My writings are grouped under the topic headings above. New items live here on the home page until I get around to filing them. Peer-reviewed articles are denoted **. Invited and edited articles or chapters are denoted *.
Newspaper Columns, Commentary and Other
DUNDALK COMMUNITY MEETING ON WIND FARMS, March 24 2014:
On March 24 I spoke to a very large crowd at the Dundalk Community Centre in Southgate Township. Southgate is one of the few remaining municipalities in the area that, until last night, had not yet passed a motion declaring itself a willing or unwilling host for wind turbines. News had gone around that the Council intended to declare the Township a willing host. A local family (the McNaltys) helped organize a meeting featuring three speakers: me, a local realtor to discuss effects on property values, and a resident who discussed the effects on her health after turbines went up near her house. My presentation slides are here:
The other speakers were very good. The woman who spoke first had originally been in favour of turbines, and had approved their nearby installation. She did not initially connect the medical symptoms that she and her family started experiencing with the turbines, but noticed their abatement when they traveled elsewhere. She described the miserable series of ailments they started suffering and the evidence that finally convinced her they were due to the turbines nearby. She then described the ordeal of trying to get help from government agencies, only to find that in Ontario, the apparatus of government is structured only to advocate on behalf of the wind energy firms, and their victims are completely without recourse.
The realtor who spoke next gave detailed evidence about the wreckage of property values, not only within the immediate vicinity of turbines, but in any district where they might potentially be installed. He described the growing number of unsellable lots even in areas that have before now been subject to increasing interest as recreation properties for people from Toronto.
My presentation focused on the phony air pollution argument used by the province to ram the Green Energy Act through, the negative macroeconomic effects, the waste of money and the fact that, if anything, the GEA will raise rather than lower air pollution levels.
Samsung Inc., the company behind a major proposed turbine project in Southgate, sent three employees to watch and answer questions. Written questions were read out by the moderator. Most were directed towards the Samsung guys, whose demeanour while answering struck me as arrogant and dismissive, like they had no intention of taking a bunch of rural yahoos seriously.
It was a standing-room-only crowd, and there was no doubt by the end where the room stood on the question.
I was informed this morning (April 3 2014) that Southgate Township Council last night voted to declare itself an unwilling host for wind turbines. The Samsung project is dead, as are any others planned for the area.
I applaud the McNaltys and all those who made the effort to pull this meeting together, and I am pleased to have been able to help stop the spread of this grim plague. A pox on a provincial government that has inflicted so much misery on communities across the province.
EARTH DAY 2014: SIGN OF THE TIMES
Woah, Earth Hour is upon us again and I had no idea it was even coming. Not a peep around my university and no mention of it in the paper. Gotta set the timer for the oven cleaner and dust off my dissent.
I am very pleased to announce the launch of yourenvironment.ca, a new project of mine. The idea is very simple: to present the complete environmental record of every community across Canada. The site currently shows air emissions by source (back to 1985), air contaminant levels (back to 1974) and monthly average high temperatures (back to 1900) for hundreds of places across the country. Water pollution data are coming this summer.
The layout is self-explanatory and it's very easy to use. The data are all from government agencies, but most of it has not hitherto been disseminated in a usable form to the public. All my sources are, or will soon be, linked and the data I use will all be easily-downloadable.
So the next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who (i) is convinced that Canada does nothing to protect the environment, or (ii) thinks winters around here used to be a lot colder/longer/snowier; or it never used to be this warm/cold in April/October/ etc, or (iii) worries/guffaws about the alleged/obvious ecological disaster all around us, and you wonder what, if any, of this is true, look at yourenvironment.ca and find out.
I especially hope households with high school students will learn about it, though from the experience at our home it might put some kids at risk of being expelled.
Journal Articles and Discussion Papers
AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD SIZE AND THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MALARIA
I have completed a project with Finnish biologists Lena and Larry Hulden looking at explanatory factors for the pattern of malaria eradication around the world. We have found that declining average household size plays a big role, as does income. What doesn't play a role? Average temperature, among other things. We can't find any indication that a change in a country's climate will make malaria worse - in fact if anything, warmer temperatures are associated with less malaria, once the effects of income and household size are controlled for. The paper has just appeared in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society.
A detailed but non-technical discussion is here.
The data/code archive is here (note the readme file).
WHY IPCC EMISSION FORECASTS ARE LIKELY TOO HIGH
Joel Wood and I have a paper out in Energy Economics on per capita CO2 emission patterns around the world:
In it we test an idea that emerged in my paper with Mark Strazicich and Junsoo Lee, in which growth of emissions in one country or region appears to induce offsetting reductions elsewhere, leading to a constrained overall level of emissions per capita globally. Our conjecture is that the emergence of increasingly-integrated global energy markets worldwide has increased the transmission of price signals across countries, so that growing fuel consumption in one region forces up prices in other regions and induces offsetting emission reductions elsewhere. This leads to the co-fluctuation patterns referred to in the title. We tested this by using PC analysis to construct an index of the linkages of emission fluctuations across countries and found evidence that they have become more linked over time and across wider geographic regions. We also found evidence that price signals are likely the coordinating forces. This means that emissions scenarios (like the ones the IPCC uses) that allow emissions to grow rapidly in one region without inducing offsetting reductions elsewhere are missing a key mechanism that applies in the real world, which would constrain the growth of overall emissions. Current emissions per capita are around 1.3 tonnes per person globally. The IPCC uses emission scenarios that are reasonable through this decade, but which diverge starting around 2020, with the top end going to between 30 and 40 Gigatonnes of emissions globally. Since world population is expected to peak at around 10 billion people, this requires emissions per capita to reach between 3 and 4 tonnes, a target that appears economically impossible. Instead, emissions per capita will likely remain in the neighbourhood of 1.3 tonnes per person (give or take a few tenths), implying peak global emissions of around 15 to 20 Gigatonnes, half the IPCC peak range. So we deem the lower half of the forecast range more likely than the upper half.