Friday, August 5, 2011

Dr. James Hansen + Ontario Politics

Dr. James Hansen is a very active scientist/citizen. Hansen has not only been unwavering in his opposition to coal-fired electricity generation, he's also stepped it up and even managed to get arrested at protest as he approaches his 8th decade on the planet. Hansen is also influential in policies dealing with 'black carbon' - a recent focus of Ontario's Environmental Commissioner.
Ontario, my province, has, since the summer of 2003, a policy to phase out coal-use by 2015 (now it's 2014, as promised by the man after he promised a 2007 date to get elected, in the fall of 2003, over the evil people - an all-party commission - that claimed 2015 was the practical date).

The current campaign really picked up a notch this week as the Liberal government first made it harder to cancel pending, lucrative, feed-in tariff (FIT contracts). Then the traditional 3rd-place party, announced a program would be funded by not spending money on nuclear supply:

“We don’t think nuclear is the wisest way to go, not only because of cost but because of risk and danger … so we’re looking at other options. The problem we have in Ontario is this government has all but given up on the cheapest form of power which is conservation, which is reducing people’s demand for power through conservation programs.”
And then the government announced they'd altered the expensive deal, with a Korean syndicate, the main opposition, with a big lead in the polls, have vowed to end.  They altered it because the syndicate wasn't going to meet the date obligations - so it's likely they altered it to punish Ontarians for electing a PC government this fall.

Here are some quotes from an article posted on the web by Dr. Hansen on July 29th, Baby Lauren and the Kool-Aid - assuming the implications for Ontario, a jurisdiction with over 50% of supply coming from nuclear, and a jurisdiction with an emissions intensity from electricity generation that Germany could equal only by reducing it's emissions intensity by 75%:

A facile explanation would focus on the ‘merchants of doubt’ who have managed to confuse the public about the reality of human-made climate change. The merchants play a role, to be sure, a sordid one, but they are not the main obstacle to solution of human-made climate change.
The bigger problem is that people who accept the reality of climate change are not proposing actions that would work. This is important, because as Mother Nature makes climate change more obvious, we need to be moving in directions within a framework that will minimize the impacts and provide young people a fighting chance of stabilizing the situation.

The insightful cynic will note: “Now I understand all the fossil fuel ads with windmills and solar panels – fossil fuel moguls know that renewables are no threat to the fossil fuel business.” The tragedy is that many environmentalists line up on the side of the fossil fuel industry, advocating renewables as if they, plus energy efficiency, would solve the global climate change matter.
Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.
Many well-meaning people proceed under the illusion that ‘soft’ renewable energies will replace fossil fuels if the government tries harder and provides more subsidies. Meanwhile, governments speak greenwash while allowing pursuit of fossil fuels with increasingly destructive technologies (hydrofracking, mountaintop removal, longwall mining, drilling in the deepest ocean, the Arctic and other pristine environments) and development of unconventional fossil fuels.
It will be a tragedy if environmentalists allow the illusion of ‘soft’ energies to postpone demand for real solution of the energy, climate and national security problems. Solar power is just a small part of the solution. Subsidies yielding even its present tiny contribution may be unsustainable.

Recently I received a mailing on the climate crisis from a large environmental organization. Their request, letters and e-mails to Congress and the President, mentioned only renewable energies (specifically wind and solar power). Such a request offends nobody, and it is worthless.
Indeed, it is much less than worthless. If you drink the kool-aid represented in the right part of Fig. 7, you are a big part of the problem. Sure, I could ignore this and wait for time to make the situation clear to you, but I could say the same thing 10 years ago....

The problem is that, by drinking the kool-aid, you are also pouring it down the throats of my dear grandchildren and yours. The tragedy in doing so is much greater than that of Jim Jones’ gullible followers, who forced their children to drink his kool-aid. All life will bear the consequences.

Hansen continues to advocate a carbon tax - but it's a distinct proposal.

One can question his economics, and one can question his claims on AGW.

But it is high time our politicians stopped pandering to the stupid in implying if you are concerned about AGW you are in favour of grand larceny that pretends to deal with it - and that it is the nuclear industry that fits in with the fossil fuel business, instead of recognizing it is big wind that cuddles up to natural gas.
It is a sad statement that when the next polls come out, they are likely to show the Tim Hudak lead PC party increasing it's lead over the week.
Because he was on holidays and said nothing - a less obnoxious way of disrespecting voters than his opponents practiced.

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