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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Book Review - The Renewable Energy Transition, Realities for Canada and the World - Springer Nature Switzerland

     This is an important book, both for Canada and the world. John Erik Meyer has a lifetime of experience dedicated to this field of study and we benefit greatly from his expertise.




     The critical questions are succinctly posed in the preface, viz:

     1. How long do we have to change our consumption patterns before the climate is changed irreparably? 
     2. How long will it be before fossil fuel resources decline in quality to the point of destabilizing energy flows and unsettling financial and production systems?
     3. How long for a society to transition away from fossil fuels to the degree that both climate and energy supply threats are greatly reduced?

     These questions have enormous relevance for the future of mankind, and are particularly germane in Canada today, where we have the elected governments of resource-rich western provinces, especially Alberta, committed to increased extraction in the tar sands, with a commensurate ongoing destruction of the boreal forest. In the process greenhouse gas emissions will increase exponentially to the point that, were Alberta a separate country, it would be the worst polluter on the planet.
     The Federal Government of Justin Trudeau, while touting itself as being a friend of the environment, has nonetheless committed to pipeline construction, having gone so far as to purchase (with taxpayers' money) the Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to transport crude and refined oil from Alberta to the ports of British Columbia, when the company simply gave up on the venture. There is fierce opposition to the pipeline from all manner of groups with indigenous people and environmentalists being on the front lines of resistance. Trudeau's liberal government, which was unable to elect a single member of parliament from the west in the recent election, now has to seek ways to assure the west that it is an important part of the federation, and no issue is dearer to the hearts of western politicians than pipelines. Furthermore, Québec is equally adamant that it will not permit pipelines on its territory.
    And all of this in pursuit of a technology that is already at the edges of obsolescence. But even as reliance on fossil fuels continues to decline, marginally at best it must be said, the danger to the very life support systems of the planet increase. The tipping point is not far off. Many credible scientists postulate that if significant modification of our appetite for, and use of, fossil fuels is not moderated to a substantial degree - immediately - we will have lost the battle by 2030.
     Meyer's book begins with the history of Canada since the first European settlers arrived on our shores, who instantly began the exploitation of its resources, including substantial quantities of wood for heat in a hostile winter, thereby releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. From that modest beginning, with a renewable resource (lumber), we have progressed in less than 500 years, (a mere nanosecond in the existence of the planet), to the point where the very health of the earth is threatened by the modification of its atmosphere, with industrialized societies around the world sharing the blame. And all brought on by the exploitation of non-renewable, dirty, health-jeopardizing, climate-modifying fossil fuels.
     Meyer takes us on a step by step journey through the past to the present, with a prescient look into the future, and examines the consequences in a factual, reasoned, scientific fashion, free of the hyperbole on both sides often associated with climate change, of what will inevitably occur if we fail to act - and act soon.
     It is perhaps instructive to look at the chapter titles.


1. Stored Energy Builds a Northern Nation
2. Canada's Energy History
3. Energy Budgets for People and Nations
4. Abundance Abounds, Why Change?
5. Renewable Energy Learning Curve
6. Renewal Energy in a Spectrum of Countires
7. Choosing the Right Metric for the Job
8. Public Policy Formation for Successful Change
9. The Transition from the Ground Up
10. Building a Renewable Energy Network - Canadian and Northern Options
11. A New World for Public Policy
12. Steps Towards the Other Side of the Transition

     One very significant point that the book makes concerns the reliance on GDP as the measure of the wealth, and hence the success, of a society, with its implication for eternal growth at whatever cost, as an inviolable principle, self-evident in its rectitude. In fact GDP reflects only the financial side of society, and imperfectly at that, with no regard for the laws of physics and the factors which will ultimately determine whether society writ large even continues to exist. The concept of EROI (Energy Return on Investment) is critical in both historical terms and as a matrix for the future in ensuring the ongoing health of a society and its citizens. To understand and accept EROI is probably the most important contribution the book makes to our grasp of the forces which will shape our future, and the extent to which renewable clean energy is critical to our survival as a species. The switch to clean energy is not a choice, it is an imperative. As Meyer points out, even if the whole world puts off fossil fuel reduction, all it gains is thirty years of business as usual, and then we will have to deal with a vastly worse climate scenario.
     The text is greatly enhanced by a series of charts, graphs, figures and illustrations.



     These devices materially assist in translating complex topics and large numbers into visual aids that enhance our understanding of them, facilitating a quick grasp of the subjects covered.




     I repeat that the book, page by page, deals with issues in a factual, scientific, evidence-based way. No position is taken without solid back-up, and a supporting bibliography. Meyer has done a great service to all Canadians, to all mankind in fact, in presenting in a highly readable format, the facts before our eyes which we have all too often looked at through clouded spectacles. Indeed some have worn blinders the whole time and remain reluctant to let the light in.
     The time for indifference and complacency has passed. The call to action is clear. As the title of Primo Levi's magnificent work says, "If not now - when?"
     If I have one niggardly complaint about the book, it is that it seems to suffer from less than rigorous editing. There are far too many typos, a few missing words and the like, "us"  sometimes becomes "use," and there are even outright incorrect statements - for example, Jeff Bezos, celebrated as the founder of Amazon and the world's richest man, is correctly referred to on page 327, but has morphed into George Bezos by page 349.    
     None of this detracts from the importance of the book. It should be essential reading for everyone concerned about the future of our planet and the future of our children and grandchildren. In fact if you are sixty years of age or younger, it directly concerns you, for you will be living with the changes that have to occur. This text will be my constant companion as I seek to understand the issues of climate change and our ability to deal them on a daily basis.
     I salute John Erik Meyer for a compelling read, a vision for the future, a clear understanding of how we have got to where we are, and a prescription for what we need to do to remediate the damage we have done. 

The Renewable Energy Transition, Realities for Canada and the World,
Lecture Notes in Energy No. 71
John Erik Meyer, Canadians for a Sustainable Society, Parry Sound, ON
Springer Nature Switzerland. Published November 2019

    

64 comments:

  1. This book sounds good, I will try to get it here at the library. If we don't get a move on soon and sort out the energy problems it will be too late to save our beautiful planet. Thanks for sharing! Regards, Valerie

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  2. Hello, I am all for renewable energy, it is definitely the direction we should be taking. I wish it was affordable for everyone, like solar. The way our current administration and the GOP leader Mitchell seems to keep pushing dirty coal and oil. They must be getting some big profits for their backing. Thanks for sharing the review.

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  3. Hola David, interesante libro, es una preocupación y me preocupa mucho porque hay personas que parecen no se lo creen y otros muchos que solo les preocupa el dinero, lo que hacemos nosotros es un grano de arena en el desierto, pero aún así tengo esperanza, quizás porque es lo último que se pierde. Un fuerte abrazo y muchas gracias.

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  4. C'est un livre qui a l'air intéressant, c'est important pour l'avenir...
    Bonne soirée

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  5. Hello David,

    Clean energy is very important. Here we have a debate about windmills. Everybody wants clean energy, but nobody wants to have the windmills.

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    1. I am sure you will work it out, Marit. Norway has been forward looking and wise in its energy policies. The rest of the world could learn much from your little country.

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  6. We have a long road before we can achieve a clean energy stamp. I am amazed that a lot of people here still burn coal. They need to change their thinking and now is the time. People are stuck in their old comfortable habits I think.
    Nice book review, David.

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  7. The destruction of the boreal forest would be a tragedy on so many levels, not least of all to all the species of birds that depend on it. Let us hope that we humans come to our senses and start implementing the kinds of change, including renewable energy, that are needed to save it and much else of the natural world.

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  8. This is such an important conversation to have. I fear that our lack of planning and transitioning away from fossil fuels will cause an apocalypse when it suddenly happens! The corporations and wealthy 1% will hoard, and cut off access to the 99% eventually and this will create world wide famine. It is not going to be pretty for sure. NOT to mention the environment is Already in Crisis! The loss and pollution of habitat for birds, land mammals, and the sea life has already been noticed and recorded.

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  9. Sounds like a great book.
    Interesting to read what you've written about your country.

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  10. Very important and necessary!!! Interesting book and proposal... Regards

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  11. Tack David för att du uppmärksammar ännu en viktig bok om klimatförändringar!

    Jag har läst en del om oljesandsutvinningen i Alberta och bilderna av naturen eller det som en gång var natur är så förfärande att de är näst intill outhärdliga att betrakta. Där sjunger inga fåglar mer..

    I decennier har här framförts kritik mot BNP begreppet, det är otidsenligt, missvisande och dåligt i största allmänhet, därtill fungerar det exponentiellt. Det finns inget, absolut inget som kan växa i oändlighet, det är bara så enkelt att titta på vår planet med dess tydliga gränser. Oändlig tillväxt i en begränsad värld är omöjlig, det kan nog alla förstå men hittills tyder inget på att vi kommer att införa något annat system.
    Jag har följt klimatförändringarna under säkert två decennier nu och framförallt IPCC rapporterna. Länge trodde jag att mänskligheten skulle vakna upp och inse vad som händer med den enda planet som upprätthåller våra liv. Istället för ett uppvaknande har krafter som skyddar ekonomiska intressen mobiliserat en motpropaganda som inte skyr några medel för att påverka opinionen och konspirationsteorierna flödar värre än någonsin i vår upplysta värld.
    Jag har ärligt försökt förstå men jag gör det inte. Vi som sätter vår tilltro till vetenskap kallas numera domedagsprofeter, socialister och alarmister!
    Vetenskapen som gett oss så mycket och som borde vara vår ledstjärna är nu ifrågasatt på ett medvetet utstuderat sätt och en del människor går på den bluffen. Jag förstår inte..
    Förövrigt är jag inte särskilt hoppfull längre. Inte för min egen skull för jag börjar bli gammal men jag har barnbarn som nyss börjat sitt liv och mitt hjärta blöder för alla naturens innevånare, både växlighet och djur som utan egen förskyllan blir offer för människans girighet. För varje art som förloras, skadas och såras våra ekosystem och det som en gång är förlorat kommer aldrig någonsin åter. Så definitivt och oåterkalleligt är det, det finns ingen ångervecka för det som utplånas i vår värld.

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  12. Clean energy is very important, that's why we have a field with around 5 wind turbines ... my city will be gas-free in the short term! We are also working on solar panels! Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Interesting book David and I like that companies start to look for innovative ways to combat this problem.

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  14. The first 3 questions from the beginning require a consistent policy for decades.

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  15. Important issues! An interesting book David.

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  16. Me parece un libro muy interesante, que vale para cualquier país. Un abrazo y estás invitado a buscar el chotacabras. Un abrazo.

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  17. I can't wait to read this book! Looks like it's required reading.

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    1. It is indeed required reading. It should be obligatory for every politician in the world!

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  18. Hello David!
    Oh, I dream that this book would reach Polish politicians.
    Hmm, they prefer to build new coal mines, new power plants, cut down the Białowieża Forest (UNESCO) and claim that they care about ecology and renewable energy.
    This book is very informative and valuable for everyone who respects and wants to protect our world.
    Hugs and greetings from Poland.
    Lucja

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  19. Un buen libro amigo David que deberíamos leer todos y en especial los políticos de todos los países. No cabe duda que trata temas muy de actualidad con muchas preguntas y sus correspondientes respuestas. En definitiva un gran libro sumamente interesante y muy didáctico.
    Un fuerte abrazo querido amigo y compadre David.

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  20. The government in the Netherlands should read this book and all that companies like
    Shell, BP etc. In the government in Den Haag, Netherlands are now in big trouble because of lack of earlier not taken decisions. Speed on Highways are being reduced, building houses has stopped, all because of the polution it makes. Farmers are asked to reduse their amount of cattle or stop at onces and being compensated for that. It is a mess. The Neterlands abused the land and air for so manny years and now they do not know how to solve the problem.
    All this to save what little nature is left. Insects, beatles, worms all in decline. I fear it is indeed to late.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  21. The idea of endless growth is not sustainable. As governments all over the world push the idea of climate change and extinction through so called climate change, they also pursue ideas of accelerated perpetual growth to supposedly make us all better off which at the same time destroys the natural world. It is hypocrisy, double standards and corporate greed on an epic scale as politicians jump on the gravy train to claim their share in both directions.
    Here in the UK on our tiny island, concreting over farmland is something that politicians promote, fuelled by our stupidity in allowing unlimited immigration. Agriculture accounts for a very small amount of the economy compared to land development and wildlife earns no money for big business. And anyway we can import fruit and veg from third world countries at a fraction of the cost and still make a healthy profit.
    People expect their wildlife for free. This concept that will be ended once all of our farmland has been upgraded into money producing investments, the idea of agriculture and wildlife will be just a memory where wildlife is limited to “Nature Reserves” that resemble zoos and where the punters pay to see the wildlife their politicians destroyed.
    But don’t get me started on wind farms – bird, butterfly and bat mincing machines.

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  22. We have to pull ourselves away from the edge.

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  23. This sounds like an excellent book -- and not just for Canadians. Thanks for alerting us, David.

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  24. consumption and life style contributed a lot to depletion of our energy resources, then negatively effect on our environment

    # I should read the book

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  25. Well David, this book is everyone should read, the climate change is over us.

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  26. Hi David - well that should be a book we should all study ... it's an interesting time. I wonder if I can get it from our library ... but I'll be back to re-read properly - cheers Hilary

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  27. Was thinking of buying this book, David, until I saw the UK price as being GBP 90! Will now look to see if there are more affordable books of a similar nature.

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    1. There is no question that it is an expensive book, Richard, and this will doubtless deter some people from buying it. Hopefully, local libraries will consider adding it to their shelf. In the interests of total disclosure, I bought my own copy of the book. I know the author, I know his commitment and depth of knowledge on the subject, and I feel it is a very important work.

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  28. A serious subject and I enjoyed your review of the book. Sobering.

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  29. Thank you, David, for an excellent review of what appears to be an important work regarding a complex issue.

    The problems caused by us humans are difficult to resolve as we are, as a species, quite selfish. In addition, our greedy nature is quick to exploit any situation if there is the hint of a profit to be had.

    Seeing through the chaff and fog of climate change, especially when it comes to actual solutions, is challenging. Books such as this one can be a valuable tool in furthering our education.

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  30. A book we all need to be reading. Our planet needs true change and fast. Thank you for linking up today.

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  31. David - thanks for telling everyone about this book. I am currently involved in collecting signatures to put important legislation on the Montana ballot for November 2020, which would require public utilities to generate 80% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2034. The time is now!

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  32. Es un interesante libro. Hay que luchar contra la contaminación del planeta.

    Besos

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  33. Goodness, that is quite a book!
    Many thanks for sharing it here... appreciated.

    All the best Jan

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  34. Sobering stuff. I can't help wondering what the world will be like for Lilly... 30 or 40 or 50 years from now??

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  35. Hi David, I wish more people would think of our country and the our planets future. Great review and book. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy weekend. PS, thanks for the visit and comment on my post.

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  36. An interesting book for the whole world. I see Australia is at the top on the Green House Gas emissions graph. Unfortunately our Governments seem to be doing little on the climate change front.

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  37. An interesting book David, have a nice weekend.

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  38. Our issues are very similar to Canada's, politically speaking. Our brilliant leader was so excited about bringing new life to the coal industry. I was impressed recently watching a special on one of those areas with entrepreneurs from the industry taking it upon themselves to start wind and solar companies after the president's efforts failed. Since our leaders don't take these issues seriously due to their wallets and ego, we need more individuals with the know how to start up alternative energy companies.

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  39. Sobering and truthful I have passed it on. Thanks David.

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  40. Cant say that Australia does very well based on this post. Our PM basically seems not to care. He is wed to coal and coal money for his political party. He is an embarrassment.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Why we continue to elect these people is beyond me.

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  41. Creo que aún estamos a tiempo para intentar mejorar. De seguir así será imposible vivir en el planeta dentro de unos años. Que mala herencia vamos a dejar a muestros hijos. Empezemos a mejorar YA.
    Te deseo un buen domingo.
    Un abrazo.

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  42. Interesting and important, David.
    Have a lovely sunday,

    Ida

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  43. It is going the wrong way with the world of David.
    Good that they write about it and bring it to the attention.
    Greetings Tinie

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  44. Friend David, a very interesting book and a topic that worries us. Climate change is going to make us change our habits of life, a long but inevitable process, in terms of pollution and also to our food system by eliminating meat from our diet, because maintaining crops that spend water to feed cattle that we later consume It will be difficult to sustain in the future.
    A big hug.

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  45. Hi David
    An interesting read an your comments on the way Canada is dealing or not withe the problem is world wide, we are no better in the UK if not worse, just lets put it off to another day and see what happens ,
    All the best,
    John

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  46. Our float cabin uses renewable energy in the form of solar and wind. Unfortunately, winter makes solar difficult and wind only comes with storms. For the darkest months (we only get about four hours of direct sunlight) we need to augment with a generator, but we have a small fuel efficient model to meet our basic needs for lights at night and charging small devices. In summer, we have more power than we need. - Margy

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    1. It is very encouraging to read of you commitment to renewables, and you are to be commended in the highest possible terms. Bravo!

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  47. Very interesting book. We are slow in catching up with these new development.

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  48. It's a big problem David, here in the Netherlands they don't kwow how to solve the nitrogen problem, the emission here per member of the population is more than elswhere in the world. It seems like a good book about this subject.

    Greetings,
    Ad

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  49. This sounds like a very good book and well done to publicising it and making it a bit more comprehensible to the average person. I feel we all need to do what we can. I'm finding more and more people thinking that too, even than 5 years ago. Actually even than a year ago. Maybe things are starting to move.

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  50. You should send this book to the government of the Netherlands or actually to every government in Europe. Maybe they will think differently about all the problems that the whole earth has to deal with (and will have)!
    A super book with very interesting facts

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  51. Wow! Thanks for sharing this valuable blog with us. I would like to share something useful with you regarding Commercial solar power solutions in Victoria Australia, I hope this will help you as an inspiration for your next upcoming blog on Solar energy.

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    1. Thanks for this, Adam, I will actually be visiting Victoria in July. You are blessed with a good deal of sunshine in that part of the world and I am sure that solar energy is very viable there. Now if only you could get Australia to stop mining and using coal,

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  52. Hi David - I'm very late ... but this looks to be a great read - particularly for Reference purposes ... sounds very interesting ... thanks for the thorough review and notes ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks for your second comment, Hilary - see above!

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