EDITOR: | September 24th, 2014 | 26 Comments

Addressing the silence surrounding the real global threat of climate change

| September 24, 2014 | 26 Comments

Dr. Luc DuchesneWhile environmental activists protested in100 cities around the world ahead of a United Nations climate summit set to take place in New York on September 23, 2014.  As I write this article the debate has commenced at the United Nations, a debate that has been nearly sidestepped by a telltale elite group: China, India, Russia and Canada, which collectively emit the lion’s share of the total annual global carbon emissions.

It is not the first time that this wrathful dance of environmental activism and economic pragmatism waltzes across the climate change agenda. Remember Kyoto and its umpteenth follow up meetings including Copenhagen and before Kyoto there was Rio in 1992 ostensibly dealing with biodiversity, which was a predecessor to the climate change agenda?  These initiatives failed not because smart people were not at the head of the agenda.  Voters promptly eviscerated politicians with climate change ambitions as exemplified by Al Gore (USA), Stephane Dion (Canada), and Julia Gillard (Australia).

Past efforts at eliciting concrete actions on climate change failed because the commitments had yet to be made by the people with the right influence at the right time.

Also it is easier to adopt a climate silence policy than a climate change policy, which give climate change deniers the upper hand from the very start: it is easier to support the status quo than a foray into the uncharted waters of carbon taxations, and cap and trade.  Because of the nature of the debate the nay argument is easier to articulate than the yeah argument.

But the climate of climate change is changing and the nay argument is getting significantly easier to articulate than the yeah argument.

For once, everyone has an opinion about climate change. In 1997, I wrote a position paper for the Canadian Institute of Forestry about climate change: back then I remember scratching my head about what I would say that would make sense.  Climate change was as ethereal as a pink unicorn.

But some opinions count more than others. The Rockefellers, who made their vast fortune on oil, have pledged together with other philanthropies and high-wealth individuals to sell and get out of a total of $50 billion US worth of fossil fuel assets.

This past summer, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a proposal to cut carbon pollution by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. The main way to carry out that rule would be by limiting emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Collectively we acknowledge that climate change is dangerous. The previous Sunday the streets of New York City were flooded by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and other celebrities and activists marched with arms locked together during a moment of silence for lives lost to deadly weather, believed by many to have been brought on anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Innovation has reduced the cost of energy alternatives dramatically, especially when the cost of pollution is considered. For example the cost of solar photovoltaic installations has decreased by half over the past 4 years.

The Pentagon acknowledges that climate change is one of the most significant global threats (click here) not as a direct menace but as a destabilizing force causing famine and migration.

But perhaps the most significant argument is that the insurance industry is passing the costs of climate change premiums to consumers. There is no room for denying here. The insurance industry pays weather-related claims of about $50 billion (U.S.) a year, which has over doubled every decade since the 1980s. In 2013, the Calgary foods displaced 100,000 people. The extent of the damages was estimated to be as high as $6 billion (Canadian), of which $1.7 billion was insured.

In 2012, the 10 costliest natural catastrophes, from Hurricane Sandy to floods in Pakistan, caused $131 billion (U.S.) in damages, of which about $56 billion (U.S.) was insured.

It seems that right people are getting it. The question is whether we are too late.

Dr. Luc Duchesne


Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>

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  • Fred

    Obviously mankind can affect the environment. But it isn’t as if the climate is otherwise stationary. 90% of the time in the last million years, the earth has been ravaged by ice ages. 15,000 years ago (600 human generations) the world was at the height of an ice age. The Great Lakes weren’t there, they were just part of an ice sheet. The glaciers have been melting ever since.

    Most mainstream geologists think that we are currently in a geologically brief (measured in thousands of years) warm spell before the next glaciation event.

    And geologists haven’t reached a consensus as to why ice ages happen. They’ve picked out a major component of the story (the earth’s position in space relative to the sun), but realize there’s more to the story than that, and there’s not much of an agreement as to what these other factors are.

    I’m all for cleaning up pollution, but global warming is the least of my worries. Bottom line is that the climate change/global warming people didn’t do their homework. This isn’t whacko theory. Just Google ice ages.

    September 24, 2014 - 11:12 AM

  • GoBucks

    I greatly resent your article. Since when does a PhD in Biochemistry come with a license to insult people with whom you disagree? Or perhaps your 85 technical papers give you that right.

    I’m sick as hell of being preached at by “climate scientists”. I sat in many of the same college classes as they did–physics, math, thermo, heat transfer, temperature measurement, chemistry, etc. I have legitimate technical questions which deserve a hearing–not ridicule from the likes of you. This applies for hundreds of thousands of technically literate people–engineers, technicians, mechanics, and yes, some scientists.

    The “fixes” being touted for “climate change” will have a huge financial impact on hundreds of millions of people. And we don’t get a say? No debate? All we get is ridicule. How arrogant of you.

    September 24, 2014 - 11:42 AM

  • hackenzac

    I went to the climate march in Manhattan so you know where I stand on it and before you call me a hypocrite for burning fossil fuels to get there, I rode a bicycle from New Jersey, an old one that was manufactured years ago, not in China. I’m not invested in rare earths for the sic “smart bombs” either. If you reduce the arguments between those who buy anthropogenic climate change and those who deny it and the need to reduce fossil fuel use to what if you’re wrong?; there’s no downside to one argument and there’s huge downside to the other. The end result is conversion to superior by any measure clean and efficient alternative energy or more of the same with a further degrading of the environment which is why the better safe than sorry argument trumps the we don’t know enough to act yet argument by a mile. Now if you add the overwhelming scientific weight of evidence by such entities like NASA along with some troubling recent developments such increasing methane, the moral, intelligent and rational weight of the argument clearly falls to one side.

    September 24, 2014 - 12:54 PM

  • Asher Berube

    I am not sure that silence is the right word for it. There have been immense developments on solar energy in the past year. Geothermal Energy and Wind Energy have however been facing increasingly amounts of criticism over how good they (Geothermal and Wind) are for the environment. Wind has been deemed harmful to the wildlife (this also harmed the reputation of Hydro-Electric Energy), While Geothermal has been associated with fracking which some green organizations seem to fervently dislike. I think there needs to be more development on the latter cleantech to make them more acceptable to the public, maybe introduce a sound frequency to discourage birds from approaching wind turbines is one such possibility.

    September 25, 2014 - 9:50 AM

  • GoBucks

    When TRILLIONS of dollars are at stake–when the budding prosperity of numerous third-world countries are at stake–it would be foolhardy to fall back on the “gee, better err on the safe side” philosophy.

    That’s a cop-out.

    It’s the equivalent of saying “Gee, we might be hit by a meteor tomorrow…the computer models say it’s possible…better close the house, give away all my stuff and go find a cave…though the computer models don’t seem to work, though the odds are infinitesimal, better not use rational judgment, better err on the safe side…”

    If we were going to be responsible and sign on the dotted line for, say, the integrity of a building, or an aircraft, or a ship, we would never accept a database (primarily unsubstantiated computer projections) as full of uncertainty, fraud and falsehoods as the one cited by the global warmer climate change types.

    And how safe ARE the “green” alternatives? My most liberal pal is a zoology prof who fervently looks for the day when we don’t need fossil fuels for transportation or power generation. But he is also a realist and pretty good with mechanical and electrical stuff as well . I asked him his opinion of wind and solar, to which he replied “People are fooling themselves if they think these will do much more than nibble around the edges (of power demand)…”

    Freezing in the dark is not a safe alternative in my estimation.

    September 25, 2014 - 10:25 AM

  • Nevada George

    We may be throwing on more blankets this winter …
    While there is still long coal trains chugging across Nevada heading toward
    west coast ports and loaded on ships destined to foreign countries.

    There are valid arguments on both sides of the debate.

    However, I lost my faith in environmental advocate leaders when some
    became members of the uber-rich playing funny stuff with carbon offsets.

    I will be buying coal stocks when it is pushed to the bottom by investor

    September 25, 2014 - 11:39 AM

  • hiwayman

    Asher Berube,

    ‘Sound frequency to discourage birds from approaching turbines?..

    Western Victorian wind farms have local doctors treating increasing
    numbers of people for sleep disturbances and other effects from
    ‘frequency’ noise–illnesses such as vibro acoustic disease,viscreal
    vibratory vestibular disturbance-known as ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’.

    A concerned group living near the largest wind farm in the Southern
    Hemisphere are demanding that the Govt, ‘Do Independent Testing’,
    ‘there has got to be full spectrum noise testing,research done in the
    field and multidisciplinary research with doctors, acousticians and
    endocrinologists,all of them have to be in a study,and we have to be
    ‘spoken to’….

    Yet ‘officialdom’ continues to maintain that their ‘research’ has failed
    to link wind farms with adverse health effects. [ Corporate spiel ]


    Man’s eternal dilemma..learning ‘How’ to think-not-‘What’ to think.

    September 26, 2014 - 12:40 AM

  • Asher Berube

    “Man’s eternal dilemma..learning ‘How’ to think-not-’What’ to think.”

    This includes understanding ideas in proper context.

    September 26, 2014 - 1:05 PM

  • GoBucks

    Ultimately, the climate change movement is not about climate change, or being green, or using renewable energy.

    It’s about power. Not electrical power. Political power–the power to control our lives and rob us of the fruits of our labor.

    “Green” is the new “red”.

    Climate change is merely the left’s newest hustle.

    September 29, 2014 - 10:47 AM

  • hackenzac

    Baloney GoBucks. If you can’t agree that it’s better to use less fossil fuel like coal and Arab oil then you’re on the wrong side of the argument intellectually and morally. You’re right about just one thing; it is about power, excessively centralized capitalist power losing its grip to decentralized energy that shines from the sky and blows in the wind. Too bad they don’t have an ignore button on this site.

    September 29, 2014 - 11:24 AM

  • GoBucks

    I’m really an OK guy, despite my intellectual and moral challenges.

    If it was baloney we would at least be able to make sandwiches.

    Decentralized energy? Don’t you feel the money being torn from your wallet to pay for that? Because that is exactly what’s going on. To the tune of over 2 cents per KWH. Solar or wind, all the same. You OK with that?

    Here are a couple more ridiculous examples of “decentralized” energy–

    (1) Home solar–It costs big bucks to put serious solar on your rooftop. And we are paying a healthy tax subsidy to those relatively wealthy folks who can afford to do that. I can’t afford to do that. Can you? Are you OK with that?

    (2) A big new wind farm going in near Cheyenne, Wyoming–the power generated there will go–ready for this—SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!! So a huge portion of it will be lost overcoming the electrical resistance in the power transmission lines. Brilliant planning!!!

    (3) Carbon futures? Man, PT Barnum was so right….guess who will make a killing on that? Al Gore and Barack Obama, to name two.

    I do agree we should buy less oil from the Arabs. Let’s use the stuff we have here!!

    Remember, hac: Trees LOVE CO2!! Just ask ’em.

    Keep smilin’…

    September 30, 2014 - 11:38 AM

  • vacuum

    climate change, hot fire, cold ice, wet water, round globe, square dance (okay, that one only works in Muskogee).

    can’t say global warming after NY had record cold winter (despite their predicting hot winters). So they call it something else, something tautological which applies at all times no matter what.

    since it is a tautology, it is not falsifiable. Since it is not falsifiable, it is not science (cf. Karl Popper). If it is not science, it quacks.

    October 9, 2014 - 2:35 AM

  • hackenzac

    Localized cold winters are not in conflict with global warming which is factually occurring. They have these things called thermometers and tape measures that prove it. Weather is subset of climate. Consider this; all of the polar ice melt leads to much more cold water circulating which leads to some extreme winter conditions in some localities but it’s just an oscillation. Just like your bourbon gets colder from the ice melting, so does the ocean but without more ice, it’s temporary.

    October 9, 2014 - 11:14 AM

  • GoBucks

    Hac, we can do without condescending remarks like that.


    October 9, 2014 - 12:02 PM

  • Luc C Duchesne

    There is much confusion about the effect of climate change and global warming. My column is about climate change not global warming.
    We can speak in general terms all we want but there is a point where it is useful to understand what the ecological boundaries are to define the putative impact of climate change.
    A few years back as a federal scientist I conducted field experiments to understand the effects of climate change on arable lands. I already spoke of these in a previous column to InvestorIntel but the current discussion requires a refresher.
    Imagine what would happen if you watered your house plants only once a month? If your houseplants are adapted to arid environments like cacti, you might get away with it. But if your houseplants are orchids with little tolerance to moisture stress, then they will wilt and die between watering events. You should contemplate trading your clay pots for a fish tank.
    This simplest of experiments has been tested on a forage field and shows that agricultural ecosystems are at risk when rainfall regimes are affected, a likely scenario under climate change–note that I’m avoiding the term global warming to avoid an unnecessary debate.
    In 1998-2001, long before climate change became newsworthy and the object of political spitting matches, my colleagues and I studied the impact of rainfall patterns on how agricultural ecosystems would react to climate change—this was a team effort of 6 scientists and technicians which we eventually published and which is extensively cited even after all these year (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6785/2/10).
    Our premises were very simple: under climate change we expect to see more extreme weather events but more or less the same amount of monthly precipitation. For example, the best working hypothesis of climate change would be that the entire monthly rainfall, which normally comes as 5 or 6 rainfall events would come done as a single rainfall event. Remember the cactus vs orchid example?
    We created canopies over patches of fields and subjected them to different rainfall regimes: 30-year normal rainfall, one rainfall event a month, 2 rainfall events a months, 4, 8 and 16. For each of these canopies we manually watered specific amounts of water to match the different climate change scenarios. We then measured growth and microbial factors to assess long-term ecosystem sustainability. Our results showed that modifying the rainfall regime changed ecosystem characteristics. In short, if it rains less often but still with the same amount of rainfall, plant growth will suffer and soil fertility will decline. What we couldn’t address in our research is the speed at which these changes will take place but it is guarantied that productivity losses are quick. In short desertification will take place.
    In turn, this will reduce the amount of arable lands on earth and increase the cost of food.
    Arable land is being lost at the alarming rate of over 38,610 square miles (24.7 million acres) per year. Therefore, by 2039, there may be only 0.53 acres of arable land per person, worldwide (i.e. 6.865 billion acres / 13 billion people). At the current rate of loss of 38,610 square miles per year of arable land, and even if the population didn’t grow any larger, ALL arable land could be lost in only 310 years (12 million square miles / 38,610 square miles per year) (http://one-simple-idea.com/Environment1.htm)!
    Without even speaking of global warming, we know there is increases in extreme weather events. In turn, these will cause catastrophes and will affect land productivity.
    Does this mean we have to eliminate fossil fuels and run naked with spears? No, it is not possible. What it means is that we have to alter our energy budget and how with meet our needs.
    I believe we have a collective right to be worried about the future with or without acknowledging climate change because of the economic impact of possible measures that may affect our income, cost of living, the value of our homes and the future value of our retirement savings. I am certain that improper decisions motivated by extremism from either side of the debate are potentially catastrophic.
    At the end of may career as a scientist I received an award from the deputy minister of Natural Resources Canada and there was a scholarship granted to a master’s student in my name. At the award ceremony I ask the deputy minister who game me the award what he thought we should do about climate change. He said, “I believe that technology will save us by providing new solutions with lesser carbon footprints or even solutions that draw atmospheric carbon.” After almost 15 years I mirror the deputy minister’s optimism. The point I want to make though it that for technology to save the day we need to acknowledge that there is climate change to stimulate research and entrepreneurship. Those who come up with cost-effective solutions will contribute greatly to our future.

    October 9, 2014 - 2:16 PM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    The Publisher here has just let out a ‘hallelujah’ at my desk…and where do I send the fish tank?

    Special thanks to Dr. Luc Duchesne for publishing Part II as a comment. And here’s to “Those who come up with cost-effective solutions will contribute greatly to our future.”

    October 9, 2014 - 2:46 PM

  • Fred

    Case study time: laterites. Aluminum is common, but difficult to extract from most sources. Its principal ore is bauxite. This is formed as a laterite.

    The earth has never been without climate change., In fact, without climate change, bauxite wouldn’t form at all. Over millions of years, as glaciation periods advance and retreat across the earth, weather patterns of bands of rain, (ie monsoons) shift north or south with the glaciers. Satellites in space can map the river valleys of 10,000 years ago in what is now the Sahara Desert. But don’t worry, the Sahara will probably be moist again in the next ice age, perhaps a few thousand years from now. Water levels in the ground rise and fall with these bands of rain, selectively concentrating some elements, and leaching out others. With this constant climate change, in this case linked to glaciation (predominant over most of the modern history of the world), lateritic ore bodies get formed. After a few million years of this climate change, you get bauxite, ionic REE clays, and other such lateritic ores. The water level kept rising and falling with climate change, as the bands of heavy rains shifted north and south with the glaciers.

    Mankind has much power to affect climate. I am very worried about pollution. But when the next ice age starts surfacing, humans will try to burn every lump of coal they can get their hands on, not only to keep warm, but to put more CO2 in the air.

    Does anyone want to tell me when the climate didn’t change?

    October 9, 2014 - 3:50 PM

  • hackenzac

    Global warmin’, dem dere’s fightin’ words. It’s really just a difference between cause and effect. Let’s throw in some hygrometers with the thermometers and tape measures. The base of the issue is increased greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. More energy from heat in the atmosphere has meant more extreme weather events that recently seems to be proving out the overwhelmingly prevailing hypothesis. As for water, the right time in the right amounts, there’s gonna be some unhappy changes, yep. Boiling down the semantics, it’s as you say, the carbon and in that therein lies the rub. We need to put more carbon back into the ground and that’s a big cultural shift so one thing is for certain; it gets worse before it gets better.

    October 9, 2014 - 4:02 PM

  • hackenzac

    Fred; The climate changes over epochs and millennia, very true and that’s fine if you’re squeezing coal into diamonds but what you fail to grasp is the function with time. Speed kills. Capische? You’re on geological time and you should get on human or at least mammalian time where this sort of climate change, the speed of it, is unprecedented.

    October 9, 2014 - 4:17 PM

  • Fred

    Geological time isn’t necessarily that long. 15,000 years ago, we were at the height of the last ice age. The Great Lakes were under a thick sheet of ice, and the Mediterranean Sea was an inland lake, as was the Black Sea. The earth was very dry, as much extra surface water was frozen into the ice sheets. A warming earth produces a wetter earth, not a dryer one.

    There have been world wide mini ice ages in human history. One of them caused years of crop failures to the British trying to colonize New England. Another one caused years of crop failure and unleashing the black plague upon Europe, just as Byzantine emperor Justinian was trying to re-conquer the western Roman Empire. Modern research shows that this particular mini ice ago was likely to have been caused by a volcano around Indonesia, bottom line unpredictable.

    The nature of life is that few can predict when they will die. Geologists who specialize in ice ages figure that the current warm inter glacial period is in its old ages. Current thinking is that an ice ago can emerge from our current period of warmth in as little as ten years. In other words, one of those mini ice ages could have turned into the real thing, before we could try to prevent it.

    Based upon past geological history, many geologists figure we may have perhaps another 5,000 years of warmth before the ice sheets start expanding again. The shortest main stream prediction I’ve seen is 500 years. No one is talking of 100,000 years. Geologists look at this as not if, but when, it will happen. I would rather have that extra CO2 in the atmosphere. Maybe it could get us an extra 10,000 years of warmth.

    October 10, 2014 - 2:15 AM

  • hackenzac

    Hey Goober/Herbwellis; weren’t you just bragging over on Yahoo Finance how high your IQ is? Feel free to present counter arguments. You’re in a deeper pool here. Also, as per the terms of service, you get one ID but I’d prefer to see neither. The moderator can see your post history and it’s all about dogging me. Creepy posters don’t last around here so if I may in advance, see ya!

    October 10, 2014 - 11:53 AM

  • hackenzac

    Howabout you drop the ad hominem attacks and instead you make a statement as incendiary as you like regarding climate change/global warming/greenhouse gasses and we’ll see how strong your brilliant statement is. That’s how it works around here. Surely you can beat “green is the new red”.

    October 10, 2014 - 11:58 AM

  • Nevada George
    October 11, 2014 - 8:18 AM

  • Fred

    There are geologists who devote their whole careers to ice ages. But to get a quick mind set on why you should worry about them, there are a couple of books that are easy and fun reading.

    The first one, written in 1999, was one person unearthing the existence of a mini ice age in the 6th century which had been long forgotten by history. Subsequent study has since produced much more documentation of it. “Catastrophe, An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World”, by David Keys, gives the flavor of ice ages, and shows that we’re not dealing with the age of dinosaurs.

    The second book sounds religious, but it isn’t. Geologists have known for perhaps a hundred years that the melting glaciers of the last ice age filled the world’s lakes with water. And geologists, traditionally to get their masters degrees, study such geological events and provide the details to the broader picture. The overflowing Mediterranean Sea spilled over into the Black Sea recently enough that it may have intersected the beginnings of human historical record. “Noah’s Flood, The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History”, by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, makes the case that this flooding was the origin of Babylonian literature that later became Noah in the Bible. No one will prove it or disprove, but the fact that it is plausible shows just how recent the last real ice age really was.

    October 12, 2014 - 10:08 PM

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    October 13, 2014 - 11:53 AM

  • GoBucks

    Green is indeed the new red.

    What else can one conclude from a chorus of organizations blaming capitalism for a lack of action on climate emergencies, calling for a socialist order to replace elected governments so their ‘climate solution’ can be forced upon us?

    Better red than dead, huh?

    What do you call it?

    Are you in favor of such?

    Please tell us plainly.

    I call it fascism…I also call it communism…six of one, half a dozen of the other. Both work out badly.

    Hey, do you know the difference between a fascist and a commie?

    The fascists wear black armbands. The commies wear red.

    October 17, 2014 - 9:41 AM

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