Catastrophes, large ones, or several smaller ones, drive insurance premium levels when insured losses occur. Since the early 1980's the insurance industry has observed that many of these catastrophes are weather related. Change in weather patterns has produced a hurricane in England, flooding in the Red River Valley and in Central Europe while creating drout conditions elsewhere. The 1997-1998 ones are partly due to "El Nino" which is considered to be a six to seven year cycle but some may be due to longer tam climate change, referred to as global warming.
During the latter half of the 20th century, the world's climate has moderated and average annually temperatures have increased. Not much, but measurably, about 0.2°C per year. Computer projections of this trend show that some regions of Canada will, by the middle of the 21st century, be 4-6°C warmer and in the far north, as much as 10°C warmer on average. This global warming could have significant impact on weather, crops, ocean levels, water supplies, etc.
According to climatologists, this is partly due to a recovery from a mini-ice age which started a temperature decline in the 12th or 13th century. However, many believe that this natural warming trend is going to be exaggerated by the Green House Gas (GHG) effect. Half of the people that ever lived are alive today and they are eating proportionate amounts of pigs, cows, chickens, which also breathe, if only for a short time.
In various parts of the world there are glaciers which can provide the GHG records needed. By taking core samples of the ice and measuring the carbon dioxide concentration, it can be shown that in the past 200 years the CO2 level in the air has risen from 270 parts per million to 350 parts per million, about 25%. Since 95% of the CO2 produced is anthropological (natural, from trees, etc.) and only 5% from man, it is not clear why this change took place or whether man is wholly or even significantly responsible for it. Nevertheless, this period of CO2 level increase corresponds approximately to the industrial revolution and, therefore, a connection is very possible.
Of course during the same period the world's population grew ten fold. The population of wild animals decreased very significantly, but at the same time, the supply of domestic animals to feed the world population grew. The supply of grains and grasses increased as land was cleared, but in clearing the land, carbon collectors, such as trees and bushes were removed. The steps taken by man to reorder the surface of the earth may, in fact, be more important than many of the usually cited causes of the change. It will be 40-60 years before any significant global warming harm is expected, but by that time it may well be too late to turn the problem around.
The Green House Gases are the gases which escape into the atmosphere and then absorb or trap the heat which is radiated into space by the earth. When this heat radiation is trapped and radiated back to earth, the planet warms. The six gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are at least partly natural in origin and the chlorofluoro hydrocarbons, perfluoro hydrocarbons and sulphurhexafloride which are manmade. Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are the major components of the 5% of the Greenhouse Gases which is not anthropological. Since the production of methane is ubiquitous, it is probably not within the control of ma at all. But certainly the two gases produced as by-products of combustion can be controlled.
Three major climate conferences have been held: Montreal, Rio De Janiro and no Kyoto. At Kyoto, Canada accepted a reduction target of 6% in terms of CO2 equivalent from its 1990 production level by 2008-2012. It must be recognized that his is approximately a 21% reduction from the level which would be reached in those years if no reduction took place. Canada has to be careful in how it controls the cost of achieving this reduction, otherwise its trade competitiveness and standard of living will suffer.
Controlling the CO2 generated by electricity generation boils down to going off coal. While Ontario is a major GHG producer, Alberta is second. This high level in Alberta is because all of their electricity is produced from coal whereas in Ontario approximately half comes from nuclear power. Therefore, finding alternative to coal will be a challenge for some provinces. Ontario Hydro recognizes its responsibility with respect to coal fired stations, however, it has some problems with its nuclear stations first.
Transportation: trains, planes and automobiles are the biggest area to be hit and it looks like the internal combustion engine will have to be significantly replaced. Fortunately, the Ballard fuel cell based electric motors can be fueled by methanol which, being derived from natural gas, makes the fuel cell less polluting than other fuels. Nevertheless, the immediate problem is to reduce the small particulate matter exhausted from fuels (PM2.5), and to reduce the sulphur levels. That adjustment must take place first in order to cure big city smog. This means that the funding to control the GHG might not be available for a while.
The federal government has announced that it will provide $150 million for projects to eliminate or reduce GHG emissions, $50 million on short term projects, $50 million on medium term projects and the remainder on long term projects. The ministries involved are Natural Resources Canada, Environment Canada, and Industry Canada. Some suggested areas are:
Get on the fuel cell bandwagon.
Transportation: bus, transport, auto, boat.
Stationary emergency power sources.
Build cogeneration electric power plants using natural gas or even fuel oil to replace coal fired stations.
Even the Maritimes has natural gas now
Transmission costs can be reduced by having smaller power plants closer to demand.
Build more nuclear electric power plants.
Replace Hydro's Nuclear Division personnel.
Export useful fuel cell, congeneration, etc., technologies to the rest of the world.
Install energy efficient furnaces in commercial / residential buildings.
Build thermally efficient buildings and houses.
Enforce the new National Building Code.
Minimum insulation with double glaze windows, etc.
Replace HCFC, CFC with hydrocarbon blends in HVAC systems.
Recover and use bogas (methane) from landfills to fuel cogeneration stations.
Use district heating.
Carry out energy audits (engineers?)
Install power meters to minimize energy wastage.
Go to smaller, less energy intensive, automobiles.
Phase out 4x4's and minivans.
Establish suggestions vehicle inspection programs to ensure that the transportation fleet is operating as efficiently as possible.
Substitute alternative fuel, i.e., natural gas, propane, ethanol for lower hydrogen - carbon ratio fuels (e.g.. diesel) wherever practical.
These are very capital intensive and involve a major rebuilding of this country's infrastructure in the areas of electric power generation and transportation fuel supply and power sources. The same applies in the USA which means that the demand for capital could be limiting in all of North America over the period 2000-2030.
Emissions trading, wind power, small hydro sites are useful but only for fringe operations. The real challenge for Walters Forensic Engineering is helping clients to cope with the major changes which the planners of Kyoto believe necessary.
The $150 million in federal aid is only a token of what will be needed to minimize global warning. However, if it leads to minimizing the cost insured and uninsured of catastrophes it can be seen as an important step in the right direction.
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