Net-zero—the pathway to Canadian decline

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, August 17, 2022
Net-zero—the pathway to Canadian decline

A new (and profoundly bad) policy idea has gripped the world’s climate-obsessed leaders to address scenarios mostly generated by their own imaginative (and often wrong) predictive climate models. Basically, economic development must stop in 2050, and then decline as rapidly as possible afterward. This is the big “net-zero” crusade of the World Economic Forum, and naturally the Trudeau government is onboard.

Of course, the stated goal is to get to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, preparatory to a hard phase-down to zero total emissions as quickly as humanly possible. But since under all current and known technology, GHG emissions are inextricably bound to energy use, stopping growth in GHG emissions is simply stopping growth. It has to be. We can maybe use some animal cleverness to soften the impacts, but the destination is the same.

To understand how misguided all this net-zeroing is, we must first understand why energy is central to our economy, and that requires we revisit basic physics.

The total energy of the universe is running down—that is, all of the universe is losing energy, order and coherence at every moment. Every subsystem within the universe, including the tiny piece of it called the Canadian economy, is also running down unless the process of decay is offset by energy being pumped into it. The decay force is called entropy, a term some might remember from high school science class (if they still bother teaching it).

What this means is that one can only maintain order in a system such as Canada’s economy (which is based on the conversion of energy and matter to make stuff) with a constant infusion of energy just to counteract the background levels of entropic loss. If, at the same time, you want Canada to grow, we must invest still more energy on top of the background anti-entropic level (which is considerable).

But while we can increase energy use and decrease most forms of air pollution at the same time (by diverting some of the extra energy into pollution-control devices), very few such options currently exist for reducing GHG emissions. Switching from fossil fuels to non-emitting energy sources is very expensive and, in the case of renewables, unstable and unreliable. So our energy mix is heavily tilted towards fossil fuels and we can’t go to “net-zero” without cutting our energy use.

The latest, but by no means biggest, misguided net-zero policy will have our farmers growing crops with technologies essentially predating the age of the green revolution and using modern synthetic fertilizers, which are made with, yes, oil and gas. And there’s more on the way—net-zero gas-powered vehicles by 2050, net-zero plastic “waste” generation by 2050, net-zero methane (cow flatulence) emissions by 2050, net-zero supply chains and so on.

Canadians must understand that “net-zero” policies mean decay and decline, not deliverance. For the sake of Canadians and their families, policymakers should turn Canada’s economy away from a net-zero future and back on a growth heading. We must say “net-no” to “net-zero.”

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