Tag Archives: global warming

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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Living in the Jetsons era? How about living in Polar Cities?

Interesting things happen when you start blogging…

One post landed me in the New York Times (Dot Earth) comments section with some random guy from Taiwan quoting another blog post of mine (the “I don’t care about global warming” one).

Anyways, that ‘random guy’ is Dan Bloom and he actually has some interesting thoughts on the matter.

He wants to build polar cities to prepare us for climate change.

In the event of catastrophic global warming events in the far distant future, humankind might have to find refuge in a group of polar cities lying within the Arctic Circle in such countries as Canada, Norway, Finland, Russia Greenland, Iceland, Sweden and the USA (Alaska). Under such circumstances, the founders of the Polar Cities Research Institute, led by visionary futurist Dan Bloom, 59, have announced that they will build a model polar city in Longyearbyen, Norway, with construction set to begin in 2012 and “volunteer testing occupancy” in 2015. (More pics and Press Release here and Dan’s website here.)

He wanted to know my opinion on his big project… so here goes it.

I hope to god that the world’s survival doesn’t depend on people living in what is essentially biodomes (Oryx and Crake anyone?)  but the fact that we have some people planning for it shouldn’t be a surprise.  Climate change is a big issue and everyone is going to (and is) handling it differently – and there’s room for it all. So, although I’m not really a futurist, I’m not going to call this guy crazy.

The worst that could happen is that it does come true and then we’ll all be thanking our lucky stars that at least someone thought of a backup plan. (Not to mention that for every great inventor/thinker – they were usually thought of as crazy at the time) And, so what if it doesn’t happen? Oh heaven forbid…we now have a discussion on it? The good thing is that we’re at least talking.

And, if you do a quick google search, his idea seems to be gaining ground. Investors are talking, and the bloggers are writing. Whether good or bad comments, it’s the same as business – publicity is always a good thing;)

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Mass collaboration on climate change; you tell ’em Tapscott!

Interesting read from one of my favourite authors (well, to be honest, only read one book…) – Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics is blogging from Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum (interesting things going on there too)

Yesterday’s post in the Globe and Mail is scary but empowering.

One observer — Most people in this room will not be here in 2050. It made me think that Thomas Friedman was right — an act of stewardship is required. I think it is clear from the discussion that there is a crisis of leadership on this issue. We need to mobilize the world, and the Internet is the linchpin. For the first time we have one affordable, global, multi-media, many-to-many communications system, and one issue on which there is growing consensus. Climate change is quickly becoming a nonpartisan issue and citizens, businesses and governments each have a stake in the outcome. Indeed, the global consensus emerging on climate change is that solving the crisis will require leadership from every country and every sector in society. The “killer application” for mass collaboration may be saving planet earth-literally.

Couldn’t agree more…

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Oh Canada… you’re embarrassing us

Well, embarrassing me anyways (can’t speak for everyone on this!)

I’m not really a political person but have to say that I’m disappointed with our gov’t right now in Bali at the UN Climate Change Conference.

The Conservative government’s message is unclear and, well, pathetic.

Baird (Canada’s environment minister) on Wednesday:

“All major emitters must be on board,” John Baird said during a speech in Toronto. “We will not tackle this problem of global warming and climate change unless we get everyone on board, everyone with an oar in the water and everyone rowing together.”

Their main concern is that fast emerging countries like China and India aren’t required to do the same. But, at the conference, China has surprised everyone by deciding to get on board while Canada, US and Japan are jumping ship? Great strategy Canada.

Another main concern – economic growth is just as valuable as the environment and we shouldn’t eclipse one for the other. Hmmm… I’ve never really understood this position. The two are inextricably linked and if you think otherwise, you’ve been reading too many economics textbooks.

PRODUCTION of goods = CONSUMPTION of natural resources

CONSUMPTION of goods = PRODUCTION of waste (environmental degradation)

Every aspect of this ‘equation’ has a dollar figure attached, so if the government really wants to look at the “economics” of moving forward with climate change policies then they should at least take a full-costing approach.

Wonder why China is now on board? (Well, time will tell what they actually do…) The World Bank just came out with a report entitled : Cost of Pollution in China: Economic Estimates of Physical Damages

Interesting finds…

the study finds that the health costs of air and water pollution in China amount to about 4.3 percent of its GDP. By adding the non-health impacts of pollution, which are estimated to be about 1.5 percent of GDP, the total cost of air and water pollution in China is about 5.8 percent of GDP.

I agree, we shouldn’t really sign something that we know we’ll never commit to in the end. But what effort are they really putting in? They keep on pouring money into non-renewable sources and then wonder why our emissions went up. Even economists don’t like subsidies (The Economist’s environment and technology correspondent has a great book on this). And to that extent, even oil and gas companies are starting to change their tune about climate change. Most notably, BP :

The following year (1998), BP announced a target for 2010: that greenhouse gas emissions from our own operations would be 10 per cent lower than emissions in 1990 – a tougher target than those set for many industrialised countries by the Kyoto summit in 1997. BP achieved its target at the end of 2001, 9 years ahead of schedule.

I think those countries that push for change will be the ones with the stronger economy in the end. It’s a classic business strategy. Strive for more, achieve more.

Canada, by trying to protect the precious economy, you’re actually hurting it. Smarten up.

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The new IPCC report: it can scare you or it can empower you.

The fourth and final IPCC report came out today (lots of news on it) . I said before that I don’t really care about the specifics of the global warming debate because in my opinion, change is needed regardless of what people think “scientific consensus” means.  But as I read the G&M article, part of me got the chills knowing what potential disasters lie ahead and part of me felt extremely empowered.

What’s scary:

  • Water use and availability is likely to be deeply affected across much of Canada, the report says.
    • Adding to that problem… even though Canada has one of the largest supplies of freshwater in the world, much of it is polluted – surface water and groundwater. Moreover, we don’t really know how to detect how much cleanup we really need to do.

 

  • The circle they can’t square is their current support of tar sands development and greenhouse gas reduction,” said Mr. Hazell.
    • Yep, we’re still looking at Alberta with dreamy dollar sign eyes. Oh, and extracting oil from tar sands is also one of the most water-intensive and water-polluting processes (see point above).

 

  • “If you look at the scientific knowledge things do seem to be getting progressively worse,” Pachauri (Chairman of IPCC) said later in an interview. “So you’d better start with the interventions even earlier. Now.”
    • And Canada isn’t changing its plans?
  • The effects will be greatest in the developing world.
    • Island states submerged, African crop yields down by 50 percent, and cause a 5 percent decrease in global gross domestic product
    • Enough said.

 

What’s empowering:

·        The time to act is now.

·        Business opportunity galore for those that have sustainability in mind

The problem is not just climate change.  

People use that word like it’s just about cleaning up our CO2 mess.  But in reality, the problem is rooted much deeper than that. It’s about changing our habits, our systems and our thinking.

When you start thinking about the possibilities for change…that’s empowering.

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My thoughts on global warming: I don’t care.

Does this statement shock you? Coming from someone studying it – it probably should.

I just posted the same argument on two Globe and Mail articles. It’s unnerving to read the back and forth foolish conversation. You’re either a Harperite (right-winger for those int’l readers) or a crazy leftist or a denier or an alarmist. It seems as though we’ve never graduated from kindergarten.

So why don’t I care about the one of the biggest debates covering the news? I don’t care because I feel like people are attacking the science and forgetting the common sense.

 But here was the gist of my post:

I’m not going to pretend that I know all of the science behind the causes and effects of climate change. I can research it and study it but at the end of the day, I’m not a scientist. And most likely, nor are most of the people debating these scientific theories.

 

But let me ask you all this:

 

  • Are you against conservation?
  • Are you against efficiency?
  • Are you against making smarter choices so that we take care of our natural resources for the generations to come?

 

Let the scientists debate about the actual science, but just look at the issue with common sense.

 

  • Population is increasing (can you debate that?)
  • Demand for natural resources is increasing (can you debate that?)
  • Natural resources are essential to life (can you debate that?)
  • Natural resources are being depleted faster than they can be restored

Combine the basic facts that you know….then make your judgment.  We all have to live with uncertainty.

I don’t really care what side of the “global warming” fence you’re on (or any environmental discussion for that matter) but are we so passionate about debating that we forget about the actual issues?

Problems are happening all around us – whether we choose to believe it or not – and we’re not helping solve these issues when everyone (including the non-scientists) simply argue scientific conclusions back and forth.

I’m not saying don’t question, just don’t be ignorant.

In terms of my own personal stance on global warming?

I’ll believe what I want to believe but one thing is sure: I’m not going to sit back and wait for “scientific consensus” to start making changes. My common sense is telling me which path to take.

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