Monday, December 24, 2007


The holidays have now begun in earnest. I took Friday off work, then flew back home to Calgary on Saturday. I've since purchased the remainder of my presents, thereby completing my Christmas shopping. Otherwise, the past few days have been a blur of family, baking and multiple mini-Christmii. It's been fun. I have a niece and a nephew, and it's been fun to be "Uncle Wy" again.

Today should be fairly calm. Fingers crossed, my grandmother will be flying into town this afternoon, but we'll likely have a low-key evening in preparation for what promises to be a busy day tomorrow. Following that, I'll be meeting up with some long-time friends over pints (or the several mini-pints that make up a wheel o' beer), and generally trying to sleep in as much as possible.

Ah, the sleeping. That's a bit hit-and-miss at the moment, being that I seem to be stuck on Eastern time. I was up at about 5:15 am yesterday, and 5:45 am this morning. Given that I've been going to bed at around 9:00 pm, that's not too bad - at least eight hours sleep - but what I probably need to do is catch a nap so that I can start going to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Beyond family and friends, the part of the holidays I like the best is being able to have a bit of time alone with my thoughts to reflect over all that's happened this past year. I typically keep a pretty busy schedule, so it's nice to have time that I can dedicate to this sort of thing, and this year I'm off for a 12 day stretch, which is the single largest break I've taken since I started to work full time. Long walks, journalling and reading books may not be very exciting, but at least I'm excited.

As far as the actual Christmas holiday is concerned, I'm thinking that next year I may declare a unilateral cease-fire on the whole "gifts" part of the holiday. Oh, I still intend to do nice things for people, but these nice things will be an reflection of the depths of my consideration rather than my wallet. Oh, except for nieces and nephews, of course - I'll still spoil them rotten.

I found shopping to be stressful this year. Moreover, most of the people I saw while shopping also seemed really stressed. I think the main reason for that is that most of the people I know are entering a phase in their lives when, if they want something badly enough, they'll just go out and get it for themselves. I know that I certainly have far more stuff than I actually need, or can find appropriate use for. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the gifts I'll receive this holiday, but I really am equally impressed by the thought that goes into an inexpensive present as that which goes into an expensive one.

We'll see if this sentiment lasts until next year, but I hope that it does.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

On Climate Change

With the international community meeting in Bali to discuss the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, I thought I'd mark the occasion by sharing my own thoughts on climate change. Of course, I have no reason to consider myself an expert, considering that I've only recently begun to take global warming seriously and continue to drive a SUV. To those who say that makes me unqualified to hold an opinion - may he without sin cast the first stone (Read: Unless you're living in a cave, subsisting on celery and clothing yourself in pine boughs, you are also part of the problem).

In any case - and please correct me if I'm wrong - the general gist of the Kyoto Protocol was that nations, particularly developed countries, agreed to cut their rate of carbon production to before 1990 levels. For Kyoto's successor, the major issue seems to be the extent to which developing countries should also shoulder the burden.

Developed countries argue that, for example, China is close to / has surpassed (another point that's up for debate) the United States as the leading emitter of carbon, and thus should be shouldering a large portion of the burden. Developing countries note that their rate of carbon emission per capita is much lower than that of developed countries and that the developed countries have been creating carbon for centuries, not decades, and are therefore largely responsible for the current problem.

My feeling on the matter is that any product that results in a significant emission of carbon (such as gasoline, coal-generated electricity, plane tickets, automobile, etc.) should be subject to a carbon tax. The rate of tax (per CO2 gram) should look a little something like this:

[(Nation's GDP per capita / World Average GDP per Capital) x Agreed Cost for CO2 gram = Tax]

This way, developing countries would still have to pay in, but in a way that's proportional to the wealth of their citizens. Multiply that by several billion citizens, and you still end up with a significant amount of money. Because developed countries will pay more, it'll still work out to roughly the same amount of money as if the tax was applied equally to all emitters.

So, what would we do with all of this money? Well, we would establish short, medium and long-term funds that would help encourage the use of clean technology.

Short-term funding could be used to subsidize the use of existing technologies, such as wind farms and solar cells. Medium-term funding could be used to improve emerging technologies, such as fuel cell cars and hydrogen infrastructure. Long term funding could be put towards researching fusion power - which, incidentally, could potentially power the earth for thousands of years, carbon free.

How does this differ from Kyoto or the proposed successor? Well, no one gets a free ride - there's no threshold (eg. 1990 levels) underneath which you get to skip through without paying. Also, instead of "buying credits", you actually buy something that's worthwile - hard technology that can actually solve the problems we face, rather than forcing everyone to move to the celery caves (and no, hybrid cars are just not good enough - especially considering that vehicles are only responsible for 14% of all carbon emissions).

But will our policy makers accept this idea? I fear not. More likely, any proposal that calls for both sacrifice and vision will be shouted down amidst the blame game. I'm not sure where that leaves us, but if you need to find me, I'll be googling the rates on high-altitude real estate.

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