Climate Change
January 11, 2021

Why Charts are Useful

A few weeks ago, PT wondered why GlobalBC TV doesn’t use charts to show the daily Covid numbers in context.

Charts are really useful! – vast amounts of information can be displayed with clarity, for comparison, over time.  Like the one below, used by Investigate West, to illustrate this even more useful story:

A Lost Decade: How Climate Action Fizzled In Cascadia

(Click for full story to see how chart is presented over time with annotations.)

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It is not small shifts in technology but big moves in governmental policy that will be the last gasp of the gas driven vehicle. As Reuters.com writes

China’s pointed direction to shift completely to electric vehicles will halt 70 percent of global oil demand in the enxt ten years, meaning that the “oil era” is clearly finished.

There’s a secondary reason too: China will no longer spend $80 billion dollars annually importing oil to fuel vehicles, meaning cleaning air and a better bottom line.

I have already written about the fact that SUVs are considered status symbols in China and will likely continue to be popular. China in 2016 produced 28 million vehicles, a big chunk of the 70 million vehicles produced globally.

On January 1st of 2018 China stopped the manufacturing of over 500 different car models including domestic and foreign automobile ventures. The stoppages of ICE (internal combustion engines) vehicle manufacturing  included factories operated by  Volkswagen and Benz.

As the New York Times said at the timethe measure pointed to a mounting willingness by China to test forceful antipollution policies and assume a leading role in the fight against climate change. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection and now produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused greenhouse gases, has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action after President Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement.”

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It was always a surprise to be in Vancouver’s downtown commercial areas and help tourists with directions in what would be the most blinding heat of a pre-Covid Vancouver summer.Tourists from the southern United States would almost universally respond how great it was to be out of the humid heat of their own hometowns.

Price Tags has already posted about the fact that projection models are showing the movement of millions of people to American northeast and northwest cities, with populations in places like Minnesota, Michigan and Vermont  growing by ten percent.  These areas will become more temperate and inviting. It’s expected that cities like Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo and Milwaukee will be sought after for relocating climate refugees for the “excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways”.

Access to fresh water, cooler temperatures and  less fire hazards were perceived as priorities. Add in the need for Covid pandemic physical distancing, and some of that migration has already started.

In the Pacific northwest median sales prices  in Bellingham Washington have increased 16.5 percent, and the number of homes sold has increased 26 percent. As one managing broker stated “People are relocating from areas like Seattle, Portland and California. I’ve helped several clients relocate from Seattle because they want to get out of the city.”

How far north will climate refugees travel to have “liveable” usable summers?

Propublica’s data in this article by L. Waldron and A. Lustgarten  suggests that climate “damage” will mean that the southern third of the United States will become so hot it will disrupt the economy “erasing more than 8% of its economic output and likely turning migration from a choice to an imperative.”

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The Pandemic has brought a lot of things to the forefront, not the least of which is using technology to stay connected with the office and the rest of the world. Zoom has become the “go to” app for many to have virtual meetings. Technology has enabled us to look into the personal abodes of persons on zoom, and there’s even some clever twitter accounts such as @ratemyskyperoom that ranks those skype rooms on a ten out of ten system.

We have all enjoyed seeing Keith Baldrey,  the Legislative Bureau Chief of Global News skyrocket to a top rating by his clever use of a plant and a bookshelf that has an always changing array of books written about British Columbia.

And then there was Gordon Price’s early morning interview on Global Television about the City of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan which included an impromptu cameo of his longtime husband Len ambling in the background. Gordon had forgotten that Zoom’s virtual background breaks up when movement is detected. Such as a husband ambling across the hall from his morning shower without his clothes.

Len is a sought after personal trainer~and there were brief glimpses of his remarkable backside which in Canada is pretty much verboten on Canadian content television. Kudos to Global Television’s Neetu Garcha who kept the conversation focussed on the upcoming Climate Emergency Plan, and not the well built body behind Gordon.

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Do you know what the biggest use of bitumen is? Bitumen is “low-grade crude oil which is composed of complex, heavy hydrocarbons.” It is composed of sand,water and viscous oil, and needs a lot of energy to make it into any kind of useable product. It is what the oil sands  around Fort McMurray are full of.

Once refined, 85 percent of all bitumen product is used as a “binder” in asphalt applied on roadways, airports, and parking lots. Add in gravel and crushed rock to bitumen, heat it up, and you are good for road building.

The City of Vancouver has experimented with “eco” asphalt in the past, being one of the first in Canada to use a plastic based wax to create a “lower-heat” asphalt mix in 2012.

But as Maurits Kuypers in Innovations Origins.com describes the Dutch  have gone one step further in their adaptation of “bio” asphalt~asphalt that uses plant-based lignin to replace bitumen. This of course also fits in with using less oil based products.

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It was Eric Doherty that started it all in this article by Jennifer Saltman in the Province.  In the summer more than 250 government leaders who are affiliated with the Climate Caucus sent an open letter stating that Covid related economic recovery monies should not be used for expanding highways and airports but fr supporting transit service, walking and biking.

In Canada after oil and gas industries it is transportation that is the largest source of greenhouse gas emsisons. In British Columbia  transportation produces 37 percent of emissions. Mr. Doherty representing the Better Transit Alliance in Victoria sees Covid recovery as an opportunity to reinforce transit which is suffering with lower ridership in this phase of the pandemic.

There are a few changes already evident from the pandemic. The first is that there is a clear adaptation to working at home. Mario Canseco’s work shows that 73 percent of Canadians expect to continue some kind of work at home, while 63 percent think that business travel and meetings are gone,with internet applications like Zoom replacing those trips.

The second change is that there has been an increase in physical activity as one of Mr. Canseco’s latest polls with Research.co indicates.  Two-thirds of people in this province say they are walking more despite living at home, and 26 percent of all people are running or jogging more.

But if more people are working from home, and as in the case of London
England only 25 percent of workers have come back to work in the downtown because of Covid concerns, what shifts can be made?

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Metro Vancouver is unique in that the region uses water from the mountains contained in Seymour, Capilano and Coquitlam reservoirs. Think of that~we do not take advantage of rain water, ground water, or fresh water from rivers for any water sources.

While we are lucky in that our water supply is vast and with prudent conservation should last through a dry hot summer, according to Elizabeth Elkin at Bloomberg,  “Almost two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to face water shortages by 2025. “

According to the CME Financial Derivatives exchange Wall Street is going to commence trading in futures contracts estimating California’s water supply. The purpose of commodifying water is to allow “big water consumers” such as almond growers and municipalities to hedge against price increases.

But this also suggests water, will become scarcer with climate change and  more torrid temperatures.

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Translation: Will the increase in people working at home mean we’ll drive less?

Answer: Apparently not.

Here’s a summary from the terrifically named Center for Advanced Hindsight:

While there may be less commuting, there will be more local trips for shopping and, no doubt, Zoom breaks.

There’s another big implication that’s not mentioned: possibly less congestion during the traditional drive times, but heavier traffic throughout the day.  More accidents too, I’d bet.  And more conflict in how we allocate or reapportion road space.  (In other words, bike lane wars.)

The real-time experiment as a consequence of the pandemic in how we manage our transportation network shouldn’t be wasted.  Minimally we should be measuring and reporting on the day-to-day changes that are occurring out there (as discussed here in “How do we start limiting congestion NOW?“)  and then trying out different options so we don’t lose the gains we’ve made even as we respond to the ‘climate emergency’.

(Of course, ‘climate emergency’ is not a concern of the Park Board apparently, which showed how easy it is to succumb to the desire to go back to ‘just the way it was.’   Even though we never can and never should.)

 

 

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As we enter the era of the New Abnormal  – much faster than most of us expected – where will people go “when there is no longer any other choice”?  Abrahm Lustgarten explores the prospects of American migration, greater than any movement in its history, in this New York Times Magazine article:

Here are the paragraphs directly relevant to us:

The millions of people moving north will mostly head to the cities of the Northeast and Northwest, which will see their populations grow by roughly 10 percent, according to one model.

Once-chilly places like Minnesota and Michigan and Vermont will become more temperate, verdant and inviting. Vast regions will prosper; just as Hsiang’s research forecast that Southern counties could see a tenth of their economy dry up, he projects that others as far as North Dakota and Minnesota will enjoy a corresponding expansion. Cities like Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo and Milwaukee will see a renaissance, with their excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways once again put to good use.

One day, it’s possible that a high-speed rail line could race across the Dakotas, through Idaho’s up-and-coming wine country and the country’s new breadbasket along the Canadian border, to the megalopolis of Seattle, which by then has nearly merged with Vancouver to its north.

Oh well then, you can bet that this will be interpreted by some to mean better wine, wealth and keeping the border closed.

ProPublica presents the climate changes graphically:

 

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A report from Global News reporter Nadia Stewart, with a headline that distorts the story:

The protest had three dozen people – surely worth a qualified ‘some’ when the headline starts “Vancouverites upset.”  But that quibble doesn’t matter when judged against the absence of data and other points of view (like, say, comments from passing cyclists).  Importantly, the video story was supplemented in the online print version, where reporter Simon Little provided important information:

Vancouver Park Board manager Dave Hutch says about 93 per cent of Stanley Park Drive is open to vehicles, and that about 70 per cent of parking in the park remains open.

He said after talks with the city’s disability advisory committee, the board also added 10 new handicapped parking spaces.

“We’re seeing that the park and parking is nowhere near capacity this year. The busiest day was in mid August, we had 63 per cent capacity. We would expect about 90 per cent in August,” he told Global News.

Still, impact-wise, the protesters had the visuals and screen time.  There have been demanding that Park Drive be restored to two lanes for cars and have all the parking returned – in other words, back to the standards of mid-century Motordom.  That’s what we did in the post-war decades, and the roads of Stanley Park were designed accordingly: a transportation system where cars are given most of the space, there are no separated bike lanes (cars and bikes fight it out for priority), parking is provided in excess, and the seawall has to accommodate the crowding of all active transport users.

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