COMMENT: Remember climate change? The forgotten threat...

Ken Holmes
By Ken Holmes
April 1st, 2014

According to BC Hydro, in Earth Hour 2014 their customers accrued less than half the savings achieved in 2013. Is this because the lights people turned off were more efficient lights or is it because fewer lights were turned off?

Maybe it’s a combination of both; however, it’s my belief that climate change has almost disappeared from the radar of many people. This is hardly surprising considering all the other worrying and stressful things that have been going on in the world during the past few years: global  recession; the economy; jobs; terrorism; wars in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere; Arab spring uprisings and now Ukraine.

It should not be surprising that the importance of climate change and the need to reduce production of greenhouse gases may have diminished in people’s minds when the Federal government actively promotes increased development of the tar sands, Canada’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and also supports more and bigger pipelines to get more of the fossil fuel to market.

Similarly, it would be natural to question how important is climate change to our provincial government when it is actively promoting increased production and sale of a fossil fuel, natural gas, as the saviour for our economy.

The BC Government has recently announced the creation of a round-table to discuss ways to find the right balance between economic development and environmental protection.  With the Premier staking her future on development of liquefied natural gas, it seems clear to me what will win in the event of a conflict between the economy, jobs and the environment.

It’s the same in the United States where increased domestic production of oil and natural gas as a result of fracking is lessening their dependence on imported oils and domestic coal. However, it hasn’t lessened coal production, but only increased the amount available for export to other countries. They are even talking about becoming an exporter of oil and gas.

People’s beliefs about the importance of climate change and global warming are diminished when our “leaders” actively support and promote large scale production of fossil fuels for burning by other countries leading, in turn, to further increase greenhouse gas emissions .

It‘s not surprising that many people take ‘with a grain of salt’ any speeches from our “leaders” about the need for increased energy efficiency  or the need to conserve and reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. Some even see this as “two-faced”…. and they may be right …. when an estimated $ 544 billion in government subsidies worldwide is provided to fossil-fuel industries. (Ref IEA)

Although any reduction in fossil fuel consumption through energy efficiency and conservation will help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases, it will only marginally slow down the growing quantity being emitted to the atmosphere. This is because the projected rising global demand for fossil fuel outweighs potential savings through energy efficiency. The reality is that anything we save through energy efficiency will be consumed by someone else.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), despite measures announced to improve energy efficiency, support renewables and reduce fossil fuel subsidies, greenhouse gas emissions from CO2 will still rise by 20% to 2035.

The IEA middle-of-the-road scenario indicates the world is on a trajectory consistent with a long-term average temperature increase of 3.6°C, far above the 2°C target internationally agreed on by our world “leaders” in the Copenhagen accord.

The only way this can be undone is to leave some fossil fuels in the ground. However, in Canada, given the importance of fossil fuels to our economy and jobs; the influence of energy companies on governments; and the lack of attention and low priority given to developing alternatives, this is not likely to happen.

The IEA said in 2011 that four-fifths of the total energy-related CO2 emissions permissible to achieve the 2°C target were already “locked-in” by the existing energy infrastructure and capital stock and that stringent new action needed to be forthcoming by 2017. Well, here we are 4-years on and the only policies we see are aimed at producing more and more fossil fuels. Meanwhile climate change marches on with no solution in sight!

Ken Holmes is a retired professional engineer, certified energy manager and chartered fuel technologist.

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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