An Inconvenient Truth: Ten Years On


Ten years ago, Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup, sending Italians into a frenzy. Yet, perhaps just as significant was the release of An Inconvenient Truth.

This documentary featured former US Vice-President Al Gore discussing on a slide show, about the consequences climate change would have on our planet in the future. It was a visual tour de force for the eyes, as Gore hit the point home, slide, after slide, after slide, about what will occur if we do not make necessary changes in order to avoid future damage. An inconvenient Truth won the 2006 Best Documentary Feature Oscar. It also became one of top grossing documentaries of all time, taking in $49.1 million, globally.

So what has happened since An Inconvenient Truth has come out?

A lot of things have happened. I won’t go into every crook and cranny on what’s happened since, but I will discuss some key points.

Weather events are getting more extreme: Ok, as much as I love watching a good extreme wrestling bout, the same can’t be said about extreme weather. There is nothing funny, nor pretty about flash flooding, droughts, and intense heat waves.  In, fact it’s quite scary. Consider since 2006, six years have been the hottest globally on record, (2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015). There is a 99% chance 2016 will be even warmer (and it’s not even June yet). Climate analysts suggest these types of events will only increase in warming world, as we head into a “New Normal” of expecting the unexpected in weather. If that won’t get you, perhaps increased insurance rates in the pocket-book will from these situations.

Increased investments in renewables and cleantech investment: While doom and gloom abounds about climate change, one positive has occurred, which is more investments into renewable energy and clean technology. Renewable energy and clean technology has seen revival, thanks to reducing carbon emissions, but also thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which poured $31 billion US into new American clean energy projects. Since then, global renewable energy investment reached a record in 2015 with $329 billion US, with emerging market countries leading the way. Electric vehicles are also finding their way, as they are becoming more affordable, as Tesla Motors has taken already 373,000 pre orders for its affordable ($35,000 per car) model 3 vehicle, and is considered a “game changing” event within the automobile industry due to the amount of rapid sales for an electric vehicle.

Ten years on. An Inconvenient Truth, if anything got more people talking about climate change and began a serious conversation in mainstream society. It’s been used in universities, and schools about what needs to occur about taking climate action. Sure it has its detractors.  Yet at the end of the day, it’s a discussion that needed to be out in the open. Look, I love talking about money (I prepare income taxes, and took economics), but we can’t continue to beat up our planet Earth day in and day out in the sake of maximizing return. There is no economy with no planet. Today we have to technology to move forward, with wind, solar, biofuels, battery storage, and electric vehicles.  The Internet of Things will help to ramp up renewable energy through smart grids, as smart cities will help to ensure improved energy efficiencies in major urban centres.

We owe it to ourselves. If not to save our Earth, but in the very least to upgrade our outdated 20th century infrastructure into the 21st century, and save ourselves future costs from extreme weather events.

So watch An Inconvenient Truth again. Discuss what has changed since. Debate with your friends and neighbors. Be inspired by it. But in the very least come out of it with something new, and take action. Because there is No Planet B.

 

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Moving Forward After the Fort McMurray Wildfires


It’s really been a trying week for Canadians, after a wildfire forced 80,000 residents of the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray Alberta (which is located in the heart of the Alberta oil sands) to evacuate the city on May 3rd.

Fort McMurray pic

Fort McMurray Wildfire via Wikipedia Some Rights Reserved Under The Creative Commons

 

There was many factors which contributed to this “beast of a wildfire.” Limited snowpack from a dry winter, from El Nino, along with a lack of rainfall and a hint of a warming climate help spur the tragic events.

University of Alberta told Climate Central what occurred in Fort McMurray, Alberta is on par with how human climate change effects wild fires in Northern forests.

While the fire rages, there has been a firestorm of controversy about if climate change should be even mentioned. Some on both sides of the climate debate have taken it to extremes, ranging from glee seeing Fort McMurray facilities burn down, to a Calgary Sun op-ed telling environmentalist Tweeters to screw off.

Personally, I am not a fan of either of these tactics. Fort McMurray residents have been through plenty, and my heart goes out to them, and may God bless them. Those who tweeted early this week they were happy that Fort McMurray was burning down need to learn appropriate manners when dealing with such tragedies, and only make things worse.

Now having said that, what occurred this week in Fort McMurray may not be a one-off? Slate.com climate reporter Eric Hothouse said discussing what occurred this week in Fort McMurray this past week “Isn’t natural.” He goes onto say further:

Talking about climate change during an ongoing disaster like Fort McMurray is absolutely necessary. There is a sensitive way to do it, one that acknowledges what the victims are going through and does not blame them for these difficulties. But adding scientific context helps inform our response and helps us figure out how something so horrific could have happened.

Holthaus is right. There is a way of mixing the scientific context, while respecting those who have suffered through these horrendous events, and not figure point at Fort McMurray residents. After all, many of them worked in Fort McMurray in search of a more prosperous future away from bleaker economic conditions.

However, now we must look forward. We owe it to ourselves, as Canadians to prevent these sorts of future disasters as much as possible, whether it’s Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, or even Winnipeg.

So heading forward, let’s have a discussion on how we make future development more environmentally sustainable. Newer cleantech industries like wind, solar energy and biofuels can play a role in this development, and helping to retrain those from the oil patch becomes very critical.

As for adaptation, my favorite suggestion is boosting the Canadian military. Yes, I said INCREASE  Canadian military presence! With limited dollars being spent on one of Canada’s greatest institutions, and participation falling dramatically, it’s time to rethink our Armed Forces role and improve it. Given increased security risks from climate change. The Royal Canadian Armed Forces must protect Canadians from all security risks, including climate security risks in the 21st century. A larger military would ensure there is enough manpower on the ground to help those battling these disasters, while comforting those who have lost everything.

So let’s talking and work towards rebuilding.

Earth Day: Futurism is the Driving Force for Environmentalism  


On this Earth Day, Futurism has to be the driving force for environmentalism. Yes, call me crazy, but without having futuristic thinking, environmentalism in its goals falls short.

After all, vision is what is required to set a plan forward. Having a vision ensures a plan. Having a plan in place can help get the tactics right required for success, and minimizing any failure. Getting the right tactics is important to ensuring success. This is what sports analysts talk about how teams are successful or an abysmal failure. Those who have the right plan and tactics are successful. Those who don’t, fail.

Candy_Red_Tesla_Model_3_trimmed_2

Red Tesla Model 3 via WikiCommons By  Steve Jurvetson, Some Rights Reserved

Now put those same principles with climate change and environmental issues. While it’s important to focus on the problems which climate change will cause, including extreme weather events, and increased costs, the importance of environmentalists shifting, and gazing towards what the future can be, rather than what it may be, is where the train must go, while giving us a sense of hope, and excitement.

Futurism gives us an idea what to build. What sustainable energy we will use. What are cars can drive on. In fact, we are already starting to see those glimpses of futuristic ideas starting to take shape.

Consider, the increasing use of renewable energy capacity, and cleantech globally. US solar installations will reach records in 2016. Electric Vehicles are starting to gain traction within the automotive markets. Tesla has sold nearly 400,000 Model 3’s since starting to take orders in late March. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts 35% of all new cars sold by 2040 as electric. Smart grid market value is expected to reach $400 billion US globally by 2020, according to a 2013 GreenTech Media report, while microgrids and battery storage is beginning to take off.

Smart phone use increasing exponentially, and yes, the rise of the Internet were earlier signs futurists had the vision to see the potential of what society could look like

Sustainability expert Alex Steffen, in recent years has put more emphasis on futurism, in order to move sustainable development forward and provided this tidbit of wisdom, almost a month and a half ago on futurism:

Once futuristic concepts like smart cities, the Internet of Things (which are now becoming hot talking points) are making it easier to envision sustainable development within our times.

On this Earth Day, we need to think about the future we can create with the tools and skills we have now. Futurism gives environmentalists the vision need to realize what maybe impossible, possible in our uncertain times.

Adam Johnston is a Climate Reality leader and has written for MicroGridMedia.com, CleanTechnica.com, and SolarLove.org. 

Nevada Gov. Sandoval Sells Out on Solar Energy

Nevada Gov. Sandoval Sells Out on Solar Energy


Incase you have missed it, major US solar installer SolarCity is shedding many solar jobs in Nevada.

According to the Sentinel Source, 550 jobs are being scrapped in the state, as regulators have voted for new solar rooftop utility fees.

 

Obviously, SolarCity opposes such action, as they would see this as a major hindrance in solar’s growth within Nevada, making it not as attractive, despite having some of the best solar radiation within the US.

You think this smells like rotten cheese? You bet. Consider first, NV Nevada, is one of the state’s biggest utilities, and is owned by Warren Buffet’s investment group Berkshire Hathaway. According to the Sentinel Sourceis looking to regain lost revenue from decentralized solar, like what SolarCity offers. Recently, NV Nevada won, and is now charging an extra $17.90/month as of this January to its solar customers.

Second, Nevada appointed Paul Thomsen, as Chairman of their Public Utilities commission last fall. Thomsen, was past director of business and policy development of Ormat Technologies, in Reno Nevada, with facilities in Israel. While Ormat Technologies does invest in solar, its big stake is within geothermal. Smell something wrong here? Perhaps a case of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval falling to entrenched interests?

Don’t get me wrong, I think geothermal is great, but it’s not just as cost of effective as solar in a region where sunshine is plentiful. Consider solar costs are becoming much more competitive with coal, oil, and gas. Geothermal costs, on the other hand, drilling to have geothermal energy in place can be pricey.

At the end of the day, decentralized solar energy makes sense. A disruptive opportunity, thanks to SolarCity waits in the balance in Nevada. Places like where I live in Manitoba, would love to have the choice of which SolarCity and solar energy provides in many US states. When the hearings begin tomorrow on Nevada’s solar future, protesters in front of the building should take this chant and yell it out loud and clear tomorrow as Gov. Sandoval has done this: You’ve Sold Out!

Millennial Minds: Understanding What Makes Us Tick


As a fringe millennial (Generation Y) who turns 35 soon, I have had the good fortune of memories from both the pre and post Internet era. Back in the good old day, we had the 13-channel universe, VHS tapes and played 8-bit Nintendo to our hearts content. Meanwhile, reading hard bound paper books on the Winnipeg Transit bus was the cool thing to do, smartphones was something out of Star Trek, and computers were modestly clunky monstrosities in themselves.

Now times have changed in 2015. Millennials are an important and powerful purchasing group. We crave instant, rapid-fire information bombarding our senses. We now can read books on computer tablets, watch videos on our mobile phones, and snap a photo to anywhere in the world within seconds.

millenial-mind-01-2015

A Look Into the Millennial’s Mind [Infographic] via We Are Social Media

If you are looking at marketing products to this group, We Are Social Media in April this year published an infograph, from a study from PinPoint Research, showing millennials preferences for video consumption, social media use, and what technology we own. Consider, 81% of Generation Y own their own television; 76% have a laptop; 40% an iPhone/smartphone; and 48% still have a desktop computer (strangely enough).

Factor in Facebook (36%), Twitter (30%) and Instagram (30%) are the three social media outlets of choice for millennials, and marketing departments have of effective outreach tools in advertising products or services.

Marketing and advertising to our demographic is a constant evolution. Companies can not use the same five-year-old campaigns  (let alone 80’s style ads) for success in 2015.

This is critical, considering millennials are willing to spend more on entertainment (including premium television channels and ad-free videos), despite being more thrifty as PinPoint Research said in Adweek:

“In fact, their view on personal finances sounds more like the Boomer generation emerging from the Great Depression than the ‘entitlement’ label they keep hearing,” the study said. But “despite their frugality, millennials are expected to spend money on lifestyle and entertainment more than prior generations.”

With limited time, limited marketing budgets, companies who best understand millennial minds through customer engagement will be very successful for a long time.

2012 in review


Thanks to WordPress.com stats for preparing this report. Interesting stats on where my readers came from. Also, shows what were my top five posts.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.