CBCradio

November 13, 2009

Pt 1: What's at Stake in Copenhagen? - We started this segment with Elisapee Sheutiapik, the mayor of Iqaluit on Baffin Island in Nunavut. The residents of Iqaluit have had a ringside seat for one of the most obvious signs of global warming ... the melting of a great, ice-bound ocean. The prospect of an Arctic Ocean that's ice-free in the summer looks less and less fantastical with every passing year.

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Pt 2: 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics - Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics. She spent most of her career studying what's called a 'polycentric' approach to addressing communal problems. She's most interested in the power of collective action.

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Pt 3: Geo-Engineering - Earlier in the program, we mentioned that in the 1980s, several political leaders already saw climate change as a grave problem. But they were a couple of decades behind U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. By 1965, he was already worried about carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And seven years before that an influential scientific paper warned that we were doing "a great geophysical experiment" on the atmosphere.

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Today's guest host was David Suzuki.

It's Friday November 13th.

Hockey great Mark Messier is pitching a safer hockey helmet that could limit career-ending head injuries.

Currently, Wuss.

This is the Current.

What's at Stake in Copenhagen?

We started this segment with Elisapee Sheutiapik, the mayor of Iqaluit on Baffin Island in Nunavut. The residents of Iqaluit have had a ringside seat for one of the most obvious signs of global warming ... the melting of a great, ice-bound ocean. The prospect of an Arctic Ocean that's ice-free in the summer looks less and less fantastical with every passing year.

And what's happening there will be on the minds of thousands of climate scientists, environmentalists, diplomats, government ministers and climate negotiators when they meet in Copenhagen, Denmark next month. The goal is to draw up a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

For a sense of what's at stake at those meetings, we were joined by Andrew Weaver. He is the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria. He's also a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the author of Keeping our Cool: Canada in a Warming World. Andrew Weaver was in Victoria.

Copenhagen - Government Perspective

The Federal Government hasn't said what its position on climate change and emissions reductions will be going into the meetings in Copenhagen.

Over the last year, Jim Prentice -- the Federal Environment Minister -- has said several times that the government's policy would be laid out publicly before the conference begins. But two weeks ago, he told the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir that Canada's policy would not be completed in time. We wanted to ask Mr. Prentice about it ourselves but we were told that he would only do a face-to-face interview. And since he's in Edmonton today and we are in Toronto, that's not happening. The Current has asked to speak to Mr. Prentice the next time he's in Toronto.

To talk about the pressures the federal government is facing in the lead up to Copenhagen, we were joined by Roger Gibbins. He's the President of the Canada West Foundation, and he was in Calgary.

2009 Nobel Prize for Economics

Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics. She spent most of her career studying what's called a 'polycentric' approach to addressing communal problems. She's most interested in the power of collective action.

Instead of thinking of top down government arangments, we can think of units at small, medium, large and global scale working together and experimenting.
If we just wait around for one agreement we could wait a long time. Meanwhile, we're polluting like mad.

We reached Elinor Ostrom in Bloomington, Indiana, where she is Co-Director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis. We asked her what she thinks is the best way to get people to reduce their carbon footprint.

Elinor Ostrom is the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics. She shared the prize with Oliver Williamson of the University of California, Berkley.

Collective Action - Kayapo

For the last 20 years, Barbara Zimmerman has been heeding Elinor Ostrom's advice about working collectively at the local level. She has been working with the Kayapo aboriginals in Brazil ... helping them protect their lands in the midst of one of the world's most intense deforestation zones.

Barbara Zimmerman works with several organizations, including the International Conservation Fund of Canada. She's at the World Wilderness Congress in Merida, Mexico.

Maldives

On the other side of the world, the government of a tiny nation in the Indian Ocean made quite a splash in the lead-up to the Copenhagen talks with an underwater cabinet meeting. We aired a clip.

Pretty tranquil compared to most cabinet meetings. That's the President of the Maldives and the members of his cabinet -- underwater -- signing a document calling on all nations to cut their carbon emissions. Their nation is a collection of 26 atolls, or coral islands, in the Indian Ocean.

The islands' average elevation is two meters above sea level. And the government there has committed itself to making the Maldives the first country with a zero carbon footprint. Mohamed Waheed is the Vice President of the Maldives and he was in Male.

Geo-Engineering

Earlier in the program, we mentioned that in the 1980s, several political leaders already saw climate change as a grave problem. But they were a couple of decades behind U.S. President Lyndon Johnson. By 1965, he was already worried about carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And seven years before that an influential scientific paper warned that we were doing "a great geophysical experiment" on the atmosphere.

But today, some scientists and engineers hope that more lavish atmospheric experiments might mitigate the effects of climate change. Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen is one of them. He caused a stir a few years ago when he proposed a geo-engineering scheme. We aired a clip.

Now Paul Crutzen did add a few caveats including the possibility that shooting sulpher particles into the upper atmosphere might also lead to ozone depletion. And he should know. He won the Nobel Prize for his work on the ozone layer.

But that's just the best-known geo-engineering idea. Others include giant space-based mirrors to reflect solar energy back to space or seeding the ocean with iron so that algae might grow like crazy and suck carbon dioxide out of the air. For the most part, scientists have long looked askance at geo-engineering. But in recent months, respected bodies such as the American Meteorological Society and Britain's Royal Society have cautiously endorsed the idea of investigating it.

For more on that, we were joined by Ken Caldeira. He's a senior scientist with the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution and a Professor in the Department of Environmental Earth System Sciences at Stanford University. He testified about geo-engineering before Congress last week and he was in Stanford, California.

Geoengineering - Tullis Onstott

Of course most geo-engineering schemes are still on the drawing board ... and years of experimentation away from becoming a reality. But the ideas do abound.

We aired an example of Tim Kruger, who now runs the Oxford Geo-Engineering Institute, from a video clip done for the Guardian newspaper.

Earlier, we alluded to the idea that you could fertilize the ocean with iron to create algae blooms that will suck up carbon dioxide. So we asked Dan Whaley to explain how it would work. He's the founder and CEO of Climos, a San Francisco-based company that wants to be a player in any future ocean fertilization business.

The problem, as Dan Whaley admits, is that there's a risk of creating dead zones. When all those algae die, they fall to the ocean floor and are consumed by bacteria. Those bacteria consume all the oxygen in the water, rendering it unfit for most everything except jellyfish.

And that's a good example of the dilemma scientists are facing. They don't know which -- if any -- geo-engineering schemes are going to work. They don't know what the unintended consequences might be. And it's going to cost a lot of money to find out. In Canada, we're investing billions of dollars in research on carbon capture ... without knowing whether it will ever work and without knowing what's actually down there, deep in the earth where the carbon dioxide would be stored. And that's where Tullis Onstott comes in. He's a professor of Geosciences at Princeton University.

Last Word - Tuktoyaktuk Hunter

We gave the last word to Canada's north. We began the show with some observations from the Mayor of Iqaluit in Nunavut. On the western edge of the Northwest Territories, there's a hamlet called Tuktoyaktuk. Charles Pokiak is a hunter who has lived there his whole life and watched the landscape change dramatically around him. We aired part of a conversation David Suzuki had with him.

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