Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our Copenhagen Commitment - what are we doing?

I sincerely believe that next week's UN Copenhagen Climate Conference is one of the most important events of our lifetime. The meeting will directly address international regulations for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to avoid catastrophic climate change. Personally, I believe that unprecedented levels of atmospheric CO2 are not a good thing, and CO2 probably leads to global warming (on average). However, I'm not convinced that climate scientists can reliably predict exactly what kinds of changes will happen and when or where they will occur. My uncertainty around the accuracy of the climate modelling has not changed much despite reading several articles, attending lectures by climate scientists and following the "Climate Gate" saga as it has unfolded in the media. All of my personal research has left me with some fairly strong opinions. For example: there is way too much CO2 in the atmosphere, the planet (on the whole is getting) warmer, this warming is not caused by changes in solar radiation or changes in the earth's orbit and there are non-linear changes happening on the global climate scale that are not fully accounted for in the climate models. This means we are potentially dangerous situation and we don't really have enough knowledge to know what is going to happen next.

Beyond climate change, I believe the Copenhagen meeting is important for several related issues. These include the reality of world-wide energy shortages, environmental destruction caused by the Alberta tar sands and similar developments and increasing inequality between the haves and have-nots. It is interesting to me that most of the world's poor peoples will not be affected much by energy shortages (they never knew the conveniences so they won't miss them) but they will likely be devastated by climate change and environmental degradation. The richer nations will probably cope with climate change but they will be devastated by energy shortages. We really need a way to work together for the good of all people - and the biosphere. This is more important than national economies or how difficult it might be to give something up.

Sorry for the rant - I just want to be clear about why this whole issue is so important to me. Having done that, I suppose I should say a few words about what our family are doing to address these issues. As many of you know, we have been making various attempts to reduce our environmental footprint and improve our personal energy efficiency for the past ten years or so. The next two entries will show how we have done.

Beyond the figures, I would just like to assure everyone that our quality of life has dramatically improved. While some of the transitions have been difficult - like physically moving our mountains of stuff out of that monster house - and we have made lots of costly mistakes, like trying solar thermal to heat our house during Calgary winters and buying that fifth-wheel trailer - our quality of life is far better now than it was before. It has been a fascinating journey and we haven't reached the destination yet.

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