January 25, 2013

Clouds of Change Report online – with thoughts from a venture capitalist

Now posted on the SFU City Program Resources and Historical Documents site: Clouds of Change, Volumes 1 and 2.




As the years go by, this document – likely the first attempt by a municipality in North America to address climate change – takes on added signficance.  So the SFU City Program is making it more easily accessible – here.
[Disclosure: I was the Council liaison (and mover of the originating motion) to the Task Force.]
Also, this a good time to publish a recollection of the Task Force by Mike Brown, one of the members:


The Clouds of Change report of the City of Vancouver Task Force on Climate Change was published in 1990.
I have participated in writing many reports over the years, but this was the best thing I ever did.
Not quite true: the best thing I did was teaming up with Bill Rees ( I don’t think he and I could ever decide whether this idea was his or mine, and it doesn’t matter) to promote the concept of a Task Force to City Council in the spring of 1989.  They gave us $40,000.    Momentous.   We were quite staggered (you can ask him!)
The people who made up the Task Force were passionate and cared about a subject that seemed current at the time but turns out to have been way ahead of public attention.   Migawd – the report even looks current today!

We argued a lot; there were doctrinaire leftists and rightists but we all had a common goal: to see if a city like Vancouver could change and make a difference.
But in fact, we made very little difference.  Our predictions as to the levels of CO2 and impacts were derided as being wildly imaginative; we turned out to be conservative.
Virtually every one of the 35 recommendations got glowing acceptance comments from the powers that be, but little was implemented.
I wondered then, as I do now, whether politicians know they can endorse radical change in the secure knowledge that, acting subtly, they can derail anything likely to cause themselves heartburn in the voting booth.
There was a 36th recommendation that I promoted hard, but the doctrinaires defeated me.
This was the idea of a progressively higher gas tax in the Lower Mainland, eventually to reach 50 cents+ per litre (remember this was 1990 when 50 cents was a big deal – I think gas was in the 80 cents/litre range).
The proceeds would go to increasingly higher rebates on ICBC insurance rates which would be the same dollar amount for any car – up to $700/ year, if I recall.    This would be accompanied by changes to the rules about insurability of people who would operate their cars as amateur car pools, in essence creating an early version of what is now commonplace ad hoc bus routes such as operate in San Francisco and other cities.
There would be a surplus, of course, because even then the bus systems (read: Translink) needed huge amounts of capital.  I spent a lot of personal time doing research of the most basic variety, including the elasticity of demand for gasoline over time.   I’ve often wondered whether some version of this would be viable today to solve the seemingly intractable and ongoing financial crisis for Translink.
But this never saw the light of day, although I’d like to think that Gordon Campbell, then the Mayor, kept it in mind when he conceived and introduced the carbon tax.  I’d like to think so, if only because maybe the effort wasn’t wasted!
And today, the threat of climate change has been altered from being some sort of risky proposition, to be fairly risk free.  Or at least uncertainty-free.
I’ve stayed engaged with the topic.  My business as a venture capital person is based on finding technology answers, and I have done more basic research (especially of the awful consequences of the permafrost feedback loops); it’s now unstoppable even as commentators like the president of the World Bank wring their hands in frustration.
All that sort of prediction does is demonstrate how useless are the ministrations of the elite to “do something”.  They don’t know what to do, and for sure, international agreements are impossible.   The “ 2 degrees movement” is just nonsense and always has been.    Pure political hokey-pokey.
So, from here on, it’s a rush to avoid the avalanche.


[Here’s a previous PT reference and comment from Task Force member Donna Passmore.]

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  1. Industrial emissions are a problem in heavily populated already warm areas such as SE Asia or cities. Evidence: Stand besides a heavily used street or highway and tell me this exhaust is healthy ? Times a billion vehicle ! So an issue of size and volume.
    However, they are by and large are NOT a problem in Canada. In fact Canada has so much forest it is probably one of the world’s largest carbon sinks. Where do we sing this praise and get credits ?
    But a convenient way for governments to get more tax revenue for “a good cause” and their own benefits.
    Even with $2 or even $3/liter Europe functions but everyone is poorer and everything is smaller. Is this what we want in Canada ?
    I have no problem paying CO2 taxes if other taxes are lowered. Are they though ?
    I wished we shifted the debate onto pollution rather than climate. Don’t we need to focus on other far more urgent issues, too ? If we invest $100B into something don’t we need to pick a balanced bag, rather than the somewhat exaggerated CO2 and climate story ? Such as
    1) Overfishing
    2) Ocean pollution
    3) Excessive Garbage
    4) Debt accumulation on consumer level, cities, provinces AND federal level
    5) Human rights abuses / Slavery / Oppression of women
    6) Deforestation
    7) Under-education, especially girls
    8) Pollution of rivers and oceans from industrial pollution and human excrement
    9) Overpopulation of certain countries ( India, Taiwan, Bangladesh, certain African nations, ..)
    10) Oppression of free speech or media
    Some 1-2 degree of more warming pales in significance to these 10 issues in my humble opinion.

    1. Why can’t we consider all those 10 (which are important) AS WELL as Klimakatastrophe (much better word for it).
      1) Overfishing is an issue, but if ecosystems change and the fish no longer have habitat, this will be kinda moot.
      2) The mindset that creates ocean pollution is prettymuch the exact one that creates Klimakatastrophe, the mindset that fixes/addresses one will also be one which does the other.
      3) See: 2
      4) Debt is linked more to cost of living, and the stagnation of wages, ‘green’ jobs usually pay pretty well, expanding the number of those might help solve 2 problems at once. As for provincial and federal debt … please read Paul Krugman from today’s Nytimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/08/opinion/time-to-borrow.html?ref=opinion … and tell me how “30-year, inflation-protected bonds … yielding 0.64 percent” will lead to the ruination of everything.
      5) See 2
      6) See 2
      7) See 2
      8) See 2
      9) Given how the countries you mention are also ground zero for climate-change issues, NOT taking care of climate change will probably do an excellent job of taking care of your overpopulation problem – there will be so many people who are killed by storms or conflicts, who have to flee their ancestral homelands, that any overpopulation problem will go away. I’m not sure a Climactic Genocide or a Eco-Ethnic Cleansing is the way to go about it though (as in effect, that will be what it is, the actions of one group in the world will result in the death or forced migration of millions of others elsewhere).
      10) To some extent See: 2 … but since not all high-tech-happy-green companies are the best at communicating either, I’ll agree we should address this one also.
      RV alludes to the responses above, I thought I’d expand on them.
      It was warmer in a very small number of locations 500 years ago, not most, it was also colder 10000 years ago, that doesn’t mean an ice age would be great for the world’s current population any more than it would be to have a global heat wave.
      For a while Canada might be a great breadbasket to the world … but when big droughts hit the entire middle of the USA, or weather patterns turn to more of an asian monsoon seasonal pattern, how long do you think the 49th parallel and a ditch will stop a lot of hungry/angry people making the current migrant crisis seem tiny, and how long do you think a general “I’ve got mine, f++k off”-ish mindset will be in Canada’s best interest.
      In the short term, some people might get rich off of the strife of others, but how long?
      There’s a great ad that just came out that advocates being an organ donor by highlighting the redemptive quality of eventually (in death) finally helping others … but honestly, isn’t it better not to individually (or collectively) be the asshole in the first place? http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/worlds-biggest-asshole-teaches-you-about-organ-donation-new-campaign-172795

  2. Because you don’t understand the consequences of 2 degrees is very good reason for you to remain humble.
    Those are al important issues and they all are symptoms of the same problem that is causing global warming: Greedy short-term opportunists who want as much as they can accumulate for themselves at the expense of all others. Those same people by accumulating so much wealth and power determine the propaganda that keeps the masses buying their own demise.

    1. 2 degrees is good for Canada.
      It was warmer 500 or 5000 years ago, without CO2 emissions besides from some wood fires.

      1. My point exactly!
        Grab your own greedy benefit at the expense of others and (la la la) pretend it won’t come back to bite you. How do you think Canada will fare trying to secure its borders against desperate, hungry people fleeing collapsed agriculture and political turmoil on a global scale?
        The global warming we’re talking about is not short term blips in a relatively stable climate. It will be a destabilizing shift.

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