A funny thing happened the other day as I returned home from the grocery store. My homeward trip coincided with a person from my neighbourhood whose car I recognized, and I got to observe his driving habits first hand. He was meticulous in lane changes, signalled every move, even in places where people usually don’t. We went through traffic circles, and he waited properly and even signalled every move correctly on those, which is rare. He maintained a proper speed limit, and his every action was safely and properly executed, the mark of a driver that cared about the rules of the road.
I know all this because for the whole trip he was 4 feet off my back bumper. I was a nervous wreck the whole time, driving as gently as if I had a cargo of eggs for fear of having to slow suddenly and have to watch a Cadillac grille make contact with my headrest in my little car.
The guy thinks he’s being safe by observing borderline-irrelevant traffic rules, yet exposes himself (or his car) to a vastly more likely chance of an accident because he doesn’t understand the consequences of tailgating. He worked quite diligently at meaningless tasks, and paid no attention to the real risk.
Which leads us, of course, to forest fires. A startling statistic appeared in the news a while back about how BC’s 2017 forest fires tripled the province’s annual carbon footprint, and 2018’s fire impact is sure to be much worse. Note that none of this is to pick on BC for anything other than that they have massive forests and massive fires and that I have their statistics; this could likely apply to anywhere that has vast forests that are not rainforests.
The point is that, if the goal in absolute terms is to reduce CO2 emissions, we have to think seriously about what we spend huge amounts of borrowed money on (and almost all government money is borrowed these days). If forest fires have this staggering capability to increase CO2 emissions, perhaps we should be focusing vastly more resources on reforestation (since forest fires are often beneficial; controlled burns still form a part of forestry management). Of course, some environmental groups scoff at reforestation efforts for the delirious reason that it takes the focus away from burning fossil fuels. From the CBC article above, we can see that in 2014 all fossil fuel transportation in BC contributed 23 million tonnes (and that includes bringing everyone food and fuel, etc.) while forest fires contributed 68 million tonnes, so we can readily see the stupidity of that argument.
Some will rush to the keyboard to direct attention to the notion that climate change is responsible for these forest fires. Some will cite an article somewhere that “proves” this. As is usual with the mainstream media, the message turns a “could be” from actual scientists to a “is likely to” by scientific reporters, to “it’s a plain fact” by those working towards beefing up a suspect agenda.
Here’s an example from the Union of Concerned Scientists, who most definitely have an agenda; they announce it in their very name. They are not concerned whether they will be able to heat their house this winter, their concern is all about the climate. The article linked above has this as a sub-header: “The effects of global warming on temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture are turning many of our forests into kindling during wildfire season.” The article begins its concluding section with “Greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities are raising global temperatures and changing the climate, leading to a likely rise in wildfire severity and frequency.” This is an example of the metamorphosis truth makes on its way from scientist to titillating headline; it is telling that the article cites only one research paper which is far from conclusive and has this to say: “Once viewed as local phenomena, fires are now recognized as a global scale environmental process that has influenced the atmosphere and biosphere for hundreds of millions of years… it is still unsettled whether climate or direct anthropogenic influence (fire ignition and suppression) are more important in determining global fire trends.” Thus, the evidence that the scientists put forward does not emphatically support the message they try to get you to swallow.
But this is getting mightily beside the point. Forest fires obviously have been around for a good long time, and in bad seasons belch forth vast amounts of CO2 that can dwarf the output from human activity. As the CBC article points out, forest fires bizarrely aren’t included in CO2 emissions tallies. Given the ferociousness of attempts to lower CO2 emissions, that circumstance defies credulity. Do we exclude murder from crime statistics because it’s too horrible to think about? Do we exclude planes from transportation emissions statistics because, well, they’re for holidays and everyone needs a holiday?
If the true goal is to reduce CO2 emissions, we need to refocus our efforts, and reforestation would be on everyone’s mind as a way to combat rising CO2 emissions. There is no other way to counteract those bombastic levels; forestry management should be the frontier of this battleground. From an energy perspective, the goals should be to relentlessly increase efficiency and proper usage of resources. All the other skirmishes smell suspiciously of social engineering.