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CRISIS Means Decision Point

I am sick of the alliance of optimists, ostriches and opportunists who think that climate change is real but won’t admit that the crisis of climate change is now. The word CRISIS means decision point – the crisis for the Titanic was not when it hit the iceberg, it was when there was still time to turn. The disaster for the Titanic was the result of missing the crises. There came a time when it was too late to turn.

With climate change we face a series of disasters, each worse than the last. We have passed the crisis point for the first-level disaster and the second level, depending on how you define it. Maybe we should be discussing which disasters – like 8 meters of sea level rise – we can’t avoid – and which – like a billion deaths of those currently living – that we can probably still avoid.




What the CBC Won’t See in the Ontario Election

CBC’s VoteCompass is a website that asks you questions about your political views and then shows you which party or parties you are closets to. It is a neat little app that reveals what the CBC doesn’t want to think about. It reveals a blind spot that seems to be shared by all the media, in fact.

Your answers will be ranked on two dimensions – social conservatism and fiscal conservatism.

Obviously the Ontario Conservatives are both socially and fiscally conservative (unless you look at all the promises that Doug Ford is making). The Conservatives inhabit the lower right of the VoteComass graph.

The three other main parties cluster in the upper left. For CBC, the NDP and Greens are just slightly different from the Liberals. What the graph shows is that the CBC sees just one dimension, with socioeconomic conservatives at one end and socio-fiscal liberals at the other end. VoteCompass seems to say there are three liberal parties and one conservative party.

If the CBC vision were correct it would make sense for Liberals, now running at 23% to shift to the NDP, a party with 33.5% and rising, and with policies that are barely different from the Liberal party policies.

The combined vote of a united `center-left’ party based on today’s polls would be 57%. There really is no question what the people of Ontario want in terms of general polices.

Unfortunately the CBC graph is wrong. CBC has a shallow view of the issues.

For a fairly large fraction of the population, climate change is the differentiating issue. On this dimension, the Greens are very different from the other parties. The Greens have the social and economic policies that the people of Ontario wants, but they also have a workable strategy for dealing with climate change.

This makes the Greens the only adults in the room. And it tells us that our media pundits are busy reporting on old fashioned politics and either can’t see the train coming at them or don’t think its important. They choose to report on Doug Ford and Andrea Horwath fiddling while Rome burns.

The VoteCompass app is neat, but it also hides the truth. In doing that it undermines democracy and threatens our future.

Ontario Vote Compass 2018

Oh, Happy Day!

Sure we have a climate crisis. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we already have everything we need to deal with it (with one small exception).

Already electric cars outperform fossil fuel driven cars and all we need is to get numbers up so that costs fall below the fossil fuel burners. Think about it: alternatives are already at the dealers. We can convert quickly or slowly, but technology is not the problem.

Already large wind installations are producing electricity cheaper than other sources. We have storage systems for electricity and are just waiting for really cheap storage.

Heat pumps can already replace natural gas for residential and commercial heating according. In fact the heat output is greater than the energy input. They are getting cheaper and even more efficient. They save money for homeowners and will save even more as we retrofit building to reduce heat loss.

Ontario currently shovels $55 billion across the provincial border every year for fuels we no longer need. The technology is already available to keep most of that money home. It wouldn’t make gas producers in Pennsylvania or Saskatchewan happy, or in the tar sands, for that matter, but that isn’t our problem.

The potential savings on fossil fuels for Ontario is about $4044 per person. That is a big chunk of the university fees for a student. It is over $12,000 for a three person family per year. Over a lifetime the average Ontarian will shovel over a quarter million dollars over the border and then burn what she buys.

This is all waste. We convert hundred-million-year-old organic material into carbon dioxide only to harness a fraction of the resulting energy. And it is not necessary.

The bottleneck is not technology. It is not economics. It is politics – It is Liberal, Conservative and NDP politicians who understand neither technology nor economics and believe that the public isn’t ready for yesterday. Notice the date on the attached article.

12 insanely hot electric and hybrid cars of 2012

The Party for Grown-Ups

A couple years ago a survey in Britain turned up the odd fact that on average Britons do not believe they have become a “grown-up” until they reach the age of 29.

Although legally an adult at the age of 18, the average young person in Britain believes it is another 11 years before the cake is baked. Living at home longer, playing computer games, watching children’s films and a reluctance to settle for a “real job” are some of the most common reasons for people not feeling like an adult.

The survey listed the top ten signs of becoming an adult and the top ten reasons for not feeling like an adult. Apparently unblocking the toilet in your own home for the first time is a favourite demarcation of maturity for many.

For one writer, the definition of growing up is the moment you start to take responsibility for yourself. This is clearly at least a beginning of becoming an adult.

The adults I know around Sudbury do much more. They take responsibility for the people around them. They contribute actively to their communities. They demand of themselves that they face facts.

This is where I get back to Ontario politics. (You knew this was coming when you read the title f this piece.)

We have three major parties that are refusing to face the facts about climate change. Doug Ford and following many of his followers simply pretend they don’t accept the science because they don’t want to have to do something.

The Liberals accept that climate change is coming, but they don’ accept the fact that it will take much more than they are prepared to do to make a difference. They can’t fact the fact than they have committed to an ineffectual policy. For the NDP leader it is enough to say “something should be done lets talk about something else”.

These `leaders’ are acting like wishful children. Worse yet, they are giving voters across the province permission to hide their heads in the sand. You might want to look up the Biblical story of Jeremiah to see how this strategy tends to work out.

That is why I’d like you to consider the possibility that the Greens are the Party for Grownups. The Green Party is the only one that is anywhere near accepting the scientific evidence. It is the only one committing to real action. We as a society have a life and death issue – a big , tough problem – and what we get from the mushy middle and the pseudo-left is the equivalent of “I will clean my room tomorrow.”

I know many NDPers who are heartsick at this childish behaviour. So are some Liberals. For many of them, sticking with the familiar brand means they don’t have to look closely at the programs. they don’t have to work to get the facts straight. They don;t have to learn how – for example – the carbon fee and dividend works. Party politics lets all of us act like children, relying on leaders we hope are real adults to figure out what to do.

There are other issues where the Greens act like grownups and the others act more like drug dealers peddling fantasies. Take, for example, issue of public transportation for the 4th largest city on the continent. Only the Greens are willing to tell voters they will have to pay for it. It is honest, but is it good politics? Maybe not if the public is not ready to take responsibility.

There comes a time, though, when voters have to grow up. The Greens will be ready for them. When voters start to move to the Party for Grownups we will see the other parties begin to act like adults. Until then? A lot more childish politics, and outright lies.



‘Infinity Way’ is the Story of Our Times

The Zeitgeist is a concept from 18th to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.

I went to see Marvel’s Infinity War last night with Sudbury playwrights Matthew Heiti and Rick Duthie and a CKLU broadcaster, CJ Lennox. I was expecting some brainless entertainment. What I got was a barely hidden meditation of the times we are living through.

Infinity War

The story line is simple: a guy named Thanos is tortured by the fact that his world was ruined when its people ignored his warning and overpopulated the planet. Thanos decides to save the population of the entire universe by killing off half of them. The Avengers try to stop him and fail.

This story will probably reach more people around the world than any other piece of literature. If it is not coming out of our collective unconscious, then it is clearly going into our collective unconscious. So lets talk about the meaning of the movie: what does it tell us about the spirit of our age?

The failure, and the profound inability of ordinary people, heroes, and even gods, to stop the rise to power of Death (Thanos is the God of Death) is one clear note. The next Avenger story will probably find a way to undo this disaster: Comics may let our deepest fears appear in costume on the page, but the commercial project is simply to stroke those fears to keep us buying.

In the background is the same fear that the world is about to die that has been so powerfully displayed in the welter of zombie stories of the last decade or so. there is a real fear here, or these stories would not grip us nearly as strongly.

There is a some real, deep, largely unconscious worry that helps explain the power of this story. But what is it? I t isn’t hidden. The story actually says that Death comes in response to over-population. A great culling of the population is needed or we will all die.

It may be more than a fear – it may be a scientific prediction: a letter predicts catastrophe for humanity, was released in November. It says that there has been a 35% increase in the human population over just 35 years. Mankind is facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population.

The letter has now been signed by around 20,000 scientists. Scientists are part of our collective conscious. The message may have been resisted over the 45 years since the Club of Rome Report, but it has clearly been leaking into the collective unconscious. It is the unconscious that drives the spirit of the age.

The repressed knowledge is not about the`population bomb,’ of course — it is climate warming, climate destabilization and weather disasters that are trying to eat their way to the surface of he American mind.

What Infinity War tells me is that the spirit of the age – our zeitgeist – what is slowly rising from our collective unconscious – is the death wish, represented in our mythology by Thanos, driven by our need to repress what we know about what we are doing to the world and what it will do to us.

Infinity War is a message of despair. Even if it is renounced in the next film, it will have moved us one step closer to mass irrationality and destruction. Or perhaps it is the loudest most colorful cry for help in the history of humanity.

How important is the Kinder-Morgan pipeline to Canada?

The evidence seems to be that it is of declining importance.

The graph below showing actual crude tanker departures from Vancouver surprised me. I thought that the reason the Kinder-Morgan pipeline was needed by oil companies was that there was a strong market in Asia and the exiting pipeline couldn’t satisfy demand. That would show as a steady rise in the number of tankers visiting the port followed by a clear leveling off as capacity was reached. The graph shows that the number of takers visiting Vancouver has declined. Furthermore, some of these tankers are headed for US Gulf refineries: both US and Asian demand appears to have declined.


In its May 2016 report, the NEB concludes that there is a need for the Project, it is commercially feasible, and will result in a large net economic benefit. Supporters claim that the Trans Mountain Expansion will boost Alberta’s export capacity by 590,000 bbl/day and increase oil tanker traffic out of the Port of Vancouver to about 1 per day.

A November 2016 study by economist Robyn Allan points out that reports coming out at the same time, including the NEB Energy Future 2016, NEB Energy Future 2016 Update, CAPP 2016 Outlook, and OPEC World Oil Outlook 2016, all forecast a greatly reduced demand for crude oil (owing to decreased oil prices). Other forecasters with newer information came up with lower forecasts than the National Energy Board used to justify the pipeline expansion.

By 2016 there had been a net decrease in the amount of crude oil being shipped to Asia over the previous five years, despite concerted efforts by Canadian oil producers to expand their market.

But who wants the dilbit? Who is going to pay to cart it away? Allan concluded that if the expansion on Enbridge’s existing system of 800,000 barrels a day proceeds, pipeline infrastructure will be sufficient to meet capacity, without reliance on rail, until at least 2025. If meaningful climate change policies are implemented, capacity to meet export demand well beyond 2025.

The price producers are likely to receive for diluted bitumen shipped on the pipeline to the coast will be lower, not higher, than the price they would receive in the Gulf Coast.

According to a recent poll, Canadians seem to believe that the expansion is really in the interest of the whole country. On the other hand, they don’t want public money spent on it. This suggests that they believe that the pipeline will deliver benefits if it is commercially viable. That is a fairly reasonable assumption in most situations.

What is interesting is that we know that Kinder-Morgan is ready to bail. The company no longer believes that the project has huge commercial potential. The company has told the Federal government that the project is marginal – worth doing if governments take on some of the risk.

My own view is that it should and will die a natural death, but I could be wrong. It is possible it will go though and Canada will have zombie pipeline that doesn’t generate enough revenue to justify the repairs is will need in 20 or 30 years.

Doug Ford is a Symptom of Climate Change

Most Canadians know that climate warming and destabilization are the biggest dangers we face. Hurricanes in Toronto in May and record breaking floods in New Brunswick are just two of the signs.

Most Canadians want action, but many of us can’t face the truth. We aren’t deniers. Most of us feel a gnawing worry, a kind of free-floating anxiety that can attach itself to simpler issues that seem easier to act on.

Climate change is not something any of us can deal with on our own. We really are helpless as individuals. Only governments can act for society as a whole. Governments brought us healthcare, workplace safety, unemployment insurance and clean water. But conservatives have spent years trying to undermine people’s faith in government.

People who feel individually helpless in the face of the threats we face, have come to believe that governments can not longer deliver big solutions. People in this situation can be sucked in by a politician who promises them they don’t have to face what they really fear.


And that is where Doug Ford comes in. His power is that he offers the wonderful relief that comes from putting off till tomorrow a problem you can’t face today.

Ford’s appeal is based on the fact that people know we need to act on climate change but don’t have the confidence in themselves or the rest or us to begin to hope.

Ford is a symptom of climate change. Without warming and climate destabilization, without the sense the world is coming apart, Ford’s bullying and bombast would have almost no appeal.

Ford’s campaign is like a psychic vampire, growing stronger by sucking on the fear people try to hide.

The truth is we have the technology and the knowledge we need to decarbonize our economy. We don’t have to be afraid, just brave enough to act. We greens have figured out how to do it in a way that actually produces jobs and doesn’t even hurt the average family pocketbook.

How do we know that dramatic action doesn’t hurt, doesn’t cost money, doesn’t threaten our life styles? Ask yourself which jurisdiction in North America has done most to reduce carbon emissions. Which jurisdiction has the strictest emission standards for automobiles, and the strongest support for electric vehicles?

The answer is also the most rapidly growing and successful state in the USA: California. Now ask which province brought in carbon taxes first and then outgrew every province except Alberta? As almost everyone knows it was B.C.

The evidence suggests that only losers oppose carbon pricing. And only liars suggest that cutting the Liberal/NDP cap and trade system will make Ontarians better off. Moving to the Green Fee-and-dividend system definitely will make Ontarians a lot better off, but trying to get back to the 1950’s definitely won’t.

It takes some thinking to see the path through the mess we have fallen into, and people like Ford keep derailing the discussion. They prey on the people who are most afraid. Ford lets them postpone the moment when they have to admit that we have to act. Ford tells people that they don’t have to deal with facts and new ideas yet.

Ford is a symptom of climate warming the way a fever is a symptom of a real disease. If you can’t deal with the disease, sometimes the symptoms can kill you.