10. All states shall accelerate R&D of HVDC electric grids, energy storage, and Demand System Management

Rapporteur: Michel Duguay

In North America, as well as in Europe, the price of electricity from wind turbines and from photovoltaic panels is now low enough to compete with electricity produced by conventional power plants based on burning coal or natural gas. At least two problems, however, must be tackled in order to make renewable power large enough to alleviate the climate change issue. The first one is storage. The wind does not always blow with enough strength and the electrical output of solar panels fluctuates with cloud coverage. The second problem is the need to transmit electric power from power-rich regions to power-poor ones while at the same time maintaining grid power reliability and frequency stability.

The renewable power fluctuation problem is being alleviated by the recent development of high capacity batteries for electric cars and for buildings. The idea is that cars are parked during a good part of the day and that we could keep them connected to the electric power grid while parked. When the power grid has excess electricity it could store it in the electric car and building batteries. When the power grid faces a very high demand for electric power it could go and fetch electrical energy stored in the building and car batteries. Computers would be used to smoothly manage this exchange of electric power.

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09. All states shall adopt norms and procedures for the production, recovery, and recycling of materials

Rapporteur: Liz Couture

Industrial companies around the world are not using the most efficient product design procedures, nor the most eco-friendly materials, nor the best “cradle to cradle” recycling opportunities possible and available. Every bit of wasted material translates to excess energy that was used to produce it, which in turn translates to excess carbon emissions if the energy source did not come from renewables.

The solutions to carbon emissions reductions in producing a product should be applied at any point in the life cycle of the product. Organizations such as Rocky Mountain Institute(1) and books like Natural Capitalism(2) have been working on them for decades. In the book DRAWDOWN: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming(3) the most promising solutions are researched and documented. Each solution states how many tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided cumulatively until the year 2050, how much the implementation of the solution would cost, and how much the net savings or benefit would be to the world. Then, all the solutions are ranked considering several criteria, including the ease with which the solution can be implemented, the lesser of the estimated costs to scale it up, or perhaps the greater the savings and benefits achieved—but always with the most important consideration, which is the amount of carbon emissions reduced if the solution is implemented.

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07. All states shall swiftly adopt maximally stringent efficiency standards for cars, trucks, ships, and aircraft.

Rapporteur: Liz Couture

Efficiency standards refer to the fuel efficiency standards as legislated by countries that produce fossil fuel burning vehicles. Of course the most stringent policy possible is 100% efficiency, or vehicles that emit zero emissions. This is not an easy policy to enact in law, as it takes time for transition. The longer term ideal goal, then, is to achieve zero emission vehicles over the next three decades, by 2050 by all the countries of the world.

It is easier and cheaper to redesign or convert some vehicles (and their associated infrastructure) than others, and so the maximum stringency level of efficiency possible will vary between manufacturing of cars, buses, trains, ships, and airplanes.

The urgency with which to get to maximum standards, indeed zero emissions, cannot be overstated.

For purposes of discussion, assume that the following current transportation vehicles for living, working, and playing are the most threatening to planetary health, not only because of the excess greenhouse gas emissions due to widespread use, but also because of increased anticipated demand:

  • Commute – car, train, mass transit bus, small plane
  • Business – car, train, truck, airplane, commercial cargo ships
  • Pleasure – car, train, mobile home, airplane, passenger cruise ship

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Footnotes for this article can be seen at the Footnotes 2 page on this website (link will open in a new page).

08. The International Code Council shall adopt stringent performance-based building codes.

Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Buildings emit vast amounts of greenhouse gas and, worldwide, they account for nearly 40 percent of all energy consumption. In the U.S. in 2006, buildings used more energy than the entire country’s transportation sector.(1) Clearly, the world needs more stringent rules about selecting building materials, and perhaps the best way of accomplishing that is by tightening up the building codes that all governments adopt.

Building codes were invented to protect consumers from fire and structural failures, but gradually began to cover other public health and safety issues as well. For example, in the 1920s there were many deaths from typhoid epidemics because water was being contaminated, so strict plumbing standards were added to the codes. Then in the 1970s, energy conservation was added to the list of requirements after the oil scarcity crisis.(2)

The International Code council is a U.S.-based organization that sets building and energy standards for home and commercial buildings. It is also the code that some other provincial governments or local jurisdictions elsewhere adopt, rather than developing their own standards. However, there are many other such codes in use around the world, such as in Canada the National Energy Code for Buildings (NECD). This discussion will apply to them all.

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12. All states shall negotiate to preserve and protect forests and enhance carbon sinks

Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Carbon Sinks

A carbon sink is a reservoir that stores carbon, keeping it sequestered instead of circulating in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Plants, the ocean, and soil are the main carbon sinks in nature. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air for use in photosynthesis, leaving some of this carbon in the soil when they die and decompose. The oceans also store much of the planet’s carbon dioxide.

All of these sinks are being ruined by human activities today, and heroic measures are required to protect them and use them even more extensively to sequester carbon and prevent runaway global warming. Here we will examine these natural carbon sinks as well as some technological inventions that are being proposed for use in capturing and storing or recycling carbon.

Negotiations

Some nations occupy land with large carbon sinks such as rainforests. And some nations — especially the industrially advanced ones — emit disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We are all being challenged now to reduce such emissions, mainly by using less fossil fuel. People living in rich countries find this especially hard to do, for we are accustomed to the use of abundant energy. At the same time, we are asking people in the less developed countries not to adopt the same greenhouse gas-emitting technologies that had made us rich. This is unfair, but it is also essential. Every country must cut back, including both those that caused most of the global warming problem itself and those blameless ones that will be forced unjustly to sacrifice. But naturally, not all countries seem willing to accept the necessary deprivations.

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11. All states shall incorporate environmental considerations in developing national dietary food guides

a) Rapporteur: Danny Harvey

A continuous, increasing shift to plant-based diets over time would confer multiple environmental and health benefits, and is a pre-requisite to longterm sustainability, but can only be expected to occur as part of a broader and gradual process of social and environmental enlightenment. Incorporation of environmental consideration in national dietary food guides would lead to a greater emphasis on plant-based foods, in turn influencing dietary decisions and contributing to this long term transition.

b) Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

National food guides are a current manifestation of a discussion that has gone on since prehistoric times, for almost all of us hold strong convictions about what to eat. (The Greek geometer Pythagoras admonished his followers never to eat beans.) For a potentially helpful food guide, see the 2019 Canadian list(1), which recommends: “Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”

This official promotion of plant foods reflects the well-founded new emphasis on the effects of dietary choices on the environment. Such a concise list is all the advice that most people need in order to make responsible food choices. If, however, you want to look more deeply into the grounds for choosing particular foods, you will find a complex set of considerations, not all of which yield compatible recommendations.

Dietary choices have far-reaching impacts on our physical and ecological environment, health, economy, cultural traditions and the use of water, energy, and land. Much depends on the technologies that are used to produce the food and bring it to the dinner table. Fortunately, greater efficiencies are being invented that can enable most producers to conserve all these resources. For example, where a farm’s soil is being blown or washed away, or where its waterways are being polluted and eutrophying from the use of chemical fertilizers, the farmers can simply adopt such innovations as no-till agriculture, biochar, composts, and other organic farming practices. Food producers and retailers can adopt numerous simple, achievable solutions at many phases in the supply chain of their product.

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Footnotes for this article can be seen at the Footnotes 2 page on this website (link will open in a new page).

Overview: Global warming

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Authors: Derek Paul and Metta Spencer

This planet is gradually warming, mainly because of the burning of fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. The increased temperature changes the climate in other ways too, including the rise in sea levels; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in the times when flowers bloom; and extreme weather events.

Life on Earth is dependent on a layer of gases, primarily water vapor, in the lower atmosphere that trap heat from the sun, while radiating some of it back and keeping our planet at a temperature capable of supporting life.

The sunlight that remains trapped is our source of energy and is used by plants in photosynthesis, whereas the remainder is reflected as heat or light back into space. Climate forcing (or “radiative forcing”) is the differential between the amount of sunlight absorbed by Earth and the amount of energy radiated back to space.

Several factors determine the size and direction of this forcing; for example light surfaces are more reflective than dark ones, so geographical regions covered by ice and snow reflect back more than areas covered by dark water or dark forests; this variable is called the “albedo effect.”

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