05 April 2007

You take the good, you take the bad

Canada facing Kyoto crunch

Canada faces far greater obstacles in reaching its Kyoto Protocol commitments than the public has been told because its targets are more stringent than commonly understood, according to experts on the treaty. The target all federal parties talk about -- a 26% cut in carbon emissions by 2012 -- is just the start, say Kyoto insiders. That's far behind Canada's legal requirements. The single most important part of the protocol is a twist seldom mentioned in public: Canada's target is a five-year average, not a goal to reach by the end of the Kyoto period. "We can't just hit the target once at the end of the period," said economics Prof. Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph. "If we are 100 megatonnes over in the first year, we have to be 100 megatonnes under the target another year to offset the first year." Canada's average emissions over Kyoto's full 2008-12 measuring period must be 26% below today's level.

The country hasn't made any reductions, with the Jan. 1 start of the Kyoto period just 271 days away. Carbon emissions have risen steadily for years. This means that by 2012, Canada must reach reduction levels far deeper than 26%. By any calculation, meeting Kyoto targets would require huge restrictions in access to fossil fuels. Canada can cut its use or pay other countries to cut theirs or pursue a mix of both ways. Canada signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1998. It obliges the country to reduce emissions to 6% less than the level that existed in 1990. Politicians are soft-selling Kyoto to Canadians with over-optimistic numbers, glossing over the hard truth that Canada is legally required to stop using up to half the gas, oil, gasoline and coal it now uses in the coming five years. "I think that even if we make even some reasonable progress, we would get recognition for that," said Ottawa's Jim Bruce, who is part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change group that will announce its latest findings Friday. Canada's federal government has not yet presented a Kyoto plan.
(Calgary Herald 070405)

Not surprisingly, the fingers in Ottawa are pointing all over the place trying to lay blame for the lackadaisical attitudes that have pervaded for the past ten years on Kyoto. Now the job is even bigger and more costly than anyone would have thought possible because everyone was too busy pigging out at the trough in the late 90s and early 00s. Now things got to get really creative to address the cuts that need to be done. Oh well, it seems that absolving your legal reponsibilities is the way things are done these days, so I assume Canada will do the same in this case.

Report spells out winners and losers in global warming

Climate change has already started washing over the North American economy, and as the Earth heats up, there will be a deep, and possibly painful economic transformation, according to significant new research. Canada's agriculture, fishing and forestry industries are on the front lines, but the physical effects of global warming will alter the bottom lines of companies in the utilities and energy, tourism, infrastructure, financial services, transportation, health care and real estate sectors, according to draft findings. The findings are part of a heavily footnoted 67-page report on North America that will be issued tomorrow as part of a larger assessment on the impact of global warming by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It's the second installment of the IPCC's authoritative research, compiling the work of more than 1,000 of the world's top scientists.

In North America, warmer temperatures will offer some limited benefits, at least initially, the draft says, but the costs are already mounting. “Over the past several decades, economic damage from severe weather has increased dramatically, due largely to increased value of the infrastructure at risk,” the report states. “Annual costs to North America have now reached tens of billions of dollars in damaged property and economic productivity, as well as lives disrupted and lost.” For Canada, the main economic effects stem from assessments that sea levels are rising, the levels of the Great Lakes are probably dropping, winters will be shorter, permafrost will thaw, and temperatures will grow warmer. On the bright side, farming seasons will be longer, the report says, although some agricultural areas won't have enough water to boost their yields. In forestry, trees will be increasingly vulnerable to insects, diseases and fire, but warmer temperatures will make northern climes more receptive to commercial tree production. Cold-water fisheries will be hurt by climate change, but warm-water fisheries will likely gain. In some parts of the country, tourism will flourish with warmer weather, and ski hills can likely adapt by producing more manufactured snow. But snowmobiling and other activities will likely take a hit. Remote communities that depend solely on natural resources for their livelihoods will almost definitely be hurt by crumbling infrastructure and disproportionately warmer climates in the north, the report adds.
(Globe and Mail 070405)

For Canada in particular, what will the end result be? More good than bad? I honestly believe things are going to be generally much worse for pretty much everyone and everywhere on the planet. The fact that everything living, either individually or collectively, is going to need to uproot and migrate in order to survive is going to be stressful enough on the world's ecosystems. I worry about the positive feedback loops that we might not even know about yet -- how one collapse can trigger a cascade of others. It's all very frightening.

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