Thursday, May 2, 2013

Need for retiring carbon as simple as 1 2 3

I saw two films recently that unexpectedly fit together: “Jurassic Park 3D” and “Do the Math”.
Do the Math, by, boils the climate crisis down to three simple numbers: 2 degrees, the amount of warming that we must not exceed, and so far the only global consensus position that even the Harper government has supported. 565 gigatons, how much more fossil carbon that lets us burn; more and we heat the planet beyond supporting human prosperity. 2,795 gigatons, the total fossil fuel reserves currently identified and tagged for extraction. This means 80% of known reserves of coal, oil and gas must remain in the ground, unburned, if we are to continue to flourish.
As author Bill McKibben says: when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging! That means not building any new infrastructure for extracting, distributing, or refining fossil fuels. Even the very conservative International Energy Agency agrees.
Yet instead we see editorialists, lobbyists, and most politicians pushing new pipelines and tar sands expansion, fracking, and other enhanced extraction. Ignoring the contradiction, they defend new high-cost fossil infrastructure because the alternative would require new high-cost renewable infrastructure. Wouldn’t it make more fiscal sense to spend our money on infrastructure with a permanent, renewable supply than on energy we know will run out? And how crazy is it to expand an industry whose own success in extracting resources must eventually put itself out of business?
Some wrongly think being Green means I’m left-wing, and note that I sometimes criticize political parties with Conservative in their name, ignoring that I also call out Liberals and New Democrats. I’m actually deeply conservative: I believe we should be able to live on the same planet our grandparents did, and our grandchildren deserve the same, too. As fast as they can, fossil fuel companies are transforming the basic chemistry of our atmosphere, changing temperature, precipitation, sea levels, weather and climate such that our children will literally live on a different planet than the one we were born to. What could be more radical than the uncontrolled world-changing actions of Big Oil/Coal/Gas?
Another deeply conservative belief of mine: responsibility for our own waste. Generally individuals and businesses must pay to dispose of their garbage. Only fossil fuels are allowed to break the rules by dumping carbon pollution into our air, our very life-support system, for free (and profit).
Jurassic Park had a simple message: just because we can do something (for a profit), doesn’t mean we should. Re-introducing extinct dinosaurs from 65 million years ago to the modern world was clearly a bad idea. Releasing carbon sequestered millions of years ago into today’s biosphere is a similarly bad idea, no matter how much money some pocket.
So what to do, how can we be energy wise and not fossil fools? Read next week for a couple of powerful solutions to get us off fossil fuels quickly while maintaining our prosperity.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "Films offer clear environmental message".
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

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