal, gas and oil.

    The US also has perhaps the world’s largest investment in new technology. Technology heavyweights such as Apple and Google have committed to expand use of renewable energy. So the current political struggle pits the fossil fuel industry (coal mining states) against the technology sector (California, New England states).

    Many countries leading the transition to renewable energy do not have to overcome opposition from local fossil fuel interests. Germany, a manufacturing powerhouse, is shutting down its remaining coal mines by 2018.  So . . .  without a large fossil fuel industry, Germany has had an easier task in developing both the infrastructure for renewable energy and investment in renewable installations.

    The United Kingdom is close behind.  A recent UK Government Report, Securing Our Prosperity through a Global Cliamte Change Agreement,  presents the shift away from fossil fuels as an economic opportunity that will result from “a deal” at the next UNFCCC meeting (Paris 2015). To quote the Report:

    “That is why the UK business community is so overwhelmingly in favour of a deal. They want the certainty, clarity and confidence it would bring so that they can get on with making the low-carbon transition a reality.  UK businesses are already at the forefront of the green economy revolution. A deal would lead to further investment opportunities at home and abroad, and increase the size of the low-carbon goods and services sector worldwide.”

    The   Report comments on the performance by other countries, and encourages more action:

    “. . . Canada and Australia should take on the most ambitious commitments and we are pressing them to do so in our bilateral contacts. We want to see them commit to ambitious targets to reduce their absolute emissions across their whole economy, to reflect their high level of past emissions, their likely future contribution to climate change, and their capability to deliver such cuts. We would not expect any country with an economy wide cap to step back from that, or to put forward lower levels of ambition than in previous commitments.”

    Despite these tough comments, the UK and other similarly minded countries at the Paris meeting should recognize the challenge that any Canadian Government will face.  If between now and October 2015 there are positive steps to reducing emissions,  the rest of the Kyoto parties would be more likely to accommodate Canada’s situation.

    Another reason why the Conservative Government in Ottawa should adopt Green policies on Climate Change: to help the economy .

  • cof-landing-page
    Peter Jones - September 5, 2014

    Climate Change: Key to Canada’s 2015 Federal Election

    Our last blog, A Ray of Hope, suggested that the Federal Government might become active on renewable energy after two years of indifference.   What is the basis for this optimism?

    First, the Ontario Liberals, who have been very active in promoting renewable energy, now have a comfortable four-year mandate.  The Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glenn Murray, understands the importance and challenges of renewable energy better than any Federal Minister.

    Secondly, Quebec, a Province where a great majority of people have constantly supported mitigation of climate change, now has a Liberal Government that intends to move forward on this neglected area.

    Thirdly, the provincial premiers are likely to propose mitigation measures and invite Federal participation.  The Federal Government has the power to regulate trade (a cap and trade system) and impose a tax (a carbon tax).  Not that the Federal Government will participate in this review, but at least they will not oppose any joint initiatives at the Provincial level.

    Fourthly, there is a positive public attitude towards the renewable energy industry.  Innovation is necessary to mitigate climate change, and that means new business opportunities.

    Fifthly, the extreme weather events of this decade have finally hit home:  most members of the public recognize that the climate is changing.  The Premiers all agreed on the importance of a strong Federal Disaster Assistance Program. They called on the Federal Government to reach an agreement to strengthen the future National Disaster Mitigation Program.

    Ontario  supports a Quebec initiative to host a  summit meeting of the Premiers in 2015 devoted entirely to climate change and Carbon Market. As Ontario is the key province to the outcome of the next Federal election, the Conservative Party cannot ignore climate change in its election platform. What the Party will actually do is a matter for speculation.

  • New Zealand
    Peter Jones - August 27, 2014

    A Canadian speaks to “Down Under” Countries

    Australia is retreating from a strong climate change policy. New Zealand is wavering.  Why should Canadians worry about such developments down under?

    Gordon McBean, a Canadian climatologist who is the President elect of the International Council for Science, encouraged New Zealand to take a strong stand on climate change.  He referred to the world wide increase in GHG emissions, the result of many countries, including Canada, not reducing their emissions. In his opinion, the world needs fresh inspiration, and a leading role by New Zealand as a down under country could embarrass other countries into following its example.

    The New Zealand Parliament is elected using the mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) voting system.  This system encourages the formation of political parties, currently eight in number, all of whom seek representation in Parliament.  These parties all have policies on climate change.

    • The governing National Party will reduce GHG emissions by 2020 to the Kyoto target, but there are questions  whether its program and proposed path for reductions can assure this result.
    • The Labour Party is relatively more determined and promises a transition to a green, i.e. non-carbon, economy.
    • The Greens also have a transition strategy aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050.
    • The New Zealand First party proposes research and incentive programs for individual users to move to renewable energy.
    • Three other parties, the Maori, United Future and Mana-Internet party, have sensible programs to reduce emissions, but minimal representation in Parliament.
    • The ACT party – which has no representation in the current parliament – will not “act” to reduce emissions  as such efforts would be inconsequential.

    Is the proliferation of political parties an advantage for the development of climate change policy?  We can only wait and see!

    Side bar thought:  would electoral reform in Canada result in a similar proliferation of political parties?