Tag Archives: climate change

Climate movement in desperate need of renewal? Definitely.

Interesting article in the Guardian about the climate movement and it’s struggles in the last few years. Surprise surprise, when the economy went down, so too did the sexiness of climate change.

But first, I don’t agree with the author’s stance. He’s one of the Ratcliffe activists in the UK who was on trial and convicted of planning to break into Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station to shut it down. The article is about:

If a jury that received extensive education on climate change could not vindicate the Ratcliffe activists, then who will?

Emotionally charged read that received a lot of fiery comments.

Activists that want to cause damage perhaps get the point across that they care about climate change, but it’s an old fashioned way of promoting it. Really, I thought we had already moved away from sort of divisive environmentalism, no?  The outcome of these disturbances just get more people on the other side of the fence shouting back. Great.

How about good old dialogue? Working with stakeholders and creating solutions? During today’s trip from TBay to Ottawa, I saw two interesting articles: one in the Harvard Business Review by the famous Michael Porter about Corporate Shared Value (CSV) vs. CSR. And another in the Pulp and Paper trade magazine about environmentalists and industry folks finally coming to an agreement over a simple beer instead of “throwing tomatoes at each other” for the last decade.

To get back to the climate movement though,  it’s completely lost its sexiness to me. Read, why i don’t care about global warming–  from 3 years ago (gasp! that long?!) but my thoughts rest the same. Climate change exists, I’m not doubting it. But talking about impending disasters that have a lot of political baggage either A) terrify people or B) make people mad. Two emotions that lead to inaction.

When we’re looking to “rebrand” (if I dare say) climate change, we should remember that climate change ≠ sustainability. It is ONE PART. Sustainable development is all-encompassing.  Even if we staved off our carbon emissions, we won’t necessarily be sustainable. And the idea that it’s all about carbon… ugh..

In any case, I agree with the title of the article: The climate movement is in desperate need of renewal. Indeed it is. But I don’t see it getting any sexier with those antics.

Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station in Nottinghamshire. Photograph: David Sillitoe/Guardian

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global climate – local responsibility?

Still on this local theme here.

When I read things like this it makes me realize how much waste is going into national/international scale projects when all of that might be better going into local projects that make real change.

I’ve already talked about my lack of interest in the global warming debate simply because I don’t really care too much about EMISSIONS and CO2.  I believe that it’s bad and we’re destroying the world with fossil fuel use, it’s just that I see it as a much more holistic problem. It’s everything! Don’t just focus on one aspect.

Anyways, what if a lot more money just  went to the local economy’s for setting up better biowaste management (methane gas in the landfill is a big source of co2),  microgeneration plants (no big power plants), better transit, better care for the local agriculture etc?

Give the power to the municipalities and hold them to change and maybe we’ll see some more action.

Better yet, make a “national” campaign to enable the communities to compete with each other. People know what’s going on in their cities/towns usually more so than the whole country. Put up a campaign where the people can get involved and hold their local mayors etc. accountable – more you do, more money you can get for changing your community. Get people working together at that level and then in the newspapers have some kind of rating system of who’s doing what.

Make sense? Just a thought while drinking my morning coffee:)

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Cool it? My thoughts on Lomborg’s book

I’m only about half way through reading Bjorn Lomborg‘s (blog here) “Cool It” and thought I’d share my “half-way thoughts”.

Premise of the book:

“Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered to stop global

warming will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, are often based on emotional rather than strictly scientific assumptions, and may very well have little impact on the world’s temperature for hundreds of years. Rather than starting with the most radical procedures, Lomborg argues that we should first focus our resources on more immediate concerns, such as fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and assuri

ng and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply-which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost and save millions of lives within our lifetime. He asks why the debate over climate change has stifled rational dialogue and killed meaningful dissent. ”

Agreed – I do think that we have lost some of our rational thoughts when it comes to the climate change discussions. Bjorn’s got a point.

But while reading the book, I can’t help but be irked at some of his own points…

1.  Not everything can be measured by economic cost-benefit analyses

He quite often brings in the economist’s favourite tool – the cost-benefit analysis. Not bad, we need to use it sometimes.  However, and this is a big HOWEVER – economic thinking is not always rational (interesting choice of words i know) because you:

A. can’t put a price on the environment . Sometimes it’s possible, but nature provides us with trillions – remember, our continuous production of “stuff” usually relies on nature’s (not so) infinite supply of resources.

B. How do you know you’re measuring everything that needs to be measured in that C-B analysis? Environmental issues are holistic and most often include externalities that we haven’t even thought of.  i.e. it’s not just about temperatures rising! So, lining up items on the right and left side may show vastly different results depending on who’s making the analysis.

2.  Not everything should just be measured by human death tolls

As sad as this sounds, I don’t think that the goal is to just increase our human life expectancy. One of the major points that Lomborg points out is that more people have died from cold deaths than heat deaths – eliminating the major scare-tactic that global warming will cause more people to die of heat stroke etc.

Interesting and likely valid point. But, when I think of climate change (and more aptly put, environmental issues on the whole) – I don’t think of just people dying.  First of all, we do share the planet with other species, of which, are very important for our sake as well. But, moreover, “deaths by heat stroke” is only one tiny measure which he hits on the head over and over… Human happiness, on the other hand, is important – and even though we’re living, a life without clean water and fighting for natural resources isn’t  such a good life.

3.  Using scientific facts in the climate change talk deserves attention to references

Not saying I don’t believe the stats in his book (and likely his other book- which is sitting on my bookshelf untouched at the moment), but one of the major issues with the global warming talk is that everyone is using numbers and everyone is countering those numbers.

Especially for Lomborg who is really going against the grain on this thesis (and constantly challenging the other facts out there)  – without telling me where you’re getting those facts, it’s hard to know who to believe. UPDATE (next morn): Oops, he has 40 pages of references. I guess I’m just use to footnotes – I can then check at least where it came from.

This is one of the major reasons that I wrote the “My thoughts on global warming: I don’t care.” post last year.  “Let the scientists debate about the actual science, but just look at the issue with common sense…. I’m not saying don’t question, just don’t be ignorant. “

3. Solving world poverty is not the end goal

Lomborg says that we should look after the more pressing global issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria etc. first. I can’t completely disagree. (Like everyone else in his consensus, how do you rank these?) However, economic development (the goal that he’s suggesting) won’t help fix our problems.

… These 50+ years can give the societies breathing space to tackle many of their more immediate concerns and grow their economies so that they will be better able to afford to build water-storage facilities.

p. 58 in regards to the melting Himalayan glaciers as the supply to India.

Umm.. the long term water supply is important – and won’t be solved by investing in new facilities. Money can’t buy us “new” water.

But anyways, we need to address AIDS, malaria etc., but more importantly we need a long term plan on sustainable development. (Read previous post on full thoughts on this). This is real, long term planning – something that economists have a hard time with…  Answering “What to do now that we’re not poor?”, remembering that our western way of living won’t suffice for the planent.

Although I disagree with some of his points – at this half way stage – I value the different perspectives. It’s true, we have lost a lot of the meaningful dissent in this debate and surely, we’re spending ridiculous amounts on certain strategies which don’t have as much merit as others.

But again, let’s use our common sense.  Sticking crap in the air is bad. Using a resource that we know won’t be there later is bad. Enough said. Time for bed.

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Reasons not to jump on the bashing-biofuels-bandwagon

A couple weeks ago you may have noticed that Richard Branson (the oh so flashy Virgin mogul) launched the first ever commercial aircraft run on biofuel (partly). This was met with huge amount of criticism.

Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner, said: “Biofuels are a major distraction in the fight against climate change. “There is mounting evidence that the carbon savings from biofuels are negligible. If Virgin was really serious about reducing the aviation industry’s impact on the environment, it would support calls for aircraft emissions to be included in the Climate Change Bill.”

Ever since the new study from the Nature Conservancy came out a few weeks ago putting down biofuels as more carbon intensive than fossil fuels, there has been a slew of biofuel rants – from the ‘green’ websites, to the major media sources, and of course from the oil and gas industry😉

They have some reason though…

Reasons for biofuels being bad:

  • turning food crops into energy crops makes the price of food sky rocket
  • more carbon stored in plants and soils than in air – so when you burn it, the c02 level is still (sometimes higher than those in fossil fuels) – the way they measure co2 emissions from biofuels is said to be neutral since new trees are planted thus negating the emissions since these new ones take in co2)
  • the energy balance can be negative (i.e. takes more energy to produce the energy than what you get out of it in the end)
  • many other I’m sure.. wikipedia’s post always has a balanced view;)


With all this bad media, I’m worried that people are going to blacklist ALL biofuels …. which is NOT A GOOD THING!

Thankfully, someone weighs in with a balanced discussion on the matter. Tyler Hamilton, Toronto Star’s cleantech writer gave a great post same day that Branson launched his flight.

He gave some really good points but to add to those, here are mine.

Reasons for biofuels being good (or reasons to not jump on the bashing biofuels bandwagon)

  • biofuels are also wood waste! There is some definite eco-efficiency logic behind taking the leftovers of the pulp and paper industry waste and converting that into energy (blogged about this before)
    • must look at the energy balance of them… even the Nature Conservancy report says that! I’m just afraid that people are just labelling all biofuels as the same…
  • we think that the solution to climate change is either in solar or in wind or in fuel cells OR, OR, OR… let’s start thinking of AND, AND AND! biofuels are still part of the fix. (Great book on that here)
  • the real problem is in subsidizing farmers to switch to corn for energy. I’m still an economics student. I don’t like how much the gov’t subsidizes the oil and gas industry… still don’t like it when the heavily subsidize one particular ‘green’ energy. Let the market work. I’m ok with eco-taxes where fiscal policy is shifted to support sustainable activities and tax polluting activities. Just the gov’t shouldn’t put their eggs in one basket. That’s for the market to decide.

Anyways, there’s my rant for the day. Have any other opinions on this? I’d love to hear them.Now back to homework.

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