A Warmer World

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reports that (worldwide) July 2017 was just as warm as the record July of 2016.

  • Overall 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded. The planet’s surface temperature has increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 Celsius). 16 of the last 17 warmest years have occurred since 2001.
  • Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are decreasing. The extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly over the past 20 years. Water levels in the globe’s oceans have risen 8 inches in the last 100 years and the rate of increase has doubled in the last 20 years. The temperature of oceans has increased and they are absorbing about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.
  • The number of extreme weather events is increasing. And the recent hurricanes have spawned renewed debate about the role of climate change in their formation and intensity.
  • In Canada, temperatures have increased about 1.2 degrees Celsius (and 1.5 degrees in the Mackenzie river basin). Scientists estimate that since 1900, 90 per cent of ice shelves on Ellesmere Island, have broken up and floated away. Glaciers in Alberta have declined in size by about 25%.

For decades, debate raged about whether climate change is a caused by human activity. GHG emissions particularly carbon dioxide are seen as the culprit. But the globe’s climate is a big system and there is lots of conflicting data. However according to NASA, 97% of the world’s climate change scientists believe this is a human-made problem. NASA itself concludes that there is a 95% probability that it is caused by man.

This means you can have 1 in 20 of your friends that thinks this is all a Chinese hoax and reminds you of Y2K.

Paris Accord

Canada signed on the the Paris Accord in 2015. It aims to contain the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (and ideally 1.5 degrees). Canada has also committed billions of dollars to support developing countries’ transition to low carbon economies.

Efforts inside Canada are guided by a federal provincial framework that has four components:

  • pricing carbon

  • reducing emissions

  • adapting to climate change

  • improving ‘clean technologies’

The framework’s 2030 emissions target is set at 30% below 2005 emission levels (523 megatonnes of CO2). A projection that took into account various provincial initiatives  (Blue line on chart below) estimated that emissions would be about 742 megatonnes of CO2 in 2030. So we appear to be a long way from reaching that goal. (Look for that orange dot on the bottom of the chart!)

Alberta’s climate leadership plan focuses on:

  • phasing out coal power electricity

  • putting a carbon tax on industry and increasing gasoline taxes

  • using the tax to cross subsidize green power

  • funding projects that reduce emissions and trying to help communities that serve coal plants

  • subsidizing low income families from the impact of higher prices caused by the new taxes

Severely Normal Albertans will recognize these global changes are the real drivers behind anti-oil arguments and ‘resource development shaming’.

Here is a quiz:

  • Will Alberta’s and Canada’s actions make any real difference in the global scheme of things?
    • Yes – everyone must do their part and Canada should be a leader

    • No – compared to big emitters like China and the USA our contributions to global warming are tiny

  • Will the action on emissions hurt the economy?
    • Not really – because other sources of power and new “green jobs” will emerge

    • You bet it will – the energy economy is 25% to 50% of our economy and our biggest export

  • Is now the right time to tax carbon and phase out coal?
    • Yes – action on climate change is urgent and it is vital to get a “social licence” to develop energy resources

    • No – we are in the midst of a recession, coal phase out is too expensive and a “social license” from environmental and indigenous opposition will never happen