Canada’s 2019 election has been another frustrating one for those who think climate change is the most urgent and important political challenge we face – with Canada’s electoral system and party structure working against us on one hand and the practical effect that the Liberals and Conservatives are controlled by oil-linked industries including finance and the auto sector on the other.

Nobody is proposing a plan for Canada to do a fair share in controlling the problem and overcoming fossil fuel dependence, except maybe the Greens who cannot form a government.

The expectation for my riding is that Liberal minister Chrystia Freeland will win, followed by NDP, Conservative, and Green candidates. That leaves me pretty free to vote as I wish. I do feel there is some purpose in rewarding the Liberals for their inadequate but still somewhat serious climate policy, in contrast with the rollback to Harper-era delay with the Conservatives plan. At the same time, the party has been incoherent on the issue (like all the others parties) vaguely supporting the general aim of decarbonization and planetary stability but making near-term economic choices that show only a superficial interest in overcoming fossil fuel dependence. The NDP may be theoretically better on the issue, but their positions in recent years have been inconsistent to the degree that they don’t seem likely to be much better than the Liberals.

In the end I’ll probably vote Liberal or Green: the former as a way of saying that the minimum standard of a rising carbon tax is crucial and must be maintained, or the latter as a way of saying climate change is much more important than the other issues being contested.

I just hope we don’t end up with a Scheer government. Living through the Harper years was painful enough for anyone who can see that we’re squandering our chance for a cheap and low-conflict route to climatic stability, guaranteeing a at a minimum that we will need to pay far more to solve the problem after industry-backed delay than we would have needed to if we really got started after the UN climate convention in 1992.

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While finishing my dissertation remains my top priority, I also signed up for an amateur radio course being offered by the Toronto Amateur Radio Club.

It’s something like ten 2-hour instructional sessions, followed by the federal government exam to get a basic certification and call sign.

It should be an interesting way to spend a couple of hours on Monday nights, provide a useful life skill, and grant an opportunity to meet another community of nerds.

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Carbon taxes have begun to play a strange role in debates on climate change politics. Designed to appeal to conservatives they are now a focus of rage on the political right. At the same time, they are supported by some big fossil fuel companies who see them as a comparatively small cost and a potential source of certainty about future policy.

Recently, the IMF commented:

The Washington-based Fund said the battle against climate change could only be won if the average carbon tax levied by its member states increased from $2 (£1.63) a ton (907kg) to $75 a ton.

The IMF said governments worried about a political backlash against big increases in the cost of heating homes and motoring, and should use the extra revenue raised from the tax to compensate consumers.

“To limit global warming to 2C or less – the level deemed safe by science – large emitting countries need to take ambitious action,” IMF economists said.

“For example, they should introduce a carbon tax set to rise quickly to $75 a ton in 2030. This would mean household electric bills would go up by 43% cumulatively over the next decade on average – more in countries that still rely heavily on coal in electricity generation, less elsewhere. Gasoline would cost 14% more on average.”

Calculations by the IMF’s economists show that a $75-a-ton carbon tax would also lead – once inflation has been taken into account – to an average 214% increase in the cost of coal and a 68% increase in natural gas. For the UK, the increases would be 157% for coal, 51% for natural gas, 43% for electricity and 8% for petrol.

The IMF has something of a reputation for thinking about policy, not politics, and it’s hard to see a carbon tax like this being implemented in any major democratic country.

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It didn’t have a strong effect on my view of the situation: that Trudeau has been a poor prime minister on the most important issues, that Scheer would be worse, and that everyone else is scrambling for a few parliamentary seats in hopes of being influential in a minority government. So far the most interesting idea of the campaign has been the Green Party proposal for an all-party climate change cabinet. It makes a lot of sense to put decisions about long-term energy and infrastructure planning, as well as climate change adaptation, under a body that will take a broader view across the decades instead of responding principally to day-to-day developments.

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Most of the history of astronomy consists of observing electromagnetic radiation from outside our planet. That includes the light which shines off the sun and reflects from bodies in the solar system, as well as radio waves produced by phenomena around the universe including pulsars.

Now that we also have neutrino detectors and gravitational wave detectors like LIGO we can receive signals of other kinds from around the universe, helping us to understand it all better. One neat trick: since the universe did not allow the transmission of light for the first 400,000 years there is a limit to how far back we can look by electromagnetic means.

You can sign up for neutrino burst warnings, in case they indicate something great happening in the sky that you may wish to observe by other means.

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Screech

2019-10-06

in Photo of the day

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