The Christmas holiday season is a time of giving. This year, as you set new year’s resolutions, how about giving some thought to climate change, energy policy, and net-zero by 2050? Not in the usual way that brings up feelings of dread about a burning planet and a willingness to implement any policy no matter what, but in a way that questions what these concepts mean in reality.
What energy resolutions will you set and how much of your life are you willing to disrupt to quell climate change and meet the net-zero by 2050 target?
Would you be okay if you got fined for leaving your community by car too frequently or during certain prohibited times of the day?
Beginning in 2024, a trial of a “traffic filter”, using cameras that read licence plates, is being proposed by Oxfordshire County Council in the UK. The plan will limit travel by car through the filters at certain times, and if the car does not have an exemption or residents’ permit, the owner will be fined. The plan is said to be necessary to reduce congestion, support the use of public transit, and make cycling and walking safer and more pleasant – all while limiting damage to the economy and environment.
To lessen the severity of energy shortages, would you be willing to only use your vehicle for essential trips?
Switzerland’s political class is scheming about ways to limit energy use due to shortages. One draft resolution goes so far as to restrict electric vehicles to only essential trips. Who decides what is essential? It harkens back to the “essential workers” debate of the COVID-19 era. I don’t recall that we ever came up with an acceptable collective definition.
Let’s give a moment to reflect on how far a flight ban would have to go until it is no longer acceptable.
France’s official decision-makers have banned three short-haul, domestic flights with an alternative rail connection of two and a half hours or less. France wanted to ban eight routes, but the European Union put up a stop light.
Emissions from air travel are significant, as this graph shows, and perhaps you are willing to accept a little inconvenience for the sake of the planet. But what happens when it goes too far and it’s too late to turn back?
What of the voluntary net-zero commitments companies gleefully sign onto? Canada has its own “Net-Zero Challenge” that requires participants submit their plans for verification. Although it is not mandatory, what happens if participating pledgees do not meet their targets?
Importantly, we must also give thought to who should be influencing and advising our political decision-makers and policy setters.
Wealthy folks like Bill Gates?
In the August 4, 2020 edition of GatesNotes, Bill Gates writes an article headlined “COVID-19 is awful. Climate change could be worse.” In it, he postulates, “the loss of life and economic misery caused by this pandemic [COVID-19] are on par with what will happen regularly if we do not eliminate the world’s carbon emissions.” “…by 2060, climate change could be just as deadly as COVID-19, and by 2100 it could be five times as deadly.”
Now, granted, he is putting money into innovations and solutions, which is more than a lot of people who gripe. Nonetheless, should he be dictating energy policy?
What about this guy? Should Extinction Rebellion founder Roger Hallam be advising about the energy transition?
His 2021 video and accompanying manifesto-of-sorts is entitled, “Advice to Young People as they face Annihilation”. Here are two paragraphs from the 20-page open letter. You can read it all here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xlEbMab_dRs4Wx3nESYT0bkFb2LluuBHjA9lOEyeWqY/edit
The 2-hour 13 minute video of the same name, which has over 100,000 views on his own YouTube channel and nearly as many on other channels, is even more sinister. He talks about a project of willing mass murder being perpetrated, although he doesn’t provide any evidence to support his claim. Because this is a video aimed at young people, he also advises on how to protest, including what to do if they get arrested.
To set meaningful resolutions going forward, we must also reflect on the purpose of many of the energy and climate regulations, restrictions, and pledges.
Are they a way to quell emissions?
Are they to conserve deathly short supplies of energy in an attempt to hide the devastation caused by self-inflicted, government-induced energy shortages due to poor policy and burdensome regulations that are hostile to many forms of reliable, affordable energy – coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear?
Are they an ideological push to exert control to “transform the West’s oppressive and racist capitalist system” as Greta Thunberg proclaimed while on her book launch tour?
What is compelling leaders to implement these plans and why is the citizenry going along with it? Is it simply for social justice and doing what is claimed to be morally right?
When the extremists go a little too far and reveal their idea that is considered unpalatable to the general public, it’s often labeled a “conspiracy theory”. Just long enough for the strategy to be pulled back, re-worked, and re-introduced in a more agreeable way that allows it to be normalized. Then the desired idea, the former “conspiracy” can be implemented with little notice or fuss from the public.
The continued push towards net-zero by the arbitrary date of 2050, even through a global energy shortage, demonstrates that many just don’t get it. There is no magic bullet. The move away from fossil fuels hasn’t happened, not because of a lack of political will, but because of a lack of transformative energy technology.
It’s not all doom and gloom, but it is time for people to give a moment to consider the effects of public policy. If you really want to decarbonize, invest in people and industries who are doing things, not just saying things. Support smart energy and environmental policy, not climate dogma.
My 2023 new year’s energy resolution is to keep speaking up and reminding people that in Canada we have it pretty good – let’s not destroy it.
All the best for a healthy, prosperous, happy 2023!