Sunday, May 14, 2006

Check Monday's Toronto Star

I wrote a column about the state of climate policy in Canada [and the U.S.] that will appear in Monday's Toronto Star. Just click on Opinions/Editorials tomorrow and you should find it.

On a funny note: today's NY Times has an article attributing the surge in home runs in Major League Baseball this April to the warm weather.

Some of you may remember that back in 2000, I called an editor at Sports Illustrated and (half-jokingly) proposed that climate change was causing the surge in home runs. On a hot day, a batter's muscles are looser, so they may hit the ball a bit harder, and the warmer air will allow any ball hit to travel a bit more. I looked at the numbers, and it turns out that the years all the home run records were broken happen to be the warmest in recorded history. I was not really serious - the evidence is correlative, not necessarily causal - though if you look at the weather data the summer Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke the old single season record, it does make you wonder if the hot weather gave a couple long balls that extra boost over the fence.

The idea became a story in SI - it included my argument and some, frankly, ridiculous quotes from a supposed expert on the physics of baseball - and filtered out into the media. I joke about the whole experience in this old dispatch on my website.

The NY Times story is surely convergent evolution. With all the media coverage of weather and climate, someone was bound to think about this again. Still, it makes me smile.


Adam W. said...

I came across your article in the Toronto Star. I don't read The Star but happened to see the headline on the Google News website.

I guess the thing I find troubling about the arguments raised in the article is the perpetual notion (ie. not just you, but by so many) that the full-steam-ahead Kyoto implementation should ignore the economic impacts of the accord, and should ignore the fact that the emissions that the accord is based on are COMPLETELY unmeasurable. Who is going to measure the emissions with any notion of validity?, and how can you differentiate the smog that comes from the Ohio Valley into Ontario, from home-grown smog?

If you can't have a reliable measure, you sure as HECK can't base a financially punitive policy around it.

And what about the enormous polluters like China who are (my God) EXEMPT from Kyoto?

Simply put, there can be no good arguments for implementing an unmeasurable and downright absurd accord blindly.

So why should Canadians (those who have some notion of where money to pay for all of society's good things comes from) be delighted to hand the power to judge over to people who are a) predisposed to find fault with anything and everything either corporate or conservative, and who are b) incapable of measuring the very thing that they seek to impose reductions upon. $10 calculators and naive intentions aside (my calculator cost $7.99 because of the efficiencies of the global economy) how can anyone argue that Kyoto is worth doing?

I also find it troubling that this argument is most often put forward by people who simply have no risk in seeing business going down the drain...namely academics.

Simply put, it is enormously hypocritical to advocate the implementation of Kyoto, when one is sheltered from its effects by the ivory towers and "other worldliness" of academe.

Anonymous said...

Read your op/ed piece in the Star. Googled your name. Here are couple of funny remarks. As a person who knows policies changes you should have noticed that Loose One Ton challenge have been canned by new Conservative government. Same happened to the most of another quoted program.

It is ironic that you have published your opinion in the most green gas emitting paper in Canada. Here are my fun approximations about the Star:
The Toronto Star’s stand on global warming is completely negated by its practice. Just look at the Saturday Star. It is the size of the phone book. The amount of trees cut to produce paper, the amount of fossil fuel required to produce, transport and print paper even before it gets to the home delivery person is huge. Then one route delivery takes about 7 liters of gas, this is over 2.5 cubic meters of gasoline a year. This is over 9 metric tons of CO2 a year only for home delivery. A total circulation of 643164 Saturday Star papers produces 20 millions kilograms of CO2 a year for Saturday home delivery alone.

I understand that this statistics is for biggest delivery day. So for the rest 6 days just multiply by 2/3. This paper produces over 100 000 tons of CO2 a year only in last couple of hours before it gets to the consumer.


Tim again said...

The Star should donate more than $58 Millions to Tree Canada.

Simon Donner said...

It is hard to measure emissions. But that is not a reason to ignore the problem. In fact, that's one reason you need international agreements like Kyoto, to agree on a framework for measurements and reporting.

As for China, it's important to remember that GHG emissions stay in the atmosphere a long time, and therefore need to be integrated over time. The reason that China should be excluded from initial agreements is that China is historically responsible for a tiny fraction of emissions.
As we go forward (ie. post-Kyoto agreements) the partcipation of China and India will be important.

It is also important to remember that the west and other big GHG emitters (Japan, former Soviet Union) have led the way in developing energy technologies since the industrial revolution. We are better equiped - though won't be forever - to develop the newer less carbon-intensive technologies and then export them to China and India. Many forward-looking companies like BP and Alcan are seeing this as an opportunity.

Jason West said...

Regarding the comment that we don't know emissions well ...

Scientists know very well the emissions of CO2 related to fossil fuel combustion. Why? Because fossil fuel is worth a lot and so there are very good records of fossil fuel comsumption. We also know the chemical composition of each type of fuel (coal, oil, natural gas). It is therefore not difficult to estimate the total CO2 emissions, since essentially all of the carbon in fossil fuel is converted to CO2 when it is burned. I'm certain that we know CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion to within a few percent, and this certainty is the foundation of international efforts to control CO2.

Note that the estimate of CO2 emissions is not done as Adam W. suggests. We do not try to measure the CO2 as it leaves every individual smokestack or tailpipe. Rather we have a much more convenient and accurate way to estimate CO2 emissions - just keep track of sales of fossil fuels.

This differs from other types of emissions that Adam W. mentions. For example, the amount of NOx emissions (NOx contributes to smog) depends on the conditions of combustion, and so a combination of methods is needed to estimate emissions, and those estimates are more uncertain than for CO2. Nonetheless we very likely get NOx emissions from the US correct to within about 20%. These emissions are not "COMPLETELY unmeasurable" - they can be measured directly with a good degree of certainty. Actual measurements of NOx emissions are taken continuously at major industrial sources in the US and Canada, and these continuous measurements support policies to reduce emissions and ensure compliance.

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