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Environment - May 29

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Ottawa absent at major climate change conference

Dan Crawford, The Republic (East Vancouver)
Professional engineers from across the country get together to plan for climate change
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For the first time in Canada’s history, hundreds of engineers, scientists, and policy-makers converged in Ottawa to discuss the issue of climate change. The conference, hosted by the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), along with eight national engineering societies, began May 9th at the University of Ottawa, followed by three days of panel discussions and presentations at the Ottawa Congress Center. Notable experts from across the country and from around the world outlined the problems presented by climate change and solutions to address them.

But there was one notable absence: Rona Ambrose, the Federal Minister of Environment, failed to appear. Ambrose had been invited months prior to give the opening welcome address. The organizing committee had received confirmation from the previous Environment Minister and the committee extended the invitation to the new Minister, sending an official letter in February, 2006. The chair of the conference organizing committee, John Grefford, said that “Several e-mails and many phone calls to various members of her political support staff and Environment Canada staff unfortunately provided no official responses. The last promise I received was that we would obtain an official answer after the budget. I still await that letter.”

Many in attendance could not comprehend why the Minister would forgo such an opportunity to address Canada’s engineering community. But by the end of the conference, it became clear that the government’s strategy for addressing climate change is to be non-committal while employing avoidance and dismissal tactics at every opportunity, a strategy strikingly similar to the Bush Administration’s program of budget cuts and censorship.

In my talks with engineers working in various governmental departments, this dire situation was further confirmed. Most funding for government programs dealing with energy efficiency, conservation, or climate change have been put on hold, indefinitely. Some programs have been canceled outright, such as EnerGuide. Morale, especially at Environment Canada, is extremely low, due to concerns about cuts and layoffs. To accomplish anything under such conditions has been very challenging for these public servants. Progress on addressing climate change in Canada is, apparently, being stifled by the government.
(25 May 2006)


Global warming might not be so bad, if we keep our cool

Simon Jenkins, UK TImes
All panics are equal. But some are more equal than others. Present-day government warns us to be very, very afraid, successively of Aids, Saddam Hussein, BSE, terrorists, Sars, bird flu and now global warming. Rulers were once elected to free us from fear, not to increase it. Now they cry wolf every day and use it to demand more power and money into the bargain.

Climate change is a hell of a wolf.

...Yet it is wholly unclear what we should do beyond “something”. Reversing the J-curve is beyond the power of persons, communities or even nations. The central thesis of the climate change lobby is that all humanity must, like Faust, renounce its pact with the devil. It must somehow resume a state of grace that ended roughly half-way through the last century.

...Some inner faith in technological change tells me that Attenborough and his J-curve will one day seem quaintly out of date after some new, unheralded scientific innovation.
(28 May 2006)
Unfortunately the Jenkins piece, while deftly written, does not reveal much understanding of the issues.
-BA

Sprawl Outruns Lofty Experiment
Fred A. Bernstein, New York Times
IN 1991, eight researchers in dark blue Star Trek-style uniforms entered Biosphere 2 - a vast terrarium in the Arizona desert north of Tucson - hoping to spend two years inside without importing food, water or even air. The goal was to see whether the sealed environment, considered a microcosm of the Earth's, could become self-sustaining.

As it turns out, the real science experiment was going on outside, as development conquered vast swaths of the Sonoran Desert. The Biosphere, miles from nowhere when it was built in the 1980's, is now within the reach of a building boom streaking north from Tucson and south from Phoenix (and which some demographers say will eventually join the two cities, once 100 miles apart).

The Biosphere was designed to simulate the Earth's environment. By succumbing to sprawl, it may have done just that.
(28 May 2006)

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