Still flawed

Still flawed I read with interest Michael Eckford's letter, published December 3, 2010. Eckford begins: "Regarding the 'flawed' (in Stephen Harper's words) Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, I am, quite frankly, mad as hell at this failed

I read with interest Michael Eckford’s letter, published December 3, 2010.

Eckford begins:

“Regarding the ‘flawed’ (in Stephen Harper’s words) Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, I am, quite frankly, mad as hell at this failed and corrupt political system and the deluded souls who say anthropogenic climate change is a ‘fraud,’ or that any ‘problems’ can be ‘fixed’ with dangerous technologies like ‘geoengineering,’ and who deny our current abilities to rapidly evolve to a post-carbon economy, spewing their dangerously childish anti-Earth hate and apathy towards any positive and recreative discussion.

“I’m not going to take it anymore.

“Most of our planet’s best (i.e., respected and peer-reviewed) scientists and climatologists (i.e., those not paid off by the petrothugs) tell us global warming is the greatest problem ever to face humanity, trumping all the myriad issues facing us, that we now have about a ‘five-year window’ to even ‘begin’ to ‘mitigate’ the now irreversible effects of unprecedented and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I confess to having worked in the private sector of the petroleum industry for 25 years and yet I have no idea what a “petrothug” is.

Could you enlighten me, please?

As well, would “Most of our planet’s best É scientists and climatologists” mean the 52 scientists who wrote the IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers or the 1,000 plus that just signed off on an update to a paper disputing the entire anthropogenic global warming hypothesis?

That report is available at:—Challenge-UN-IPCC—Gore

Eckford continues:

“The World Health Organization already attributes 150,000 deaths annually to global warming. .”

If I remember correctly, the World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations. Is that the same United Nations that just elected Iran to its Commission on Women’s Rights, or is it a different one?

I’m also confused by the 150,000 annual deaths attributed to global warming; would that be in addition to the 58 million or so people who die annually, which includes more than two million who die annually from malaria, or is it included?

As well, what about the “more than 25,000 people (who) died in England and Wales as a result of the cold temperatures. Most of them were aged over 75,” according to the UK Daily Mail.

Would that mean that only 125,000 died due to global warming? Or would there be 25,000 in the UK who died as a result of both?

Read more:

As far as his comment, “Global warming is the greatest problem ever to face humanity, trumping all the myriad issues facing us” is concerned, I admit, my list of all-time biggest threats might have been different, including perhaps the Black Death, Attila the Hun, earthquakes and tsunamis, nuclear terrorism or Adolf Hitler.

Eckford goes on over several paragraphs to allege that global warming will bring apocalyptic results, possibly including starvation or drought-related deaths of perhaps six billion people, melting of polar ice caps and only 20 per cent of Earth being habitable.

I appreciate Eckford refers to these as “worst case” scenarios, but I confess I’m more worried about the spectre of an asteroid impact or the effect of the sun going nova, those being somewhat more likely, in my opinion.

While I do not share Eckford’s belief mankind’s use of fossil fuels may cause the death of six billion people, I am quite certain that not using fossil fuels would Ð the global economy, including agriculture, is dependent on fossil fuels. Without them, we starve.

I genuinely respect Eckford’s musical qualifications; besides having an amazing baritone voice, he holds baccalaureate and masters degrees in music.

Given that I can play Maple Leaf Rag on the piano (barely) and maybe do a little two-part harmony to Happy Birthday, I acknowledge I am nowhere close to being in Eckford’s league, musically at least.

I do, however, hold baccalaureate degrees in both mathematics and mechanical engineering. Accordingly, when I see what the main provisions of Bill C311 were to be, namely that Canada would have been required to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, my immediate reaction was that these targets would be utterly impossible with existing technology.

As I reckon it, the 2020 target would have required about a 35 per cent reduction from existing levels; does anyone think this country could replace that much of our energy infrastructure with zero-emissions sources in the next nine years? Remember, Canada has the highest proportion of hydroelectricity in its total energy use of any country and at that we still only use hydro for about 10 per cent of our total energy use.

Does anyone seriously believe we could triple that in nine years or replace it with nuclear power plants or erect another 600,000 wind turbines or $300 billion worth of solar panels?

As far as the 2050 target is concerned Ð 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels Ð by my rough estimates, assuming continued use of existing technology, that would put our total energy use back to about 1900 levels, when Canada’s population was about 5.3 million people Ð or about one-sixth of our current population.

At that time, roughly two-thirds of Canada’s population was in rural communities, directly involved in growing their own food.

Standard of living was nowhere close to what we have now and neither was life expectancy.

Is anyone seriously suggesting we could achieve even those standards with the same energy use and six times the population?

While it might be possible to retrofit or rebuild Canada’s housing and commercial infrastructure to get partly off fossil fuel heat, it would cost on the order of $1 trillion, or about $30,000 per capita, and you still need fuel heat as backup.

As for transportation, forget it; there are no feasible alternatives to hydrocarbons at present Ð absolutely none.

Powered flight goes away, so does ocean shipping (except for sailboats) and railroads revert to a wood-powered choo-choo like the one that White Pass runs once a week.

While it might be possible to run a golf cart some distance on battery power, how far do you think you’ll get with a Kenworth hauling 60,000 pounds of freight?

And the energy source to charge the batteries would be what, exactly?

While Eckford appears to be convinced of “the rapidly increasing rates of overall global temperature and decreasing rates of sea ice,” I can point him to a number of apparently reputable sites that show global temperatures flat since 1998, the rate of ocean level rise falling off in the last 20 years and record high levels of ice in the Antarctic.

That doesn’t make me a “denier,” to use a pejorative term to which I strongly object, just a skeptic. And regarding the Pembina Institute study to which Eckford refers, I’ve reviewed a few papers that are more “smoke and mirrors,” but not many; it is quite literally ‘fantastic.’

Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, would have committed Canada irrevocably to an economic disaster barring technological solutions that, at present, simply do not exist.

I think it would be great if someone invented cold fusion or a solar cell with an efficiency greater than 20 per cent or a wind turbine that could produce electricity even when the wind doesn’t blow but as yet nobody has.

If you need to carry an energy source around, you’re stuck with hydrocarbons; nothing else can store so much energy in so little mass.

I do share Eckford’s concerns about our environment and the nature and magnitude of climate change, although I see it as something perhaps a little less urgent than he does.

What I do not agree with is the idea that we should commit our nation to the impossible and destroy our economic future in the process.

Since Bill C-311 would achieve only that, I think it is entirely fair to describe it as “flawed.”

Richard Corbet, P.Eng. (Alberta)