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Opinion: Climate progress takes time, smart climate progress takes a progessive smart plan.
It was a breath of fresh air to read the joint climate announcement made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Barack Obama, and President Enrique Pena Nieto. I have been advocating for climate on social media since 2008, so hearing this official announcement from the Government of Canada adds credibility to the real changes announced in Paris at the COP 21 climate talks.
Adapting and growing the new green economy will require big partnerships to make the big changes needed to secure our future economy and trade advantages. There is no question that dirty energy is too expensive, but the solutions that will deliver a successful future haven't been designed or manufactured yet. How we proceed forward is critical — there are no second chances, failure will result in the lack of resources to 'get serious this time'. Entropy doesn't* have an 'undo function'.
The announcement also underscores recent G-20 discussions of ending "inefficient" fossil fuels subsidies by 2025, but given the choice of investing in green energy or fossil fuels, Canada should ban technology investment in fossil fuels by 2020. Investing in dead ducks doesn't add up to much in the green duck game. We need to focus on making new clean winners, not comforting old dirty losers with tax-funded 'palliative care'.
I have waited to hear some substance on climate. It's great to see Catherine McKenna engaging Canadians on climate and I will be watching the results. With the climate announcement today, we can see that Catherine will be getting very busy helping to achieve 50% clean power generation by 2025. Good, this joint statement demonstrates that North America will work together — we need strong local partners all on the same page to innovate smartly, together. Are all of these announced measures smart? I do see some bumps.
The first bump is the talk of added hydro energy. When we crunch the numbers, current hydro energy cost/benefits don't compete very well with future alternative energy resources. With climate attenuating precipitation rates, how secure are investments in hydro installations? Given the controversy regarding both Muskrat Falls and Site C, we can see that a more complex green energy solution can deliver better quality results, better local food security, local ecosystem stability, at a lower cost of ownership. Will the World Bank end lending for big hydro projects? Can you smell the duck?
The second bump in the green-brick road is the focus on large transmission projects and cross-border energy sales. The model of big centralized energy coupled with long distance transmission is going to have to compete with a greener market delivering ever cheaper local energy solutions. Transmission of energy is expensive — Ontario is faced with massive maintenance overhead costs for such large capital equipment investments. In the US some are idling nuclear generation as the large model doesn't integrate well with non-base load competition and real-time market forces. Will the World Bank end lending for inefficient long-haul energy transmission? Seems distributed generation investments are more secure and a cheaper solution.
The third road bump is continued investments in nuclear energy and carbon capture projects. Although the science works, having a multi-solution market model negatively impacts the economy of scale of the winners. When considering that we, North America, are competing globally, can we afford to maintain poor models and sacrifice competitiveness, productivity and innovation rates as we compete with China, India, Russia, Germany? We can relax with England, they have 'Brexited' the competition. Recent design news hints that traditional carbon capture projects just might be obsolete before they ever hit the 'big highway'.
Aside from these bumps on our 'green road to the future', there is progress on our remaining dirty energy climate risks. Regulating climate-related air pollution, in its many forms, is a step forward in greater climate security. Particulates, short-lived organics, soot, etc., all negatively impact our air quality and our climate. A recent study showed that coal-related pollution in Alberta cost $300,000,000 in health care each year. Similar studies in the US actually show economic benefits and health benefits of these evidence-based policies.
Well done, amigos, enjoy the ride!
* - this is an assumption given the recent anomalies observed in quantum thermodynamics, just saying.