“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Benjamin Franklin used this phrase in 1789.
You can add “climate change” to death and taxes. As a meteorologist, I am mystified that there is still any doubt even among scientists. In my Better Farming articles, I have systematically described weather facts that were consistent with a changing climate. After all, seeing is believing. Science and truth are undeniable and my premise was simple enough. The identification of a problem is the biggest step in solving it.
Farmers were the explorers and innovators that helped to build Ontario, if not Canada. As a result, I first wrote this for a farming magazine, thinking that this was a great place to start, to describe the impacts of climate change. At one time, when it was still permitted, I gave lots of presentations on climate change, even before Al Gore got into the act. I was told that the climate change presentations were much scarier than anything I ever said about severe thunderstorms; I agreed.
A clean energy source is a big part of the solution to climate change. I have read farming articles about farmers implementing different, and green, energy sources. Solar, wind, biomass, methane and a host of other green initiatives that should have been welcomed and encouraged, at all levels of government and bureaucracy, were challenged or even blocked. I had a quite a job getting my own microFIT Program hooked to the grid and I patiently followed all of the rules and red tape. The Ontario FIT and Green Energy programs were indeed models for the world, until they were challenged in the World Trade Organization courts; they promoted local workers and solar panels, over that of imports – seriously crazy stuff, but it was enough to kill the innovations.
Moreover, the solution to our energy problems cannot be found by selling an essential service, to a for-profit corporation, as is being proposed in Ontario. The city of Boulder, Colorado, where I worked at one time, is taking steps to buy-back the power generation that it had earlier privatized. The motivation is not only to get out from under, a for-profit coal-based utility, but also to pay less for energy while reducing its carbon footprint. Many cities around the world, especially in Germany, are doing the same.
In fact, essential services like energy, public transportation, sewage and even weather forecasting, need to stay in the public realm. There are many examples of governments buying these services back after they were privatized. They realized that for-profit businesses were not up to the challenge of running a service, which is required for the greater good.
Energy solutions for Ontario lie in ensuring that energy remains in the public domain and that the current, aged energy grid is modernized to become a smarter grid. A “smart power grid” uses information and communications technology to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity. Electronic power conditioning and control of the production and distribution of electricity are aspects of the smart grid. I understand that a smart grid can ingest local power sources efficiently and seamlessly. This would allow small, local producers to step in and reduce the province-wide load and dependency on non-green energy.
Naomi Klein, in her book “This Changes Everything” goes to great lengths to better describe the climate change issue. She covers all of the issues and does a thorough investigation of the issues. She “follows the money” to explain why the environmental movement has been so unsuccessful at achieving change. The trails leads to capitalism and vast fortunes controlled by just a few carbon business people. There is a ton of money to be made by extractivism - a way of running the economy by relying on the export of resources. New or neo extractivism is even more profitable if the businesses enjoy tax benefits along with being allowed to use the air, water and soils for dumping grounds. The atmosphere has been an open sewer since the industrial revolution really got going in 1850 or so. As a young meteorologist, I often heard the phrase that “dilution is the solution to pollution” and wondered how could anyone really be serious and believe this? Nothing truly disappears and everything is finite. “Live a lie and you will live to regret it…” a truism from maybe Mark Twain or Jimmy Buffett.
In the case of climate change deniers, follow the money back to the coal and oil industries which benefit most from the continued extraction of these ancient energy sources – dinosaur goo – energy that originally came from the sun. Vast amounts of money have been spent on for-hire scientists and advertising with great success. The number of people who have doubts in the reality of climate change has actually increased. Incredible – Naomi has those numbers.
Meanwhile the number of peer-reviewed research articles that link observed changes, in our environment to human activities, continue to grow. Again – Naomi has those numbers and details. How much is enough to convince people that perhaps using the atmosphere as an open sewer, is maybe not a good idea?
Confusion has resulted; the environmental movement did make lots of mistakes in presenting the story. Global warming, through the greenhouse effect, is scientifically accurate, but climate change is really the main impact. The impacts are more than the rise in temperature; silly cartoons abound, with frozen characters praying for global warming. Some locations will get a lot hotter, but there are places like eastern Ontario that may actually cool. With this confusion comes uncertainty and dithering. What are the solutions and who is best to implement these?
Business has proven unable to wean themselves off the coal and oil energy. There is too much enticing profit to be made. The industry is unwilling to install equipment to reduce their carbon footprint.
Politicians have the horizon that only goes to the next election; they are closely watching the polls of the electorate, to decide what needs to be said, to be elected. Climate change and science tends to always lose when jobs and the economy are also pitched.
Is climate change really too complicated to understand? When faced with something challenging, it is helpful to think of an analogy, whereby the complex can be better understood, in terms of something much simpler. Perhaps a swimming pool is the best comparison; how much urine does it take before the swimming hole becomes a cesspool? There are physical limits to the atmosphere, just like in the swimming pool. I think we can all understand this. If we had that fabled purple pool dye, in the atmosphere, since the start of the industrial age, perhaps the polluters would have been held accountable for their sewage and climate change would not be much of a mystery, or a surprise at all.
Sunset from the International Space Station – the atmosphere is, relatively speaking, thinner than the skin of an apple. The portion we breathe is a tiny fraction of that.
How is the average consumer going to make sense out of all of this, when Ph.D.’s for hire, sound credible and cast uncertainty on whatever they are tasked to do? There has not been any uncertainty in the science, starting with Joseph Fourier, in 1824, who first clearly described the impacts of the atmosphere on temperature. The science has steadily developed ever since. President Johnson of the United States was categorically warned about climate change in 1965. However manufactured uncertainty, in the populace, leads to inaction and continued extractivism, and profits for a few.
So just how do we solve this problem, and make the world habitable, for the future explorers and innovators? Plan A is to reduce emissions. Plan B, of putting sunglasses on the earth (Geoengineering), is unthinkable and I am not really making this up. Nothing has worked so far…
By Phil the Forecaster