One frequent talking point from people who see no problem with continuing to enlarge the bitumen sands is that action by countries like Canada is pointless as long as larger places like India and China continue to build large amounts of coal capacity.

The Economist recently reported (in an issue with a cover story about how “the world is losing the war against climate change“):

Although coal is horribly filthy, India is utterly dependent on it. It generates more than three-quarters of the country’s electricity. Mining it and turning it into power accounts for a tenth of India’s industrial production. It provides jobs as well as power. Coal India, a state-owned coal miner that is the world’s largest, employs, at last count, 370,000 people, and there are up to 500,000 working in the coal industry at large. Far from reining in production, Coal India plans to increase it, from 560m tonnes in 2017 to 1bn tonnes by 2020. The government’s target for national production is 1.3bn-1.9bn tonnes by 2030.

Coal’s life will be made harder by increased competition from cheap solar and wind. Because of that, Mr Subramanian suggests that Mr Modi, his solar-evangelist boss, should slow down his roll out of renewable energy. “In my ideal world India should do a bit less renewable and a bit more coal for the next 10-15 years,” Mr Subramanian said in May. Some dismiss his comments as deliberately provocative. Yet he has rubbed salt into the wounds of environmentalists by describing efforts to wean energy-poor countries such as India off fossil fuels as “carbon imperialism”.

Coal’s staying power may be reinforced by India’s sense of immunity from international pressure to clean up its act. India resists the idea that it cannot put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere simply because the rich world, which produced much more per head during its own development, has used up all the available “carbon space”. In fact, the government continues to support coal projects to keep them afloat. A report by the Centre for Financial Accountability, a think-tank focused on India, says that coal projects in India received almost three times as much support as renewable-energy projects in 2017, mostly from government-owned banks.

Dealing with climate change is only possible on the basis of broad and effective international cooperation. States like India which are still building huge amounts of new energy infrastructure have the capacity to make choices that will make avoiding catastrophic climate change impossible. Persuading them to make different choices requires many things, including financial and technical assistance, but critically it requires that countries like Canada be willing to move first and accept what seems like an economic sacrifice for the sake of a better future for everyone. I say “seems” like a sacrifice because in a world with extreme climate change the cash Canada is banking through continued fossil fuel development is liable to be meaningless.

Everyone who has to give something up or adjust their lifestyle about decarbonization seems to raise some kind of ‘fairness’ argument: why should I give up what I feel I deserve? Why should I act when others aren’t doing so? Countries like India where extreme poverty remains widespread have a genuine and convincing case that they should not have to sacrifice important human welfare developments for the sake of global decarbonization. Still, coal is so awful once you add up the health, environment, and climate costs that even the poorest places with the worst problems should not still be deploying it. For Canada and other rich states to credibly encourage that requires both far more aggressive domestic action to stop fossil fuel development and the determination to provide sufficient technical and financial assistance to help states like India decarbonize quickly enough to help us all avoid global catastrophe.

{ 1 comment }

Rowboat

2018-08-18

in Photo of the day

{ 0 comments }

Muscles

2018-08-17

in Photo of the day

{ 0 comments }

I’ve been feeling with August loneliness I’ve noted before in the PhD program, but not as acutely as in some previous years. Certainly having the chance to visit Andrea and Mehrzad in Ottawa contributes to that, as does a general sense of progress with PhD research and even of an identifiable end to the doctorate.

Tomorrow through Thursday I have the dissertation boot camp. Then it’s really just another week before committee members will be accessible again, teaching obligations will resume, and there will hopefully be opportunities to meet some new people.

After many years in the Toad Lane vegan co-op, my friend Tristan is moving to Waterloo for a job. For me, his presence in Toronto has been one of its defining features, alongside that of many of my father’s family members. It’s the end of an era that stretches back before the start of my PhD or my move from Ottawa, and even my 25th birthday. I hope the new job will suit him well. Toronto will certainly be poorer in his absence, and it reduces the odds I will stay here once my doctorate is complete.

{ 0 comments }

1, 2, 3

2018-08-16

in Daily updates

{ 0 comments }

You would think a country where the entire state of New South Wales, responsible for a quarter of their agricultural output, is currently in drought and where water scarcity threatens their long-term viability as a country wouldn’t be such a climate change villain. Their wildfires keep worsening and their most important river is drying up. Alas, as with Canada’s oil-selling obsession, Australia seems more concerned about selling as much coal as possible to China as with maintaining a habitable continent.

Even without factoring in such exports, their emissions of greenhouse gas pollution have been steadily rising since 2013 after a period of general decline going back to 2005. Perhaps that’s unsurprising as they repealed their carbon tax in 2014.

This ties into a frightening possibility: as the most vulnerable rich countries are hit harder and harder by climate change they may not draw the lesson that international cooperation is necessary, retreating instead into self-defeating selfishness.

{ 1 comment }

{ 0 comments }

My central aim for this summer was to focus on developing my PhD research project. To that end I didn’t seek a teaching assistant position or other paid work, like commercial photography or the time I helped run the Summer Residence Program at Massey College.

Mostly that has gone well. I’ve gone from seeking ethical approval to beginning to conduct interviews with people at a variety of schools. I’m putting together a detailed timeline of events that took place in each Canadian campaign, based in part on the idea of cycles of contention from the theoretical framework behind the project. I have started writing the first three chapters — on the issue context, literature context, and activist repertoires — and I have a lot of ideas for each.

For the fall and winter terms I have accepted three TA positions. One is yet another second year Canadian politics course, with tutorials to lead and grading. The other two are grading only (though I will be giving a lecture in one) within the School of the Environment. TA work will be a distraction from the dissertation, but it can also be useful for structuring time and will help with maintaining general financial stability.

I expect that in September it will become much easier to contact research subjects efficiently, as students, faculty, and administrators awake from their summer comas. We’re looking for a new third floor housemate as well, since the current occupant of our largest room is leaving to pursue a job opportunity selling supplements.

{ 0 comments }

{ 0 comments }

The whole medium of blogs seems to have largely died, certainly when compared with the heyday of dozens of my friends having LiveJournal- or Blogger-hosted sites. This page has also lost some of its drama since the Oxford and even the Ottawa days ended. The late years of a PhD tend to be a time of loneliness and isolation. Many of your day-to-day obligations like coursework have fallen away and you’re meant to be devoting yourself to a project that almost by definition has appeal to only a narrow range of people.

It’s not terribly clear who, if anyone, is still reading this site, as comments seem to have gone out of favour as well.

If anyone’s still around other than the long-reading family members who I know about, you have my thanks and another invitation to comment. Anonymous commenting is recommended for those who prefer it.

{ 0 comments }