Recent letters to the editor in the Outlook by Bob Sanford, Bart Robinson and Ed Whittingham all embody lots of wisdom and valid perspectives regarding the necessary steps to reduce our intensive energy use and the resulting carbon emissions.
However, humankind continues to demonstrate that living in heated or cooled comfort with adequate food supplies outweighs longer term carbon/climate concerns. This, in spite of ample evidence that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is simply exacerbating the warming that started roughly 15,000 years ago.
Despite that situation, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the globe is currently 2 degrees Celsius below its temperature during the immediately preceding interglacial warm period when CO2 was roughly 260 parts per million.
Carbon pricing is a logical and accepted mechanism to address the carbon problem but so far has been ineffective. Since people need energy and food we must address the carbon problem.
We could all go electric except the prairie provinces don't have the power generation or delivery infrastructure to allow that. Alberta’s electricity is currently more than 80 per cent fossil fuel generated.
Fusion may be practical in 40 years or so, we could just shiver in the interim perhaps. Or we could capture the CO2 from power generation and sequester it. Vile, some say, and it only increases hydrocarbon production.
That is an out-of-date perspective put forth by International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis noted in Robinson’s letter as almost all major new CO2 sequestration projects in Alberta.
For example, the CO2 will go into saline aquifers that hold no oil. The IISD perspective had more validity 20 years ago.
Carbon capture is not easy or cheap but the more pure CO2 is in an emission stream, the less costly it is to capture. Direct air capture may be most difficult of all, but a process developed by a Canadian company is initiating large scale commercial applications in the US.
Humankind needs energy but needs to reduce carbon. We will, therefore, need all kinds of approaches pursued in cooperation rather than in conflict. Obstructing CO2 sequestration into saline aquifers is like cutting off one’s nose to spite in one’s face.
Given all this and a zero carbon-emissions world tomorrow, climate will change as it always has but faster than it should. Wise societies will adapt.