Keep it Canadian
In case you haven’t noticed Canada is on its way to a federal election this fall. The Conservative Party of Canada under Andrew Scheer has already started its campaign. I am disturbed by the nature of that campaign so far. It has a disturbingly American flavour to it. There has been a flurry of attack tweets that are misleading and lacking in truth, just like Donald Trump’s. In none of these has there been any hint of what the Conservatives would do, just mudslinging. This is typical of American politics and their failing democracy, but simply unbecoming of a Canadian political party. It may be considered their best approach to win, but I can’t say that I can accept this Americanization of our electoral process. There is nothing in the current US political process that Canadians should wish to import into Canada. As voters we can fight this. If you are a Conservative voter, make it clear to your representatives that these American tactics don’t work here in Canada. If you are not a Conservative follower, then make sure you vote to not accept this tarnishing of our democratic process.
The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Macleans magazine, December 2018. Paul Wells, a gifted journalist and thinker provided an informative article on a group that I can only think of as the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Mr Wells set out to provide a political commentary on the five Conservative leaders who have banded together to take on the Trudeau Liberals. Fair enough, politics is a game and the opposing team is trying to build its strength for the oncoming contest to be fought out in the near future. The key players on this team are Scott Moe, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford, Andrew Sheer and Brian Pallister. Wells focused on their opposition to the Liberal’s Carbon Tax, which I have argued earlier is the most efficient and effective way to price pollution. Wells also points out that many of these individuals have supported a Carbon Tax at one point or another. However in the world of political expediency and hatred of anything Liberal and progressive these guys have to chosen to oppose the Carbon Tax in order to attack the liberal government in the next election. Standard political playbook stuff, no surprise.
So what is my point you may ask? We are as a species standing on the brink. We are way past giving into political urges and rash behaviour. We have refused to internalize the externality in environmental pollution. Recent reports have confirmed that our worst fears regarding climate change. Donald Trump’s own science team have flagged the catastrophic effects of unmitigated climate change, though Donald refuses to believe them. These five politicians, in their zeal to win, are willing to bring on the apocalyptic effects that we dread, in order to defeat the opposition. Therefore the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Canadians have to beware of the global trend to reject progressive, globalist and liberal values in favour of xenophobic, populist craziness. That is not what defines Canada. When I worked overseas I took pride in the way that Canada was perceived, we need to protect that and sustain it, not erode it with the toxic poisons that contaminate the modern conservative movement.
Trucks and SUVs
Have North American car owners lost their minds? In our modern age, we have continued to migrate to urban areas. Certainly, in Canada, we have seen the population shift from a predominantly rural to an almost entirely urban population. The same is happening in the US. Yet most car buyers are choosing pick-up trucks or SUV’s. These vehicles are made for the ruggedness of the farm or rural lifestyle. Not the smooth roads of quiet urban neighbourhoods. So why do so many people buy them? Why would Ford Motor Company announce that it was ending the production of cars and shifting entirely to trucks and SUVs?
So is an SUV a safer, more practical solution., is that why almost everyone has swung this way. Well no, an SUV is by definition, heavier has a higher centre of gravity, a higher roll centre, higher gas consumption and less efficiency in internal space than most cars. They are neither safer, more economical, nor more pleasant to drive than a conventional car. The traditional station wagon was a far more practical configuration than any of the SUVs on the road. But I don’t point the finger at the manufacturers. It is the car buying public that is at fault. The car companies build what people will buy. So why does the car buying public seem determined to buy less efficient, less safe and less pleasant products? Because they have lost their minds.
It is time to end the concept that we should all get to pollute for free. Since the environmental awakening began we have struggled with the notion that pollution costs and that cost should be integrated into the cost of a product or activity. Economists would term environmental costs to be ‘externalities’. That is, they are treated outside of the costing of production. Yet the costs are real, its just that it is always assumed that someone else will pay that cost. The cost may arise in health care costs due to air pollution, water treatment costs, remediation of spoiled landscapes etc. By not integrating that cost into the cost of production it always transfers it to someone else. The hue and cry should be ‘internalize the externality’.
That is what the Carbon Tax does and it is widely held by economists that it is the most efficient way to accomplish this. So why is the Canadian political landscape so littered with anti-carbon tax sentiment. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reflected on the fact that pollution shouldn’t be free (MacLeans, November 2018, p22). His approach is well reasoned and one of the best ways to address the problem. It harnesses market forces to incentivize everyone to be more efficient in our use of fuels and our release of greenhouse gases. The Canadian Buisiness Council issued a statement supporting the use of the Carbon Tax, https://thebusinesscouncil.ca/news/business-council-statement-on-the-proposed-federal-carbon-pricing-and-rebate-system/. The name Carbon Tax doesn’t do it well though. In reality, it should just be labelled the Pollution Tax if you pollute, you pay the tax.
There are those that cry that it is just a burden on the taxpayer and a cash grab by the big government. However, a polluter is just transferring costs upon others without absorbing any of them. And the term polluter applies to all of us. Those SUVs that are so commonplace now pollute the air and contribute to climate change. Shouldn’t the owner bear some responsibility for the impact they are having? The homeowner that heats with oil (author included) should bear the cost of pollution the air. Every kilowatt generated with oil or coal should have the cost of that air pollution integrated into. Every industry that is energy intensive and derives that energy from the burning of fossil fuels should have the cost of that pollution integrated into their cost structure.
As climate change alters our environment and forces us into adopting expensive adaptation strategies, that revenue can be used to implement strategies to adapt to the future 2.0 Degree or worse world that we are headed for. Perhaps that is a better way to describe this. An Adaptation Tax, required to prepare us for an already warmer world.
Science vs Ideology
Science and politics are brought together and projected into the future to form the basis of the Novels in the Sphere Series. When the President of the United States declared that he was pulling the US out of the Paris Accord I am sure that many thought it was not of great consequence, particularly his supporters. This is wrong, it is deadly serious. The Accord lays out targets that are conservative and even if met will still lead to substantial impacts from Climate Change. The target of keeping temperature increases to 2.0 degrees Celsius is now morphing into a 1.5 degree Celsius target. The recent IPCC Report has addressed the impacts of one and a half versus two degrees rises in temperature stating that with the current carbon budget the Earth will warm by 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2050 (IPCC SR1.5 4/06/18). However it is highly unlikely that we will come anywhere close to meeting the targets, these represent mankind’s minimal targets and little indicates that nations are on track to achieve them, “A mix of alarm and apathy has both galvanized efforts to secure a 2°C future and also bedevilled them. A target of 1.5°C is no more likely to be met, but may nevertheless encourage the world to try harder”. (The Economist, Oct 13, 2018, p.14). The message here is clear. We may never meet these targets, however, without the goal in front of us, humanity risks much greater catastrophe.
One of the key dynamics that is preventing us from meeting targets is the serious divide that exists between Science and Policy. Our Nations develop policy through the political process, that is what we elect people to do. However, the policy frequently follows ideological lines despite factual information that would point in the other direction. That is what is happening today. The largest economy in the world has abandoned the Climate Change Accord targets based on an ideological belief, one that denies facts, denies the science and promotes self-interest and greed. This has raised a strong reaction in the press, “Trump's failure to fight climate change is a crime against humanity”,(Jeffrey Sachs, CNN, www.cnn.com/2018/10/18/opinions/trumps-failure-to-fight-climate-change-sachs/index.html).
The question has to be raised. Why would policy-makers ignore the science? The IPCC report recently released drew from over 6000 studies and was written by 91 researchers from 44 countries, (The Economist, Oct 13, 2018, p.76). Yet politicians in many countries, not just the US respond by saying they don’t believe it or they have a scientist who disagrees. “He [Trump] suggested that other reports were as valid as the UN's, though he did not specify any. "I can give you reports that are fabulous, and I can give you reports that aren't so good," Trump said.” (https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-doubt-un-climate-change-report-2018-10).
I would suggest that this presents a challenge to our political scientists and policy wonks to address. Humanity depends not only on scientists doing their job but on others developing the tools to be able to harness the science and use it to attack deadly serious questions of public policy. If we don’t do this we will be exposing our children and our grandchildren to a 3.0 degree plus world. As a writer, I have tried to bring this forward through the route of speculative fiction. I try to imagine the world that we are going to leave to our children. Starvation, conflict, disasters become the mainstay in that world.
There are two key words used in how to avoid this, one is mitigation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions; the other is adaptation, developing the technologies and processes that will allow our children to adapt and live in the new world that has been created. We have to realize that some changes are unavoidable, “Professor James Hansen, one of the world's leading climatologists, has demonstrated that the Earth's climate has moved above the temperature range that supported the entire 10,000 years of civilization,” Jeffrey Sachs, www.cnn.com/2018/10/18/opinions/trumps-failure-to-fight-climate-change-sachs/index.html
In The Sphere Conflict and The Sphere Wars, I have brought together the science of Climate Change with the political shenanigans that characterize our modern age. By forecasting this out to the future starting in 2074 I have tried to convey a sense of urgency but also one of optimism that human intelligence and cleverness can make a difference The third book in the series will take this even further with grand hope for humanity’s future.
What's Behind The Sphere Conflict
I had several objectives in mind in writing The Sphere Conflict. I wanted to take a look at the near future with a Canada centred theme. At the same time I wanted to blend in major elements of modern science, in particular the developments in physics and in climate change. I have of course, in the tradition of science fiction, pushed the science beyond what is currently known. I have linked them in portraying the development of new energy sources as a means of addressing the green house gas issue. Impacts of climate change, particularly those that don't hit the headlines often provide a backdrop to the pursuit of a solution. Blended into this mix are some political dynamics that are reflective of the tumultuous times we are seeing today.
I have chosen wide ranging settings, from the tranquil east coast to the rugged arctic. My main characters get to travel a bit too, to destinations such as Moscow, Nairobi, Rome and the Amalfi Coast. The Sphere Conflict is the first book in what will be a three book series, The Sphere Series. The second book, The Sphere Wars is developing well and continues the themes of the first. However, there are dramatic new developments in science and in the global impacts of climate change. Where the first book has a terrestrial focus, the second will delve into potential future impacts to the oceans. The sense of conflict and danger rises to a new height. The dramatic ending will surprise readers.
July 29th, 2016
My wife and I are very fortunate to own a cottage on the shores of the Northumberland Strait, part of the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Here, we have a two and a half meter tidal range and very shallow red sandy bottom. The result is that at low tide the beach is wide and long. It makes a great spot to sun or take long walks, its about two kilometers to the mouth of the Shinimicas river. We look out over the water towards Prince Edward Island. A wonderful place to relax and in my case write. Our half acre site is also very productive, we have a healthy vegetable garden, a micro sized vineyard that provides excellent grapes for our wine making in the fall. Blue berry bushes and a small group of fruit trees add variety.
All Things Italian
Between 2008 and 2011, I was Deputy Director of NATO's Centre for Marine Research and Experimentation, CMRE (at that time NATO's Underseas Research Centre, NURC). During that time my wife Edith and I lived in the lovely town of Lerici just south of La Spezia. We had rented the top of an old villa that had a magnificent rooftop terrace. From there, we enjoyed magnificent sunsets across the Gulfo die Poeti, famed as a stopping place for the likes of Shelley and Byron among others. It is a beautiful part of the world and we were lucky to have been able to experience it.