Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Will it make any difference?

One of my rain barrels
Saanich is offering a series of free lectures on topics related to climate change and what people could do at home.   The first one is on rainwater management and is this coming Saturday.

The cost to hold these lectures and the impact they will have are not likely going to be worth it.  The municipality would have a much bigger impact if it spent more money on building good sidewalks than holding these lectures.  They would also have more of an impact if they made some changes to streets to allow buses to move a bit faster.

The whole set of pages for Saanich on climate change are simplistic.   As an example, the carbon calculator, it has various problems.  

It assumes all vehicles in a class and how you drive them are the same, if you want to calculate the CO2 emissions you just need to know the number of litres you use in a year.   The CO2 emissions for electrical power is constantly fluctuating based on what power source we are drawing on.   If you use power in the middle of the night, you have a higher CO2 impact because that power is in part coming from coal fired plants in the US or Alberta.

Air travel is also not as simplistic as the calculator suggests.   Much depends on the number of passengers on the plane, how old the plane is and the speed it is flown at.   If you fly WestJet, your CO2 emissions will be lower because they have very new planes and have more passengers than average.  If you fly Harbour Air you have zero CO2 emissions since the airline is carbon neutral.

The calculator misses out a major source of greenhouse gases, the eating of meat.

It also misses out the impact of what I do that might reduce CO2.

The Saanich pages feel like "flavour of the month".   There is no real thought or rigorous academic backing for what is being done or what is suggested people do.   Lots of resources are going into project work that will have no impact.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good piece from George Monboit

George Monboit writes in the Guardian and outlines the problem with climate change in this article.   We have to reduce the use of fossil fuels and the biggest replacement will have to come electricity, specifically electricity with low carbon emissions.   It is the need to replace the dirty the power with clean power that leads us to the problem.

Read his piece, he really does outline the dilemma well.   Here are some of my comments in relation to it.

  • Global energy use is going to rise for at least the next thirty to fifty years, likely for longer than that.  We have the majority of the global population going to go through the point in their economic development in which energy needs will be dramatically rising.
  • To reduce demand the price of energy will have to rise dramatically.   The one and only thing that has ever managed to reduce demand has been a rise in price.   If the goal is a net reduction of energy use over the next generation, there will have to be a 100% or more increase in all energy prices immediately and then a phase in over the next 30 years an annual increase several times that of inflation.
  • There are various green energy sources but as of yet many of them are not competitive with a coal fired power plant.   As we see here in BC, the subsidy of green power is seen as a bad thing - not that I would call the BC Hydro IPP contracts a subsidy as they will be hugely  financially beneficially in a few years.
  • No government has the tiniest ability to deal with the situation.  People have to accept that any serious solution is going to come from the private sector that sees a buck can be made.
  • Most of the public is in complete denial about what it will take to actually lower CO2 emissions.