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Climate Change News Comment from 2002

The year 2002 brought Canada the great Kyoto ratification debate. The National Climate Change Process Stakeholder Meetings in June caught the attention of the press. Governments, industry, the press and opinion polls educated the public about the issue and tested the depth of their  knowledge over the next six months. Prime Minister Chrétien ratified Kyoto in December when public opinion was deemed to be about 75% in favor. The debate provided many opportunities for letter writing.

Readers may wish to start at the end of this page to appreciate the gaffs of writers trying to get up to speed on climate change and greenhouse gas management. Jump to End  (DRP 03/11/05)

December 8 - Personal greenhouse gas emission reductions

Canada's Kyoto goal climate change plan was announced on November 21, 2002. This prompted much discussion in the press. I submitted a tongue-in-cheek "I'm all right Jack" ,  letter to  the Calgary Herald and the Ottawa Citizen. My position was that my wife and I had already done more than our share for greenhouse gas reduction. We offered excess credits for sale at the right price.

Both the Herald and Citizen showed their appreciation by taking  the time to edit and shorten the letter slightly. They  published it under the catchy titles "For sale: hot air"  and "Doing our bit , respectively. (DRP 03/11/05)

December 5 - Restoring the National Climate Change Process

Late in 2002, news from Ottawa indicated that Canada's federal government planned to ratify the Kyoto Protocol no later than early 2003. This seemed a bit hasty considering the discord that had developed with some provinces, the lack of a  detailed plan for emissions reduction to the Kyoto level, and the five years remaining before the beginning of the Kyoto implementation period of 2008 to 2012. An  article summing up the status of Canada's plans for Kyoto was submitted exclusively to Edward Greenspon, editor of the Globe and Mail, on December 5, 2002 for publication. In essence it urges that the federal government step back from the brink of ratification and undertake more consultation with the provinces and Canadians. Sadly, the rush to ratification by the federal government proceeded so quickly that it became obsolete and was withdrawn on December 10, 2002. (DRP 04/01/23 - The article was prepared with the financial support of the Canadian Nuclear Association and is posted here with permission.)

November 24 - Sign Kyoto, put it on a shelf and forget it

Catherine Ford, during the height of the Kyoto ratification debate in Canada, suggested that we could avoid a lot of bother by simply signing it and then forget about it.  The federal plan to meet Kyoto had just been issued. I suggested  that   Canada's  Kyoto plan fit Catherine's idea and urged a delay in ratification.  My letter was not published.

Canada ratified a few days later. Now (03/10/24), only a little action has been initiated and the beginning of the Kyoto compliance period is only four years away. Russia has not yet ratified and substantial doubts have been raised that it will. It seems  Catherine's advice may have been  initiated. We need to wait just a little longer to see if Kyoto will be forgotten. (DRP 03/11/05)

November 17 - Dr. Suzuki errs

Dr Suzuki's weekly column, "Science Matters" made some common technical errors noted in my letter of response.

It is to the Suzuki Foundations credit that a staff member got back to me by email (November 19).  He acknowledged the mix-up between carbon and carbon dioxide. Apparently that error had been picked up from an article in Science. The second error pertaining to removals of 2 billion by plant life he deemed to be correct by and was taken from Nature. We did not pursue it, but I've little doubt that the 2 billion tonnes (most likely carbon - not carbon dioxide) referred to net removal from the atmosphere after accounting for emissions from plants and animals. The 400 billion tonnes I quoted referred to gross removal by plants. I think it's an important distinction to be aware of as the difference between the huge removals and emissions is the biological carbon sink - or source - humans anticipate  managing. (DRP 03/11/05, DRP correction to 400 billion 06/09/24)

November 1 - Is it time to spurn Kyoto

Canada's greatest expectations for Kyoto continued to dissipate as United Nations negotiations proceeded. Canada's request for clean energy exports was rejected in October meetings of the United Nations. My unpublished letter to the Calgary Herald questioned the wisdom of Canada's Kyoto ratification plans. (DRP 03/11/05)

October 16 - Letter to Alberta's Premier Klein re Kyoto

Premier Klein wrote a letter to Calgary participants in Canada's National Climate Change Process Stakeholder Meetings explaining why Alberta opposed Kyoto. I prepared a letter in response on behalf of the Canadian Nuclear Association. The letter cites the merits of Alberta's approach to technology development. Premier Klein responded with a  letter indicating Alberta Environment Minister Lorne Taylor would elaborate. Minister Taylor responded on January 4, 2003. (DRP 04/01/24 - The letter to Premier Klein was prepared with the financial support of the Canadian Nuclear Association and is posted here with permission.)

October 13 - In the doldrums?

Calgary Transit advertises that their light rail transit system (C-Train) is "powered by the wind".  If you find it hard to believe, check out their webpage.

It seems the claim is based on the idea that 12 windmills in Southern Alberta provide electrical energy  equivalent to that consumed by the trains . That could be, but the advertisement uses the the word "power" throughout. The word "power" (rate of electrical energy production or use in this context) implies that the wind  provides the electricity for the train at all times. Nonsense. Those trains  no doubt use the electricity mix from the grid generated from hydro, coal and natural gas - and wind sometimes - as there are no significant storage facilities for wind generated electricity in Alberta.

A visitor to Alberta wrote a letter to the Calgary Herald praising the system. She did note that it seemed the train sometimes waited a long time in the stations. I sent a letter to Herald which I thought was clever, amusing and helpful. Apparently the Editor did not, as it was not published.

Calgary Transit notes it has received two environmental awards for their electricity  accounting techniques. Was it  Abe Lincoln who said: "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time - but you can't fool all the people all of the time."? (DRP 03/11/05)

September 29 - Wind power part of policy

Murray Smith, Alberta's Minister of Energy wrote a letter to the Lethbridge Herald commenting on  wind energy proponents contention there should be greater government support for wind power in Alberta. I recall my letter was published but don't have the date at hand. (DRP 03/11/05)

September 25 - Greenhouse gas emissions are a global problem

Several times, during the Kyoto debate, I was given reason to believe that many Canadians involved in the climate change discussion do not understand the global nature of the issue. My letter to the Lethbridge Herald seeks to clarify this.

The letter was published under the inappropriate title "Canada should be leading the way with Kyoto". (Editors usually  come up with much better titles than I. This one missed the mark though. I'm left wondering if I got the point across about mixing of emissions through the  earths atmosphere.) (DRP 03/11/05)

September 1 - Electrical, energy figures mixed up in news story

We often hear rosy reports about the great progress made in Denmark with renewable energy. It seems these are often exaggerated. A story in the Lethbridge Herald quoted some erroneous data which made Denmark's dependence on wind energy seem much greater than the reality. My letter provided some corrections which were published on September 6 under the subject title. (DRP 03/11/05)

August 28 - Where's all the electricity when the wind stops blowing?

Strong winds blow down the leeside of the Rocky Mountains.  With recent Kyoto related subsidies to encourage wind power development, there is considerable interest in it here.  A series of promotional articles  in the Lethbridge Herald prompted a letter to the editor noting that the wind power industry rarely mentions the unreliability of the wind as an energy source. The letter was published August 28 under the subject title above. (DRP 03/11/05)

August 14 - Surprise! Surprise! Alberta has reviewed Kyoto science

Nigel Hannaford, a columnist with the Calgary Herald, lamented Alberta's lack of study of the Kyoto greenhouse gas management strategy. My letter directed him to the studies already undertaken by Alberta. (DRP 03/11/05)

August 7 - More and More Hot Air

An article in the Calgary Herald in the early days of the Kyoto greenhouse gas debate revealed a lack of understanding of the role of water vapor. My letter of clarification was published under the title "Not their field" on August 9. (DRP 03/11/05)


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