Al Gore: Twelve Point Plan, eh… (Canadian translation)

by Franke James

Al Gore’s recent speech at NYU School of Law was aimed at Americans, and the crisis and benefits the U.S. will gain from battling climate change. But Gore’s message is equally relevant to all ‘North’ Americans, particularly Canadians, eh.

Below are the main points Gore recommends to fight climate change — but I’ve taken some creative license and translated them into ‘Canadian’. You can read his original speech at NYU School of Law.

Gore’s Twelve Point Plan to Solve Global Warming (adapted for Canadian ears):

1. Canada should immediately freeze CO2 emissions

Gore calls for an immediate freeze of CO2 emissions and then sharp reductions. California is the model for Canadians to follow. Their Global Warming Solutions bill establishes regulations that will phase in a 25% cut in carbon dioxide emissions from the state’s five largest emitters by 2020. That cut will bring carbon emissions down to 1990 levels. If Californians can do it why can’t Canadians?

Perhaps Prime Minister Harper, as a former economist, has to do more bedtime reading? I’d suggest the Economic Growth and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in California report that tipped the scale in California. It offers an independent assessment of the economic benefits of The Global Warming Solutions Act. It found that the Global warming cap could actually stimulate the California economy — so why not the Canadian economy? “Climate action can be profitable,”? said David Roland-Holst, UC Berkeley, author of the report. I have to ask: Is there a difference between California and Canadian economists? Or do the Canadian economists see the same benefits but they haven’t got the ear of Mr. Harper? As Canada has now eclipsed Saudi Arabia as the number one exporter of oil to the United States many eyes will be watching to see what Canada does.

2. Carbon emissions trading

Canada should rejoin the rest of the global economy in carbon emissions trading as embodied in the Kyoto treaty. (Carbon emissions trading may not be perfect but it does allow the sinners to offset their emission sins for the benefit of the world as a whole.)

3. Use Silver-buckshot

“Silver-buckshot” acknowledges that there is no single magic bullet, and we’re better to engage in ‘numerous solutions’ to fully answer the problem.

4. Look to the Internet (Arpanet) model

Develop a distributed electricity and liquid fuels distribution network across Canada to reduce dependency on large coal-fired generating plants and oil ports and refineries.

i. Create an electricity grid of small windmills and photovoltaic solar cells to reduce CO2 emissions and increase energy security.

ii. Increase ethanol and biodiesel production facilities to reduce dependency on foreign oil, and adverse weather.

iii. Enlist individual homeowners and business-owners to join the “electranet,” or smart grid, that allows them to “use their own renewable sources of energy to sell electricity into the grid when they have a surplus and purchase it from the grid when they don’t.”

iv. Empower these homeowners and businesses to conserve by self-monitoring how much energy they are using, where and when.

5. Convert more cars to Hybrids and Flex-fuel vehicles

Get all the big car companies to manufacture flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid vehicles. “The owners of such vehicles would have the ability to use electricity as a principle source of power and to supplement it by switching from gasoline to ethanol or biodiesel.”

6. Biofuels offer jobs to Canadian Farmers

Ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, butanol, and green diesel fuels will reduce global warming pollution, enhance Canadian national and economic security, but also importantly reverse the loss of jobs and income in rural Canada.

* Update October 2007: Julie Johnston added this insight explaining the double-edged sword of biofuels. I agree with Julie, and do not think they are a good solution:

“Alas, biofuels, especially if they come from crops, are not helping the global warming situation you might want to consider altering this post to reflect that. The research is showing that farmers in North America are growing corn for ethanol and driving up the cost of food. In Brazil, they’re starting to cut/burn down more rainforests to grow crops for ethanol. Unintended consequences, yes, but very negative ones for sure. Also, research is showing that CO2 levels aren’t much lower with biofuels.”

See also ethanol the great big green fraud

7. Stop deforestation

In Gore’s mind, better management of forests is one of the single most important strategies for solving the climate crisis. “On a worldwide basis, 2 and 1/2 trillion tons of the 10 trillion tons of CO2 emitted each year come from burning forests.” British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have seen huge spikes in forest fires in 2006, over their ten year averages.

8. Renewable energy are building blocks for reducing carbon pollution

Biomass (trees, switchgrass, or other sources) is one of the most important forms of renewable energy. And renewable sources make up one of the most promising building blocks for reducing carbon pollution.

– Wind energy is competitive as a mainstream source of electricity and will continue to grow in prominence and profitability.
– Solar photovoltaic energy is closer to a cost competitive breakthrough, as new nanotechnologies are being applied to dramatically enhance the efficiency with which solar cells produce electricity from sunlight.

9. CNMC, the Canada Carbon Neutral Mortgage Corporation

Buildings, both commercial and residential, represent a larger source of global warming pollution than cars and trucks. New architecture and design techniques offer opportunities for huge savings in energy use and global warming pollution. Encourage better green building methods like thicker insulation and more efficient window coatings to reduce heating and cooling costs. Remove the purchase price barrier through a Carbon Neutral Mortgage Corporation. This new CNMC could be a valuable instrument for reducing the pollution from new buildings.

10. Capture the CO2 produced by Coal
Coal is one of the dirtiest sources of energy as it produces more CO2 for each unit of energy output than oil or gas. “Because the pollution from the burning of coal is currently excluded from the market calculations of what it costs, coal is presently the cheapest source of abundant energy.” Of the total electricity generated in Canada, approximately 17% (120 million megawatt hours) is from the combustion of coal and oil. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) will ‘play a significant and growing role as one of the major building blocks of a solution to the climate crisis.’

11. Canada should be a leader in Clean Energy
Canada can and should be a leader in clean energy. A recent 214-page report from the Council of Canadian Academies identified energy technologies — and particularly ‘clean energy’ — as the area where Canada was best positioned to develop prominent strength in the future. Unfortunately, the survey also contained evidence that Canada is not particularly strong in many of the clean energy technologies. “If Canada is to become an international leader in clean energy, there is much work to be done,” the report comments.

12. Make people feel it in their wallet – Tax CO2 pollution
Gore said “In a market economy like [Canada’s], however, every one of the solutions that I have discussed will be more effective and much easier to implement if we place a price on the CO2 pollution that is recognized in the marketplace.” Gore’s conclusion that taxes are an effective instrument in fighting climate change is echoed by a recent Globescan survey. The experts predict that “taxes on greenhouse gas emissions are expected to be the most effective economic instrument in terms of reducing the impact of climate change in the next ten years.”

5 Responses: 5 Comments

  • wendy says:

    I think Al Gore is right in many ways and he has the right ideas about what has to be done to stop or slowdown global warming. As a Canadian I have to question why , after reading this article I felt we were kind of targeted as a bad guy, when not only Canada but the world needs to change! Every person I know would accept the changes made on each of us to keep our world a good place for our children and grandchildren. But as everyday people our voices aren’t heard. Sure we vote ha! ha! look at the choices we are getting, they all seem to be in America’s pocket. People always say change is good , well it’s time to change! Even if Canada was to shut right down would it make any differece if no one else did any thing. I’m sure every Country has room for improvement. You need a commitment from eveybody, what will money or power mean if the future world is not worth living in. I can’t believe Canada was so stupid to sell Alaska to the States, and to know they are going to drill and kill one of the most beautiful place on the earth. Destroy the land for oil that’s killing our earth, how can that make sense. I know as a Canadian, Canada will fight for the world but putting more taxes on us overtaxed people in todays economy will srap to get by. We notice in every day bills we are slowly paying for things that are not directly our fault (eg. hydro) where I live in Ontario people are finding hard times with no employment. It’s time to tell each Country what they have to do, not what they want to do, after all the world belongs to us all. I take my hat off to Al Gore and hope more people will listen, it may be an INCONVENIENT truth but one, no-one can run from.

  • Lee says:

    Very good work on climate change. Congratulations!

  • Julie says:

    Hi Franke,

    Gore is often criticized for the light-weight solutions to global warming listed at the end of An Inconvenient Truth. This list you’ve outlined has more weight, and hence more courage, to it.

    Alas, biofuels, especially if they come from crops, are not helping the global warming situation — you might want to consider altering this post to reflect that. The research is showing that farmers in North America are growing corn for ethanol and driving up the cost of food. In Brazil, they’re starting to cut/burn down more rainforests to grow crops for ethanol. Unintended consequences, yes, but very negative ones for sure. Also, research is showing that CO2 levels aren’t much lower with biofuels.


  • Franke James says:

    Julie — You are right! I’ve amended the biofuels part. But people should note that the original thinking on this was by Al Gore — I was merely adapting it to Canadian ears.

  • Mikey says:

    Interesting post.