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The Debate is Over – Global Warming is Real

February 2, 2007
The debate on global warming is over.  By and large, we are not now arguing about whether global warming is going to happen; the argument has turned to: How big is it going to be?  Good science has prevailed over ignorance.  Now the true test begins, will moral responsibility prevail over self-interest?
 
For 25 years now the world has been arguing about CO2 and climate change.  The top scientists from 113 countries agreed unanimously at the International Panel on Climate Change that mass burning of fossil fuels, land use and agriculture practices are indeed melting polar ice caps.  Global warming caused by human activity is real and will continue for hundreds of years
 
I became interested in this subject when I did a review of studies on greenhouse gas emissions and simplistic models on their effect in 1994.   The conclusions drawn in 1994 were very similar to what is currently known.  The only difference is that now there if far more certainty and collective agreement.
 
The Kyoto targets don’t stop carbon emissions, they only attempt to stop the increases.  That is only the first step in a succession of difficult changes that will be required to reduce emissions.  Even if we were somehow able to end all greenhouse gas emissions today the world would continue to warm, thanks to the gases we’ve already added to the atmosphere.  All we can do is prepare for the change and do our best to reduce the impact on future generations.  Our lack of action today simply increases the impact and shifts the burden of responsibility to future generations.  Anyone who is 10 years old right now is going to be facing a very different and frightening world by the time that they are 50 or 60.
 
 Humanity’s ecological footprint exceeds the Earth’s biological capacity by nearly 40%.  If a population’s footprint exceeds its biological capacity, that population is said to be engaging in unsustainable ecological overshoot.  Humans are stripping the Earth of its resources faster than at any other time in history and that we will need two planets’ worth of natural resources by the middle of this century to support it if current trends continue.
-Higher temperatures mean more flood and drought cycles and more devastating storms. Higher temperatures cause damage to crops and this, together with flooding, has greater effects on communities who can least afford the consequences, namely the poorer countries.
-Billions of people will suffer water shortages and the number of hungry will grow by hundreds of millions by 2080 as global temperatures rise.
-Animal and plant species have begun dying off or changing sooner than predicted because of global warming.  Up to 50% of species face extinction
-Risk of collapse of West Antarctic ice sheet
-Complete loss of Australia’s alpine zones and the possible collapse of South America’s Amazon forest system.
-Disappearance of large glaciers in Himalayas;
-Ocean acidity rises, threatening fish stocks and coral reefs;
-More risk of abrupt changes to climate
-Global warming could stoke ferocious wildfires that will be more difficult and costly to fight and might drastically alter the environment in parts of the world,
 Canada could heat up by an average of 10 degrees.
 
Canada took its lumps at the UN climate conference in Kenya, tying with Australia in a "fossil of the day" award while being ranked near the bottom of an environmental group’s list for efforts to combat global warming.  Since the Kyoto accord was signed, Canada has done little to change its ways.  The only action by the government has been funding research.  The current government seems to accept that nothing can be done and there will be continued increases in greenhouse gas emissions.  Unfortunately, the 2050 target proposed by the current government simply shifts the reponsibility for action to future goverments and future generations.  We have a political system that only motivates politicians to plan for the next election, our leaders are simply not capable of making the hard decisions that are required.
 
Canada is largely a resource based economy and will be increasingly so in the future as our manufacturing continues to move to the developing world.  Production of these resources are especially energy intensive and as population and global demand increases so will our production of greenhouse gases.  Action by Canada will be particularly difficult and will affect the standard of living and every aspect of the daily lives of all Canadians.  For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth’s ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path.  We will need to change our attitude of privelege and entitlement and our consumerist mentality.  We will need accept that we all need to live more responsible and sustainable lifestyles.   
 
The cities, power plants and homes we build today will either lock society into damaging over-consumption beyond our lifetimes, or begin to propel this and future generations towards sustainable living.

 
Whatever happens over the next century, we can’t say we weren’t warned.
 
A proposed action plan for Canada
 

-Designate CO2 as an environmental pollutant under the Environmental Protection Act
-Introduce absolute emissions targets for industry
-More incentives for renewable energy

-More incentives for energy efficiency
-Government action to settle the issue of storing nuclear waste so that more nuclear capacity can be built

-An additional carbon tax on all gasoline and natural gas sales.  This tax revenue would be used soley to level the playing field for renewable energy options.  
-An additional carbon tax on all forms of excessive waste

    -large vehicles
    -excessive packaging
    -excessive energy use
-An education campaign to teach the public and industry to reduce waste, increase efficiency and recognize the effect that our daily decisions have on the environment.
 
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    March 19, 2007 12:19 am

    Global Warming here In Canada? Cool Eh?

    It’s great, we were studying greenhouse effects 20 years ago in college, all of a sudden it’s a big emergency?  Twenty to 30 years ago, we were promised a 2 – 10% increase in clean fuel technologies by the year 2000.  Car manufacturers were legislated by governments to push towards clean energy cars, they had a few decades to do it.  What happened, somebody give up?
     
    I’ve been trying to do my part, I’ve spend thousands of dollars retrofitting my home to use less hydro electricity.  It’s a slow process because I work hard for my money.  I’ve been saving up to make clean electricity for my house for 10 years now…it’s going to cost ~ $30,000 – 50,000.  By the time I build a solar panelled house with a windmill on it, the kids will be planning my funeral.

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