In Danger of failing. 

Many many decades ago, this language appeared on school report cards. A check mark warned parents that their child might not advance to the next grade.  Judging by the recent conclusions of Gordon Miller (Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner), “In danger of failing” could refer to Ontario.

His 2014 report  to the Ontario Legislature on Ontario’s performance questions whether the present Government is committed to programs that will result in Ontario meeting its 2020 GHG reduction target.

Read moreIn Danger of failing. 

If the cap fits, wear it!

What do you call a report on climate change prepared by 830 scientists around the world?

“Group think”, according to the head of a business panel that advises the Australian Government.

No, this gentleman is not attempting to describe the arrangements that enable these scientists to share their conclusions with each other. Nor is he describing the rigours of the scientific method, and the contribution of peer reviewed papers.

Group think is a “put down” of experts that global warming sceptics don’t agree with.

It is puzzling how anyone could use the term in the context of the consensus of 97% of scientists who advise us about global warming and its causes.

Read moreIf the cap fits, wear it!

A Half Truth? Or a Suppressed Truth?

The Conservative politicians who support pipelines (Keystone XL and Northern Gateway) repeat a tiresome mantra. They assert that the decision whether to approve the construction of these soon-to-be relics of a past era should be based on science and not on politics.

With the approach of the June decision date on Northern Gateway approval we can expect this misleading appeal to scientific wisdom to be re-iterated by Prime Minister Harper and his finance minister Joe Oliver.  Oliver will also stress the economic benefits of construction and the prosperity that exporting tar sands oil will bring to Canada.

Let’s just stick with their appeal to science.  Scientists have been warning us that we must reduce GHG emissions or face a grim future this century.  Their conclusions have been re-affirmed in the three recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In their appeal Conservative politicians completely ignore the scientific conclusions of the IPCC.

Read moreA Half Truth? Or a Suppressed Truth?

Comments on the Great American Divide

Politicians who accept environmental studies of the world climate as summarized in the IPCC Reports are certain that Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) are the cause of global warming.  Other politicians who reject this causal connection refer to the significant changes in earth’s climate over many millennia. They draw support from some scientists who insist there are too many uncertainties to attribute global warming to this cause.

The past thirty years have seen wide variations in public opinion polls, which suggests that on the issue of the cause of global warming American voters are undecided who is correct.

This great divide in US politics coincides with certain philosophical beliefs as to the role of government in a modern economy.  Environmentalists consider that the state (US Government authorities) must enact laws to suppress GHG emissions.  They defend the need for such laws on the ground of a common good that independent minded legislators can recognize and protect, despite a lack of a clear majority in voter opinion.

The contrary opinion is based on libertarianism. America’s accomplishments come from its absolute commitment to individual liberty.  Enacting laws limiting business activity where there is no clear public recognition of their utility is restrictive of individual rights.  In the long term such laws will erode the entrepreneurial spirit that has made America great.

Both sides acknowledge that taxation is a necessity for a modern state:  the difference between them is a question of degree. Libertarians regard the current level of taxation as beyond what is reasonable and so an obstacle to the legitimate creation of individual wealth.  The Tea Party, a recent grass-roots political movement, believes that if not checked taxation contributes to a government bureaucracy that is inimical to individual achievement.

A leading US Senator calls global warming a “hoax”.  US law makers who propose action against global warming are referred to by their opponents as “socialists”. Very recently a leading US environmentalist and former politician referred to global warming sceptics as “immoral, unethical and despicable”, words much stronger than he has used before.  

Read moreComments on the Great American Divide

Further Delays for Keystone XL

You have to follow issues arising in the approval of Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline closely to understand the latest delay.

Two plus years ago TransCanada realized it had to re-route the path of Keystone to avoid fundamental criticism from environmentalists,. The path originally chosen threatened the Oglala aquifer, a critical source of water in the dry American Midwest.

To expedite a new routing, TransCanada moved quickly, using all legal and commercial means at its disposal.  Unfortunately certain Nebraska farmers were not prepared to be steamrollered. They took their case to court, arguing that the methods TransCanada used were improper.  Late last fall the court delivered its verdict, siding with the farmers.  TransCanada appealed this decision.  Sometime later this year or next the Nebraska Court of Appeal will deliver its judgement.

In the meantime, the US State Department has extended the period for its administrative review. Until its final review is completed, President Obama will not decide whether Keystone should be approved.

Read moreFurther Delays for Keystone XL

Writing on the Wall: the IPCC Fifth Assessment (mitigation)

The most important statement in the recently released IPCC Report from Working Group III on mitigation is the affirmation that disastrous effects of global warming can still be avoided.

In practical terms avoidance of disastrous climate change requires international agreement on a price for carbon. The price must reflect the emerging scarcity of disposal space for carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere.

With a price on carbon, fossil fuels will lose their competitive edge over renewable sources of energy. Canada and certain other countries will find that dependence on fossil fuels for energy cannot be sustained.

There is another consequence for Canada in the displacement of fossil fuels as a source of energy. In future Canada’s fossil fuel resource industry will progressively contribute less and less to our economy.

Read moreWriting on the Wall: the IPCC Fifth Assessment (mitigation)

If you read the Globe Editorial on Climate Change. . .

. . . you would have noted that the Globe is no longer sitting on the fence.

Today’s Globe editorial describes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment report “as a jolt of reality.” The editorial recommends that Ottawa “re-think its current do-next-to-nothing policy on emissions.” And adds: “On carbon emissions, Canada’s efforts rank as an epic fail.”

An “epic fail” is hardly complimentary. Still, the editorial could have stated that Canada ranks dead-last in its peer group, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  This fact would have brought home just how poorly Canada has been performing.

Read moreIf you read the Globe Editorial on Climate Change. . .

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