“This is truly a testament of what a committed group of concerned citizens can do when confronted with a challenge, even one as daunting as climate change.”
—Al Gore, referring to Climate Leaders having reached half a million Canadians through Climate Reality Canada presentations
I’m proud to be Canadian. I’m not always proud of everything Canada does (like develop tar sands in Alberta) but I will never lose my pride for what I consider the best country in the world.
So when this past Monday Climate Reality Canada reached the important milestone of 500,000 Canadians who have heard a presentation from one of its 450 Climate Reality leaders, I was prouder still. That’s a lot of work us Climate Reality leaders have been doing. Continue reading →
“Together we will solve this crisis and we will seize its opportunities.” —Al Gore
You don’t need to follow my blog to know that the weather outside is different than it used to be. Just look to your own region and chances are there are major changes from just a few decades ago. Record heat waves, floods and superstorms, severe droughts and wildfires: all are fast becoming the new normal worldwide. And it’s costing us economically, something that would normally encourage those who want market forces to drive change to act.
This extreme weather is now part of our reality. Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project are calling it “Dirty Weather.” And because of man-made climate change, we can expect to see more and more of it in the coming years.
It’s being called Dirty Weather because it’s being fuelled by Dirty Energy. Carbon pollution comes from burning coal, oil, and natural gas for our energy sources; they are the main contributors to the problem. And what’s the result of adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to our atmosphere to the tune of 90 million tonnes a day, or 35 billion tonnes a year? Obviously the planet heats up. And we expose ourselves to all of the Dirty Weather that arises from warmer air masses capable of holding onto more moisture: floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires and superstorms.
Bad weather is nothing new, although these once-in-a-lifetime storms happening on an annual basis suggest there’s something else going on than simply Mother Nature doing her usual thing. Bad weather is one thing; Dirty Weather is something altogether different. If we make the switch from dirty to clean energy, perhaps we can stop the pollution that’s disrupting our climate and go back to the old normal of living with bad weather rather than the new normal of Dirty Weather.
“America has just finished one of the hottest summers it can remember. And apparently this year will be the fifth out of the last nine that are among the hottest on record. …most scientists think…human beings are … exacerbating this problem, and that this could, in a couple of generations, threaten our descendants’ comfort and health and perhaps even their existence. …what would you urge our government to do to deal with this problem? … could you support a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels which might be necessary down the road?”
That’s the question we wish we’d heard at last night’s third and final presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Right in the heart of one of the most threatened states in the union, with 40 percent of the American population at risk from sea level rise living in the Sunshine State.
The good news is we did hear that question. The bad news is that we heard it 24 years ago, when Jon Margolis, a reported from the Chicago Tribune posed it to the vice presidential candidates Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle. The question was the first ever on the subject in any presidential or vice presidential debate, likely because of Dr. James Hansen who had informed congress of climate change concerns earlier that same year.
In fact, every election since 1988 has had questions regarding global warming and climate change up until this one. Continue reading →
“Once upon a time…”
—the beginning to all the best bedtime stories
Once upon a time, people lived on this planet and had little idea about how any of it worked. They did what they did, day to day, never imagining that there could be any lasting impact from any of their activities. They burned trees, but trees grew back. They got energy from coal, oil and natural gas, but they seemed to be in endless supply. Apart from some local pollution from factories—conveniently dealt with by building taller smokestacks—that didn’t seem to cause much trouble.
But one day, a smart man from England named John Tyndall made an amazing discovery in the middle of the nineteenth century. He realized that a gas called carbon dioxide absorbs heat energy. This was interesting because carbon dioxide is all around us. We breathe it out, but plants breathe it in for photosynthesis. We also generate carbon dioxide when we burn trees and use fossil fuels for energy. Many people today refer to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas because of its property of absorbing heat energy. Any gas in the sky that can let light energy through but can absorb heat energy and prevent it from escaping into space is called a greenhouse gas. And it turns out there are a bunch of them. John Tyndall was the first person to figure out that carbon dioxide is one of these greenhouse gases. This was at a time when knowing this information had no impact on society. It was just interesting science. Continue reading →
“And by the way, [geoengineering is] not really a moral hazard, it’s more like free riding on our grandkids.”
Some people suggest that we won’t be able to reduce our emissions enough to avoid a planet-wide catastrophe. Indeed, Nathan Gillett from Environment Canada has studied the issue extensively and came to the conclusion that even if our emissions dropped to zero tomorrow, our planet has trapped enough heat in the oceans, and the carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere long enough that we wouldn’t see any improvement in our global warming for another thousand years.
For this reason, there’s talk out there among some groups that the real solution isn’t so much to attack the problem at its source (i.e. by reducing emissions), but to deal with the problem after it’s already in the air. The concept is known as geoengineering, also sometimes referred to as climate engineering or climate intervention. It’s defined as “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming.” (That’s to help differentiate from what we’ve already done to the climate which wasn’t deliberate and which caused global warming rather than moderated it.) Continue reading →