Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Xmas Light Displays

I wrote the following letter and sent it to the national tv network. I doubt they will pay any attention but who knows?


Dear Sir,

This morning you ran stories covering the Copenhagen Climate Change conference and almost every
day you feature some story about reducing greenhouse gases and/ or Copenhagen.

Then you have that loon of a weather man promoting a Christmas lights display contest.

Either your editorial staff lacks any comprehension of the connection between light
displays and energy usage, or you think it isn't important, or you simply think we, your
audience, are too stupid to notice, in any case you have lost all credibility regarding
the issue.

Today's winner of the "get your light display on national TV" contest was from Red Deer,
Alberta - a province that produces 90% of its electricity by BURNING COAL!

The house had 65,000 lights on it.

Give your heads a shake will you?

Geoff White, B.Ed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Copenhagen aftermath

Those who lambast PM Harper & Premier Campbell for "shaming Canada at Copenhagen" are as unaware of what discussions took place behind closed doors as I am, but I am prepared to give these experienced politicians the benefit of the doubt.

Why, you ask?

Because strategy revealed in public seldom works.
They may have strategies to deal with Canada's awkward position as an major fossil fuel exporter doing business as the largest trrading partner of the USA and also sending millions of tons of coal to China and Japan as well as building two huge liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals at Ridley island near Prince Rupert and Texada island near Powell River on the south coast. Billions are at stake and it is unwise to make your deals in public.

Among the two hundred nations of the world there is a range of concerns regarding climate change. Some island nations are threatened with complete loss of territory due to sea level rise. So they will become refugees and will find new homes before final submersion. Coastal nations like Bangladesh, will suffer huge losses and there will be refugees. This has happened before, after monsoons and typhoons, and will happen again, even if there was no climate change.

The well-being of some nations will be enhanced by climate change. Canada may be one of them. PM Harper & his advisers can see that but it is politically unwise to say so in public.

IN any case, the Maldives may be doomed already. Even if we stopped all fossil fuel use tomorrow, parked the cars, shut down coal-fired electricity generation and let millions in the American northeast freeze this winter, it probably won't stop climate change in time to save the Maldives. We didn't initiate climate change in 20 years, it isn't going to stop in 20 years. And ocean levels could rise enough to submerge a good many island states by 2030.

In the meantime, World demand for energy is rising as nations develop from third world status and join the developed nations. The G7 has already become the G20. China is surging, as is India. Together they represent a third of the world's population. The scale of production of renewable energy production needed to meet the needs of just those 2,500 million people cannot be achieved in 20 years.

Over the next 20 years the world will need all of Canada's fossil fuel energy production, just as it needs all of Canada's grain production. Many millions of people will die in the next 20 years from obesity and health conditions like diabetes related to overeating, but nobody would think of cutting back on food production to save them from themselves, nor in a democracy would they tolerate being told, "You're too fat, so we are reducing the amount of food on the grocery store shelves until you lose weight."

Sound ridiculous? Canada, USA, India and China are democracies. It seems unlikely to me that those citizens will stop heating their homes, or using fossil fuel powered vehicles for work and personal transportation voluntarily. Further, no government will long survive in a democracy today, if it tried to force that regime on it's voters.

Joe Clark tried merely to raise the cost of a litre of gasoline by as little as ten cents and his government fell as the citizens told him what he could do with his cost hike.

As if further prooof of this is needed, the elected leaders of the USA, Canada, Brazil, China, etc. agreed MOnday this week merely "to try to keep global warming to 2 degrees" but would not accept penalties for failing, because they knew they would be out of office before their planes touched down on home soil if they tried to sentence their voters to life without fossil fuels, or even a 20% reduction.

Always remember the first ten percent is the easiest, the next ten per cent is harder, and so on.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Copenhagen Two: Canada - Sweden Comparison

I think making spurious comparisons between Canada and Sweden lacks integrity or worse, common sense, worse still, risks insulting the intelligence of our audience. We cannot expect people to be sophisticated enough to understand the climate change model and its factors and yet fall for the Canada - Sweden comparaison. (quoted below at the bottom)

1) Canada, en masse, as a cultural unit did not endorse tarsands development. A few corporations with enormous capital resources and unprecedented influence acquired by determination and hard work have developed tarsands. The millions of voters who did not endorse tarsands should not (forgive me) be tarred with the same brush.

The nature of Sweden's economy and industrial base is significantly different from Canada's resource based economy. A "9 % reduction" there is like saying "Heidi KLum lost 3 lbs over Christmas and looks fabulous, why can't you look like her?" A spurious comparison.

2) Sweden cut it's oil consumption by 50% in the last 30 years.
Relatively easy when 40% of your population lives in 5% of your country area (the Oresund region) and 85% live in urban areas overall. But the most dominant characteristic is the sheer size of Canada. Victoria to St Johns is 6,327 kms. Malmo to the border of Finland is only 800kms.

Significantly, when all our food is distributed by diesel truck and when Greyhound cut its diesel consumption hugely this year, but only by cutting service to distant communities, you realize that you can't do that with food distribution. But Sweden can achieve a 50% reduction merely by putting in a decent commuter bus/train system, which it did.

3) Sweden has a carbon tax and a vision for an oil free economy by 2020;
This is aspirational and therefore spurious. BC has a carbon tax too, and a vision, so what?

4) Canada has no plan for meeting its breathtakingly irrelevant targets.
Sweden's government is 400 years old. Canada's is 144 yrs old.

Sweden's government is such that plans can be implemented without much opposition. In concert with their physical geography, merely having a a plan is a lot easier than in Canada's case. The challenges faced by a young nation like Canada rich in resource wealth but sparsely populated is greater than an e-mail can cover.
Notwithstanding that, even publishing targets in a democratic nation like ours or the USA is political suicide. The media is owned by corporate interests with cronies ion the energy sector. The opposition, rightly champions the labour sector, making "relevant" targets unpopular.

This Climate Change challenge requires a huge leap forward in educational terms.
Sending out mis-information and ridiculious comparisons like the one below will only weaken our position with PM Harper et al.

The G20 can't go non-fossil overnight. Western Canada remains one of th eworld's largest repositories of energy resources: oil, gas, coal, hydro. That makes it an easy target, but Western Canada is not the problem. The 6.2 BILLION people in the world are the problem.

The Canada - Sweden Comparison e-mail:
(1) It's true!
Sweden has managed to reduce it's emissions 9 percent below 1990 levels; Canada's emissions are approximately 25 percent above 1990 levels!
Sweden has cut it's use of oil by nearly 50 percent since the early 1980's; Canada has made promoting dirty oil from the tar sands its raison d'ĂȘtre.
Sweden has a carbon tax and a vision for an oil free economy by 2020; Canada has no plan for meeting its breathtakingly irrelevant targets.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Copenhagen One

People are jumping on the bandwagon, gleefully attacking the Harper government, saying that Canada is not taking a leadership role in the climate change battle.
Sure, it sounds like a good thing to "take a leadership role" and to have an "action plan," but it is reasonable to look at what that means in detail.

At a summit like Copenhagen, taking a leadership role amounts to telling other nations what they should be doing, and perhaps doing some of that ourselves.

However, it is apparent that each nation has different capabilities. Not all nations can take identical actions. The Maldives cannot reduce their oil production because they don't have any. Neither does Bermuda, nor a hundred other countries.

Nations like NIgeria depend entirely on oil production for their economic survival (40% of GDP and 80% of government earnings come from oil: - wikipedia). But their government is so corrupted by oil wealth that perhaps they would be better off without it. Nonetheless, thousands more would starve if they turned off the pumps. And yet, it is only the corrupt, greedy politicians in Nigeria who want the right to exploit their oil resources. The people who now suffer slow death by the poisoning of their air from sour gas flaming would gladly return to a pre-oil age lifestyle.

Canada may have the most GG production per capita, but that is a meaningless figure when our population is only 33 millions.

If total GG output is the parameter to use then Canada may have produced as much as China since coal & oil became primary fuel sources, but that was accumulated over more than a century and China now outstrips our GG output by a long way.

Still, we have to look at the big picture. Canada did not consume that GG output. Canada has been a huge net exporter of coal, oil and gas. The coal, oil and gas was burned elsewhere.

The world has come begging for our carbon-based fuel resources, waving bankloads of cash at us. Had we not gone into the energy production business, had we taken a Swiss-like neutral position and remained farmers as we were 110 years ago when 97% of the labour force were engaged in agriculture, what would the world look like now?
Since then we have been taken over for the most part by American corporations. We sold out. We could not reasonably have expected to withhold our resources from the world and lived like the Amish. We would have been takjen over like any Banana Republic, perhaps by force. History has shown that. It is disingenuous for the world now to point the finger at Canada and say we are the culprits in causing the climate change problem.

The world's economy is now too integrated to lay the blame at Canada;'s feet. In fact it is pointless to lay blame at all. It is even harmful for critics to push Canada's technological expertise away from a table like Copenhagen's, because we have the experts on energy sources and distribution that the worlds needs to solve the CC problem. Yes, we are experts on developing energy resources: oil, coal, gas, nuclear, hydro, geothermal, tidal, wind to name a few. The world needs Canada and its expertise at that table.

Climate change is not going to be solved by abruptly turning off the oil tap, shutting down the natural gas grid, closing the coal mines. We could do that tomorrow and the momentum of change would continue for decades, but the cure is as bad as the disease.

Compare the consequences of climate change and the consequences of turning off the supply of GG producing energy resources. The things we fear from climate change are human loss of life, destruction of property, loss of food growing ability, reduction of wealth and degradation of lifestyle, and only then animal loss of life.
As a side note, we slaughter billions of animals every year for food, isn't it hypocritical to worry about a few thousand bears dying so we can live our lives as we wish?

Climate change threatens these consequences, but so does the immediate cessation of carbon based energy sources. Even a transition to carbon neutral, and carbon negative, industry involves GG production. We cannot move directly from the present industry model to a carbon-free industrial model. We need coal-generated electricity to manufacture the solar panels of the new green industry. China currently is the leader in solar panel production. China produces more coal-fired electricity than the rest of the world and is building 2 new coal-burning electricity generation plants per week for the next 7 to 10 years.

So it is with manufacturing wind turbines, and infrastructure components, we will need the fossil fuel energy for a while.

"From each according to their means to each according to their needs" may be a guiding motto. The battleground will resolve around population and lifestyle choices I fear. You could choose to live like yuppies (DINKs - dual income no kids) or choose to wear homespun and have nine kids. It will become an idealogical war.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

No More White Sand Beaches

re: Copenhagen next week,
I have just sent the following to the CBC Radio programs: Q, and All Points West.

Dear Sir,

Current articles on Climate Change (CC) tend to focus on drought & floods and extinctions eg. polar bears, but these things are already with us and seem not to be moving people to action. Let's try a new focus.

What could we lose if CC is ignored?

The Maldives government has already pleaded its case to the United Nations, saying, "stop climate change or we will drown."

The Maldives are a swarm of small island atolls off the southern coast of India. Their average height above sea level is 6 feet. Every island is surrounded by beautiful white sand, just like the islands in the Caribbean and in the south Pacific. Focus on the fact that these are the places we all dream of being able to go on vacation. Miami Beach, Waikiki, Jamaica, Fiji, Seychelles, Tahiti.

It's a straight line from burning fossil fuels (which emit carbon gas wastes,) to global warming, to icecaps melting, to sea level rise, to the end of white sand beaches everywhere.

In short, if you want to keep your gas guzzler, the price is no more sandy beach vacations by the ocean.


Geoff White
Vernon, BC
V1T 2G9

Write your MP or Congressman now.



It's great to see all the discussion, and kudos to everybody who is taking action, even by recycling, reusing, reducing.

I saw Al Gore's movie and have been following the media reports for decades while I observe little happening. My "white sand beach pitch" is aimed at hitting different folks where they live. They may not care about Polar bears or penguins but if they suddenly couldn't have that dream vacation it might wake them up.
I am sufficiently self-inforned to know that Hummers, or "big cars" aren't the only problem. My pitch is to connect the dots for the half of the population who lack the vision & the facts to see the big picture. It took the Love Canal actually to burst into flames before their eyes before many people realized that industrial pollution was a threat to fresh water.
I add further points below for those interested. Those who aren't interested are by definition part of the problem.

I was skeptical about sea-level rise until I got the data on the thickness of the Greenland ice sheet [url=](easily available)[/url] which, if melted, alone would account for sufficient sea level rise to swamp every white sand beach worldwide.

Average world temp. increases of 1 degree moves the Spring melt line further north by many degrees latitude, which in turn, [url=]increases tundra melt and further release of CO2, methane & other GGs.[/url]

[url=]The melting of Arctic ice decreases albedo (reflectivity of sunlight) [/url]contributing to absorption of solar energy (starving Polar bears, killing zooplankton ( Beluga food).
The whole process accelerates and the problem grows like a snowball rolling downhill.

Yes, the global system has checks and balances and the pendulum will swing the other way, but it will take decades to reverse and the cost to mankind in the meantime is mindboggling.

We have seen droughts in Sudan starve 2 million people to death in the last decade or so. Suppose we do nothing and

China continues to build two new coal-fired power plants PER WEEK for the next 325 weeks.

India's econmy and population continues to grow and Indians demand cars and better technology.

technology growth = increased energy use

By 2050 UN says 9 Billion people, [i]give or take half a Billion[/i]

The death toll will be 2B - a thousand times the Sudan number,
in other words, 2 thousand million.

Sure, humanity will survive the catastrophe, in much smaller numbers, but what else will fare so well? Mass extinctions of large mammals is inevitable, elephants, polar bears, tigers, rhinos, - gone. The ones at the top of the food chain are most vulnerable for a variety of reasons.

Believe what you will, there is no scenario under climate change that is [i]better[/i] than what we have now.

Write the letter.