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Posts Tagged ‘Al Gore’

Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis by Al Gore. Rodale, 2009.

I checked Al Gore’s latest book out of the library, but quickly decided I would like to have my own copy. It would be possible to sit down and read the book cover to cover. The writing is clear and well-organized, and addresses the reader in a confidential manner, as if you were sitting with Al, talking things over. Yet every page of the book is full of information. Because of this latter factor, it is a great book to have on your shelf so that you can pick it up and read a bit about whatever issue might be concerning you at the moment.

The book features great photographs from around the world that illustrate the text, and includes relevant quotes from many sources. In his introduction, Gore repeats the African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Of the climate crisis, he notes we have far to go…and need to go quickly. The latest scientific studies repeatedly show that earlier projections of the worst-case outcome have understated how serious this crisis is and how rapidly it is growing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after 20 years of detailed study, now says that the evidence is unequivocal.

The book is divided into 6 sections. After an introductory review of our situation, Gore looks at sources of energy: where our energy comes from and where it goes. Solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, biofuels, carbon capture and sequestration and nuclear power are examined. Living systems, including forests, soil and population comprise the next section. How we use energy, and the obstacles we need to overcome to change the way we act follow. The concluding chapters are headed Going Far Quickly.

One of the sections I found particularly interesting was the chapter on population. Any plan to solve the climate crisis must deal with the challenge of stabilizing global population as quickly as is feasible. The world’s effort to stabilize the growth of population is a success story, but one that is not being acted out fast enough. In the last quarter-century, demographers and social scientists have made great strides in understanding the complexities of population growth and stabilization and there has been a dramatic slowdown in the rate of population growth. World population is expected to stabilize at slightly more than 9 billion people by 2050.

The United Nations International Conference on Population and Development, in Cairo in 1994, observed that the dynamic at work in any national population is a complex system that shifts over time from a pattern characterized by high death rates, high birth rates, and large families, to a a new equilibrium pattern characterized by low death rates, low birth rates and small families. The four factors that bring about a shift from the first pattern to the second are these:

  • The widespread education of girls.
  • The social and political empowerment of women to participate in the decisions of their families, communities and nations.
  • High child-survival rates, leading parents to feel confident that most or all of their children will survive into adulthood.
  • The ability of women to determine the number and spacing of their children.

If you look at the UN TFR (total fertility ranking), the top 10 countries are a who’s who of some of the poorest countries in the world and places  where women have few options.  Afghanistan is third, with an average of 7.07 births per woman.  In Canada, the birth rate is 1.53 births per woman.

Of course, population is just one aspect of a complex issue, and Gore offers useful information in many areas in an accessible form. Highly recommended.

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One of the route markers on the road to winter is the first thin coat of ice to cover ponds and puddles. When I went out to feed the horses on Saturday morning, there it was. The surface of the pond was sealed by a delicate film. The virgin icecoat was fragile and thin, but nevertheless added emphasis to the “other world”-liness of all things that live in water. The ice was transparent and I could still see schools of little fish swimming near the shore, but now they looked protected and safe, sealed off from our outer world of air and earth.

The smaller puddles that dot the field had air pockets trapped beneath their surfaces. It’s impossible to resist poking some of them with a toe to see the ice shatter like glass. The river to the north of the house is scarcely touched by the frost. It takes more than a few cool nights to cover its surface. Even though the water isn’t very deep, it’s persistent movement keeps the ice at bay until the temperature dips well below freezing.

The weekend was sunny and bright, but a cold wind was blowing. I was content to spend time sitting in the sun, enjoying the outdoors via my view out the window. On weekends, I like to browse through the Saturday Globe & Mail, preferably while sipping a cup of hot coffee. On Sunday, I also looked up the podcast of Jian Ghomeshi’s interview from November 25th, which I wasn’t able to catch at the time. Jian had both Dr. David Suzuki, Canada’s voice for conservation and change, and Ex-Almost-President Al Gore on the show. You can listen to the podcast of the interview here.

I was interested to learn that David Suzuki was strongly influenced by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. I read it as a newbie gardener and was never tempted to spray poisons on my plants. Thank goodness Ontario finally banned the use of cosmetic pesticides. Better late than never. Al Gore tread cautiously through the minefield of commenting on another nation’s policies, but did note that “I have been surprised in recent years at the appearance that some in the government were willing to turn their backs on environmental agreements like the Kyoto Protocol.” Yeah. Me too. And: “I understand there’s a lot of money to be made in the tarsands,” but they are “the single most dangerous and polluting energy source on the planet.” He observed that gasoline made from the tarsands gives a Toyota Prius the carbon footprint of a Hummer. While Suzuki was impatient with conferences such as the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change summit, Gore remained hopeful that a treaty would be forthcoming in the next year.

In light of the upcoming summit, the Globe and Mail featured a number of interesting articles related to climate change. In Lowering the Doom, John Allemang discusses how to motivate the public to support change. The People’s Republic of Green, by Mark MacKinnon, looks at steps that China is taking towards a more sustainable energy future. The city of Baoding has gone from being a major polluter to being the world’s first carbon-positive (emission reductions created by the technologies produced here exceed the city’s own carbon emissions) city in the world in just 6 years.

World Wildlife Fund full-page feature, G&M, Sat. Dec 5, 2009

In A changing planet – by land, sea and air, the damage caused by global warming is examined. In Everybody talks about the climate, but … Karim Bardeesy reviews three books that examine climate change solutions and the obstacles to their implementation.

There will probably always be climate change deniers. After all, 150 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, there are still people who are unable or unwilling to grasp the concept of evolution. The science of climate change and mankind’s ability to impact carbon-dioxide levels have been understood since Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius examined the subject in 1895. All that remains uncertain are the exact details. In fact, climate change is happening faster than predicted. Perhaps the main benefit of the Copenhagen summit will be to unite more people in supporting action.

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