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.

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