Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 14, No. 8, October 21, 2009

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In the 1960s romantic sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie, Barbara Eden plays a genie Jeannie. Jeannie is a couple of thousand years old, beautiful, and sometimes lives in a bottle. Her so-called master is an astronaut. Jeannie, who today might be called a nanogenie, is the same in miniature as she is in her larger form. Unfortunately, for our health of ourselves and the environment, such may not be true for nanomaterials. Quantum rather than conventional physics applies when the scale is at the atom and molecule level. In this issue we look at the challenge of nanomaterials and share some ideas of what needs to be done to ensure their adequate safety.
As always we have some general news and views. Asahi Glass Foundation  recently gave its Blue Planet award for environmental work; Environment Canada has a project researching links between science and policy development, and we pass on a couple of reports on climate issues, with much more to come later this Fall. A correspondent asked us what we think about the work of Bjorn Lomborg, the Skeptical Environmentalist, so instead of telling you what we think we share the thoughts of a number of people and organizations with much more expertise than GL. You can even read about the findings of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, the kind of organization that is sorely needed here in North America. We end this issue with a commentary on the Nobel Peace Prize recently awarded to President Obama. Somehow we think it unlikely that Prime Minister Harper will receive a similar honour, at least not this year! 

Our next issue will follow up on the Ontario Environment Commissioner’s recent exposure of the democratic unfairness of SLAPP suits against those who oppose almost anything. How far we have come from the 1980's and 1990's when governments and at least some industry leaders recognized the value of citizen participation in the making of public policy. While waiting for the next issue we encourage you to submit your comments on this one, or on anything else relevant to the field of environment and Sustainable Development.


It was fascinating to hear Rick George, CEO of Suncor, Canada’s largest energy company, call at a recent luncheon of the Economic Club of Canada for a national energy strategy for Canada. Sure he called it a sustainable national energy strategy and certainly he remarked, in an aside, that he was not calling for a return to the National Energy Program, that Trudeau-era initiative that Albertans still love to hate, but there was no doubt about it - here was the CEO of Canada’s largest oil company calling on a federal government with a very significant Alberta base to adopt a plan for Canada’s energy future. Even the most brash of Canada’s environment and energy NGOs have not been so brave for a long time.

Of course George is right - if we do not know where we are going we have no hope of knowing whether we have arrived, or even whether we are making progress. Many of his suggested elements also make a lot of sense in the context of sustainable development:

But despite the wisdom of George’s proposal for a National Energy Strategy, Canada needs more. First, Canadians concerned about the environment need to be convinced that the Alberta oil sands are something other than an environmental disaster in the making. George told the Economic Club that claims that the carbon footprint of oil sands crude is three to five times higher than other crude oil products are simply not true. He said that independent studies show that oil sands crude is only marginally more carbon-intensive than many other crude sources and actually less carbon-intensive than many conventional sources. GL has not yet found peer-reviewed reports to support the claim, so those making it need to prove it with hard data, independently verified and made readily available to the public. It needs to be true not just for Suncor’s operations but for those of all other oil sands companies. The oil industry also needs to demonstrate how the land area affected by mining of oil sand is going to be restored to habitat equivalent to that which existed before mining. It needs to demonstrate that not one drop of contaminated water leaves the mining and processing sites. It needs to mitigate the adverse effects on air quality.

Suncor, as the largest Canadian player, has the opportunity to pull the petroleum industry out of the dark ages. Even today, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers repeatedly presses the point that “about 75 per cent of GHG emissions occur during fuel consumption and are not impacted by the source of the crude oil”. Hardly a mantra for industry leadership, given that the petroleum industry itself is arguably better placed than any other industry to encourage fuel conservation measures, just as many electricity utilities are doing.

The downstream side of the oil industry, to which Suncor also belongs, is represented by the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute. CPPI distributes via its websites the claim that “Today’s gas, in today’s cars, produces no smog-causing emissions”. In an associated brochure it also claims that “since the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, . . . our industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), have not increased.” Both statements are for the gullible and can only bring an industry’s credibility into disrepute.

Finally, George needs to recognize that this federal government is totally disinterested in a National Energy Strategy. Suncor, as the second largest Canadian company of any kind, is more than capable of taking the lead in developing the strategy and ramming it down the government’s throat. George should give serious consideration to appointing a National Energy Strategy Round Table, inviting others in the industry to participate along with leaders from environmental organizations, energy experts, labour, first nations, energy consuming goods manufacturers, and communities. Governments should also be invited to participate. The exercise should be adequately funded, not just from Suncor but from other industrial and private sector sources. The group should be given no more than 24 months to develop and publish a National Energy Strategy for Canada.

Putting money and resources where your mouth is demonstrates a real commitment to Sustainability. As the second largest Canadian company, Suncor has the potential to show true business leadership towards a sustainable energy future for Canada. Gallon Environment Letter urges Rick George to rise to the cause.

Colin Isaacs

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Although the term is now commonly seen in the media, nanotechnology isn't a sector or even a specific technology. It seems that one can put the word nano in front of almost anything - there are nanotextiles, nanodiamonds, nanotubes, nanofilms, nanostructures, nanobots (robots) and endless actual and potential applications including non-invasive tests and cures for cancer. These have nothing in common except that they or their components are ultrasmall. Recently there have been news stories that nanotechnology will enable immortality as nanobots repair and replace cells. Before we get there though, someone needs to examine the environmental and health impacts. We begin that process through a review of some recent publications.

While in the early years, the emphasis was all on the amazing potential of nanotechnology, it seems that the hazards are beginning to draw more attention. Dr.Shuji Abe, Deputy Director, Nanotechnology Research Institute National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan, suggests that industry is more cautious when entering into decisions about the production of nanomaterials due to concerns about the environmental and health effects. He says that there is no easy way around EHS issues in the development and use of nanotechnologies.


In June, the US-based Investor Environmental Health Network, which includes ngos as well as investment management firms, compared the lack of disclosure about nanotechnology to what the group calls the "asbestos litigation disaster for investors." It calls on the securities commission to close eight major loopholes to improve disclosure.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Tanya Brouwers, consultant to The Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, wrote about the need to assess whether nanotechnology materials are suitable for organic certification. OACC is a research and education centre headed by Ralph Martin Ph.D, P. Ag Professor at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. Brouwers describes some of the farm application such as miniature sensors providing detailed crop needs for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides or sensors embedded in dairy cows which provide treatment even before the farmer knows of any problem. Estimated to be worth $9 billion a year, nanotechnology is already found in cosmetics, food packaging and of course, agriculture and in five to ten years, the scenarios she mentions are expected to become actualities.

Companies such as Bayer and BASF have used nanoscale ingredients to give more killing power to pesticides claiming that less input means less pollution. Nanotech is being used in Thailand to change the DNA of rice so it will grow all year, have an attractive colour and shorter stems. Nanotechnology is touted as ending starvation; critics say this was also the promise of biotechnology but it has had unintended consequences and famines are still common. Brouwers writes, " Most disturbing is the fact that nanotechnology has, like genetic engineering, been developed and pushed into the market place without any form of public debate or political legislation regarding its potential health, environmental and socioeconomic risks. The little amount of publically documented research that does exist regarding human health and nanotechnology demonstrates that nano-particles can be taken up from the air, food, drink and through the skin, and can, given their unnaturally small size, pass through cell membranes into tissues like the brain or a developing fetus."

Some organic certifiers such as the UK Soil Association and the OCIA are banning use of engineered nano-materials. The Canadian Organic standard which came into law in June 2009 hasn't addressed nanotechnology. Brouwers suggests that "Given the recent backlash to genetic engineering, a similar response is expected for products of nanotechnology. It is quite possible that the organic industry will attract a whole new clientele: those that prefer their food “nano-free”.

Brouwers, Tanya. Environmental Superhero or Ticking Time Bomb? Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada. OACC, February 2009.


Christopher Mackay, an environmental chemist and toxicologist whom we met at one of the science conferences we recently attended told us that AMEC had given a group of in-house scientists $50,000 and asked them to write a book on nanotechnology and the environment. GL found the book a good insight into the science as well as the initiatives underway to link the science to policy such as environmental regulations, mostly American but also some others.

The book describes the lifecycle of nanoscale materials from manufacture to the possible points of exposure, with some estimate of the consequences of exposure. It outlines the state of the science, a rapidly moving field, and suggests priority areas requiring research.

Nanotechnology is applied science with matter at 1 to 100 nanometers (nm). A nm is one-billionth of a metre. (GL notes the diameter of a human hair is about 60,000 nm) The extremely small size means nano materials of the same chemistry as regular-sized materials may have different properties e.g. increased physical strength or different chemical reactivity. These properties are seen by proponents to have applications for almost everything - textiles, paints and coatings, pharmaceuticals, energy, electronics.

Public awareness is low

A number of surveys in Great Britain, Japan, and the US from 2003 to 2007 indicate general lack of much public knowledge. For example, in the most recent 2007 one of 1014 adults in the US, "Approx. 70% had heard just a little or nothing at all about nanotechnology." Those who had heard about it tended to think that the benefits outweighed the risks.

Benefits and risks

History has many examples of revolutionary new inventions which have left a legacy of hazardous waste instead of progress e.g. gas lights fueled by pyrolysis of coal and oil left cyanide compounds polluting groundwater and soil. MTBE added to gasoline to replace lead polluted waterways.

The potential benefits of nanotechnology include:

The potential risks and perceived risks include:

The Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory by the Woodrow Wilson Institute listed 500 consumer products by the end of 2007*

Katherine Sellers, an engineer, writes in the introduction, "Some of these product descriptions illustrate how manufacturers can guard the details of proprietary technology by providing little information about the nanomaterials in their products."


Common nanomaterials discussed in this book: particles of titanium dioxide, iron, silver, carbon (known as carbon black), carbon nanotubes (a tube which may be a single layer or multiple layers of carbon atoms), and buckeyballs (hollow spheres called fullerenes and usually made of carbon atoms e.g. C60 fullerene is 60 carbon atoms.)

Naturally occurring nanoscale materials: ash from volcanoes, viruses, human-caused activities such as burning of diesel and welding to release very small particulates. The term nanotechnology usually applies only to the engineered materials.

Nanomaterials come in all kinds of shapes and structure: particles, crystals, tubes, wires, rods, branches called dendrimers, composites, and sphere. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has 11 categories and other agencies classify them in different ways. The shape and structure may affect whether the nanoparticle can enter the human or other living body or how it reacts physically in certain settings.

Free nanoscale materials are those in solution or suspension and are more likely to result in exposure during manufacture, use and after the end-of-life of the product. Examples are diesel fuel with cerium oxide for emissions reduction, sunscreens using titanium dioxides, face creams with fullerenes, drugs containing dendrimers, and foods such as vegetable oils containing nanodrops of supplements such as vitamins.

Fixed nanoparticles are less likely to be released into the environment. Examples include nanotubes used to strengthen tennis racket, carbon black reinforcing rubber products, and nanoscale transistors in electronics.

Small particles tend to remain suspended and may become more dispersed in air and water. The size may mean they can enter the human or other living body through skin or into organs.

GL has written previously about the fires that have been caused by dust from grain or other sources. Nanoparticles suspended in the air can explode if there is an ignition source.

Nanoparticles can agglomerate, changing the size and the behaviour compared to the original nanoparticles or structures. Under other circumstances, nanoparticles may disperse from the assembly.

A positive or negative charge on the surface of the nanomaterials affects reactivity and stability.

Nanoscale materials have different properties from larger-scale materials for two main reason:
It is difficult for scientists to use what they already know about regular materials to evaluate nanomaterials. The book includes an almost 5 page long table of critical properties of nanomaterials and which of three reporting and framework programs are collecting data on each specific property.

Ecological hazards

The chapter on the potential ecological hazards of nanomaterials discusses the question :"If a nanomaterials were to be released into the general environment, would it pose a significant risk to ecological organisms such as fish or wildlife?" Issues include:
Exposure possibilities are through ingestion, dermal contact, or inhalation:
Fullerenes have strong antibacterial action so disposal can create environmental impacts.

Insoluble nanoparticles would tend to bind with other insoluble materials and settle into the bed sediments. They could still pose a risk to sediment species.

The traditional toxicology measures may not apply for example, How does the researcher define a dose? Although nanoparticles can be counted, there is no standardization as to how they are made. As each manufacturer has a different kind, a test done for one isn't applicable to another, like comparing apples with oranges To be scientifically valid, one lab has to be able to reproduce the results of another. So far, the relative hazard in laboratory settings of bioassays of aquatic species indicates a low to moderate range of relative hazard. Colloidal silver may represent more hazard because it is both soluble in water and silver is toxic to aquatic organisms.

It might be possible to manage the risks, "But the oft-quoted phrase "those that ignore history are doomed to repeat it" may hold true if there is little to no communication between scientists (particularly between toxicologists and industrial hygienist with research scientists who are inventing these materials at a rapid rate), regulators and the public. It would be prudent to treat each new nanomaterials in the same way society treats each new chemical compound, and the only way to do that is through the use of a carefully selected battery of tests and bioassays."

Health risk assessment

While the lung is the prime area of concern with respect to nanomaterials exposure, research indicates that nanomaterials can get in the blood stream through the skin and circulate into organs and tissues, accumulating and causing organ damage. Cardiovascular disease may result. The conclusion is that "Nanomaterials are less likely to induce systemic effects and more likely to act as contact toxicants. Furthermore, the size of the material's particles makes it likely that the physiological response will be of an immune or inflammatory nature." Adverse effects are unlikely to follow a dose-response and could be highly variable in the population depending on the sensitivity of the person.

GL only touches on some of the topics in the book which is a good technical basis to understand this so-called emerging technology which is already in use. A large number of scientific studies are summarized in chart form. There are also chapters on manufacturing processes, methods for measuring and monitoring nanoparticles in the environment (many challenges and not readily available), environmental fate and transport, treatment of nanoparticles in water, and use of nanoparticles in pollution control, and a final chapter on balancing risks and rewards. Although it is probable that some will find this a little too technical, the authors do a good job of explaining what is done to test, say for toxicity of a conventionally sized chemical, and then what is the same or different for an ultrafine particle. Readers making their way through this might still not be able to understand research articles elsewhere entitled "Staple single-unit-cell nanosheets of zeolite MFI as active and long-lived catalysts" but will be well on the way to understanding what might be needed as a general framework of environmental health and safety and why businesses ought to be alert to a growing demand for such a framework by the public.

* as of the last time GL checked, in the Consumer Products Inventory there were 1015 products, produced by 485 companies, located in 24 countries.
Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory. The Pew Charitable Trusts / The Woodrow Wilson Center. [choose from the options e.g. browse, search by category, keyword etc.] This web site also has information on nano-research topics such as Environment, Health and Safety Research, Medicine, Agriculture, etc

Sellers, Kathleen, Christopher Mackay, Lynn L. Bergeson, Stephen R. Clough, Marilyn Hoyt, Julie Chen, Kim Henry, and Jane Hamblen. Nanotechnology and the Environment. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press (Taylor and Francis Group), 2009. Price: US$99.95 ISBN: 9781420060195 CRC Press Online [and search for title. Price reduction to US$79.95]


In 2007 the Expert Panel on Nanotechnology was set up by the Council of Canadian Academies at the request of the federal Minister of Health. Chaired by Pekka Sinervo, then Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto, the report concluded in July 2008 that little is known to assess the overall human and environmental risks posed by the introduction of nanomaterials and nanoproducts into society. Available risk strategies applied to nanomaterials should do the trick, though.

The report examined likely routes of exposure and different categories of exposure: workplace, consumer use and exposure due to the nanoparticles being in the environment e.g. in combusting fuel, in the air, water, soil. The gaps in techniques for measuring and monitoring were explored. Because there are also natural nanoparticles, overestimations of the impact of engineered particles may also result. Among the conclusions of this report:
The report is full of terminology highlighting the uncertainty: "inadequate data", "given the current state of knowledge", "dearth of research strategies that lay out a clear roadmap to filling essential knowledge gaps, especially in the Canadian context" and “nanomaterials may be small but the diversity is vast." Government needs to direct funding for risk assessment and risk management including overcoming barriers due to proprietary information.

The members of the Council of Canadian Academies are the Royal Society of Canada: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada; the Canadian Academy of Engineering; and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. None of them are in any way ‘alarmist’ organizations.

One member of the expert panel was Robert Slater, Adjunct Professor, Carleton University and President, Coleman, Bright and Associates (Ottawa, ON) who GL and many people know from his long service in senior positions at Environment Canada.

GL thinks it good that both the AMEC-funded book (see separate article) and this report considered the likely sources of exposure throughout the lifecycle of the nanomaterials/products: production and manufacture, use e.g. by the consumer of cosmetics or other products, and post consumer.

The public wouldn't know that the Health Minister asked the Council of Canadian Academies to review the safety of nanomaterials. Our search on Health Canada's web site using the title of the report there are zero results. In fact, on Health Canada's A-Z index there is no nanotechnology as a topic.

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In the US, a report on the budget requests for nanotechnology was published as a supplement in the President's 2010 Budget Request to Congress in May 2009. Twenty-five federal agencies are involved. The request for Fiscal Year 2010 of $1.64 billion brings the cumulative investment in the National Nanotechnology Initiative since 2001 to $12 billion. Nanotechnology is huge; it has already provided tools. processes and products but the report says, "It is the enormous potential of nanotechnology to lead revolutionary, paradigm-shifting advances that warrants continued public and private investments."

Environment health and safety

One of the four goals is responsible development of nanotechnology. Cumulative investment in Environment Health and Safety is $350 million, mostly since 2005. EHS requests for 2010 are $88 million which will cover increased research on the type and amount of nanomaterials in biological systems, the environment and the workplace. Some of the comments were:
The US (as is Canada) is working with the OECD on an international level. EPA is testing 14 nanomaterials on 59 environmental end points.

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In 2007, Environment Canada and Health Canada posted a proposed regulatory framework for nanomaterials under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Two phases of implementation were outlined:

Phase 1 (started fall 2006)
1. Continue work with international partners to develop scientific and research capacities (OECD, ISO).
2. Inform potential notifiers of their regulatory responsibilities under the current framework.
3. Develop initiatives to gather information from industry on the uses, properties, and effects of nanomaterials.
4. Consider whether amendments to CEPA 1999 or the NSNR would be needed to facilitate the risk assessment and management of nanomaterials

Phase 2 (starting 2008)
1. Resolution of terminology and nomenclature by ISO TC229.
2. Consider establishing data requirements under the NSNR specific to nanomaterials.
3. Consider the use of the Significant New Activity (SNAc) provision of CEPA 1999 to require notification of nanoscale forms of substances already on the DSL."

A search on the CEPA Registry didn't outline any further regulatory or consultation process and while the priorities of both departments for 2009-2010 mention nanotechnology in connection with emerging technologies, a search on both websites did not help us learn about any progress on this proposal. As far as GL has been able to determine, CEPA-related activity on nanomaterials has been reduced to invisible nanoscale.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.

In Canada, substances that are not on the Domestic Substances List require notification and assessment, as prescribed by regulations, before they can be manufactured in or imported into Canada. In 2007, Environment Canada issued a notice on the requirements for nanomaterials (whether chemical or polymer) regarding the New Substances Program of the DSL. Anyone who manufactures or imports a new substance exceeding a specified regulatory trigger is required to provide a risk assessment of its potential effects on the environment and human health. The notice includes:
The Canada Gazette has a number of notices for nanoscale substances, for example recently tungsten carbide.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


The Asahi Glass Foundation announced its 2009 Blue Planet Prize winners. One is Professor Hirofumi Uzawa, Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo for his work on environmental issues including Minamata disease and the Social Common Capital. The other is Lord Nicholas Stern, Professor The London School of Economics for his Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change of 2006. The Foundation which also provides research moneys also conducts an annual survey of worldwide environmental opinion leaders. The survey includes an environmental doomsday clock , which “retreated by 11 minutes from last year to 9:22 p.m., still showing a high sense of crisis being the third most advanced time recorded.”

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Dr. Alex T. Bielak, Director, Science and Technology Liaison at Environment Canada wrote, "I enjoyed the most recent Gallon and thought you might be interested in the latest my group has done by way of work on strengthening links between science knowledge and policy/decision making. My colleague Karl Schaefer was involved with Gail Krantzberg at McMaster University and a student intern via the Science Horizons Program at seeing how science figures in the scheme of things for Ontario's Conservation Authorities. A synopsis is available at We hope that the insights gained from this will help in better targeting EC's science. Follow up work is ongoing with a second intern now to explore further some of the interesting findings.

The second in this "Strengthening Science-Policy Links" Study Series is just being finalised. It details findings from a comparative EU-N. American study on management and communication of environmental research that Karl and I were involved with: The synopsis focuses more on the Canadian findings. The full report is at "


For policies to be based on science, environmental research results need to be disseminated and implemented. In The Strengthening...paper (see above) Bielak and co-author in a section on Canada discuss a range of issues regarding research and the users of research but one is communicating the results. While some researchers are willing and able to communicate their results to potential science users, others are not for various reasons such as unwillingness to take time away from research or inability to translate the technical language to plain language accessible to policy makers. GL notes that at one environmental science conference, the keynote speaker begged scientists to quit concluding every research project with the statement "More research is needed" and tell policy-makers what difference this particular result makes,

Relevant to environmental research is the role of intermediaries between the scientists and the science users. These people act as translators and interpreters but in order to do a good job need to meet certain requirements such as "background in science and policy; strong interpersonal, written and oral communication skills; and the ability to develop trust and understanding with both researchers and science users. Understanding the science needs of program managers and policy makers is fundamentally important." Bielak's paper discusses how many organizations e.g. government fund research but allocate no money for the intermediaries whose role is to "serve to compile and synthesize complex scientific information, highlight policy-relevant information, make linkages, and tailor information to specific audiences."

While these papers are not specific to business, GL suggests that businesses with heavy investments in science have similar needs to communicate to policy-makers within their own company, to investors, to government and to the public.

Bielak, A. T., Holmes, J., Savgård, J., and Schaefer, K. A comparison of
European and North American approaches to the management and communication of
environmental research. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency Report 5958. 2009. 132 pp
[Find (pdf, 4308 kB) and click]


The International Energy Agency released a special early excerpt of the World Energy Outlook 2009 climate change analysis for governments participating in the international climate change negotiations. The full report will be published November 10. In the introduction to the report, Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka writes that the report "delivers a simple stark message: if the world continues on the basis of today's energy policies, the climate change impacts will be severe." The IEA sets a 450 Scenario or 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent. Higher than the 350 ppm targeted by others, a number of scientists say that number is high and comes with high risk. One effect of the recession, the financial crisis of the last 18 months, is that CO2 emissions fell in 2009 which helps to achieve the 450 ppm "but only if the right policies are put in place promptly." The UN Climate Change talks in Copenhagen in December are crucial to these policies. Fossil fuel use must peak by 2020 and decline from then.

For OECD countries of which Canada is a member, policies recommended are:
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A paper by another science interpreter Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson explores not so much the direct economic costs which are high but the problems, hazards, risks and hidden environmental costs of large scale storage of carbon in saline aquifers Carbon Capture and Sequestration CCS. The report is a good source of views on the subject but the conclusion is that as yet, CCS is folly mostly because of the hazards it poses for drinking water. Among some of the issues are:
GL still sees CCS as mostly a strategy for those wanting to delay global action on climate change and those who want to promote "clean coal" without being clean. That is not to say that CCS is useless but it is certainly no magic bullet and cannot possibly reduce GHG levels to something that the vast majority of scientists see as ‘safe’. But there is a growing literature on CCS and on another technological approach that seems even more far out, geoengineering, the idea of massive infrastructures such as reflective kites. A number of these papers also urgently call for emission reductions but are predicting that overshooting certain CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere could be so dire that these almost-unthinkable and indeed almost-impossible approaches have to be considered, tested for feasibility, and implemented if possible even at horrendous costs.

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John DeWilde, M.Eng., P.Eng., Senior Environmental Engineer at PGL (Pottinger Gaherty Environmental Consultants) wrote, "I was recently talking to my MP () about global warming. He was evasive and defensive but used the book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Climate Change by Bjorn Lomborg as a reference for much of the conversation. I got the book from the library and read it so I could be informed for the next discussion. It was tough going. The book seems fraught with assumptions and has blinders to many issues but I would love to hear your take on it. If you have reviewed it already I’d love to read that."

GL: A few decades ago, we could buy almost all the books published relating to business and the environment but no longer so our gesture is not much of a statement but we made a deliberate decision not to buy, read or review Cool It - a small boycott but having read his 2001 book it seemed like a waste. It is an expression of disapproval of Lomborg's unorthodox and unfounded claim to the scientific truth despite his obvious and self-admitted ignorance. Gary Gallon, the founder and namesake of the GL, wrote a whole issue in 2003 (GL Vol. 7, No. 1, January 11, 2003) focussing on Lomborg's ignoring key issues, setting up straw men and knocking them down thus reaching wrong conclusions.

Nature journal's review

DeWilde's MP is not the only one who prefers Lomborg's convenient misinterpretation of selected information to the complexity and the uncertainties of science. Economist Partha Dasgupta, professor of economics at the University of Cambridge, reviewing Cool It writes of how much people have clung to Lomborg's view while "the world's foremost environmental scientists expressed more than mere scepticism towards Lomborg's grasp of their science." Dasgupta writes that when people learn about his field, ecological economics, some ask him "And have you read Lomborg?" - implying "Why have you thrown away so much of your working life?" But he says, things have changed with Al Gore's film Inconvenient Truth and the Fourth Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change raising public concern.

The review points out that Lomborg's cost-benefit seems to assume that we can just keep doing the same thing until things get better. But the earth is a non-linear system. Going as high as 560 ppm concentration of CO2, as Lomborg suggests could cause irreversible natural processes. While there is a possibility that the changes could be good at least for some, the greater likelihood is that the effects could be disastrous. While Lomborg thinks the Kyoto Protocol is a bad economic deal in the context of his own limited scenario, it could be a very good deal indeed if some of the scenarios projected by many of the world's climatologists turn out to be reality. Lomborg's chief failing is that he doesn't deal with uncertainty; his assumptions are based on arbitrary boundaries which if he is wrong leaves humanity without insurance. Dasbupta concludes "Lomborg's seemingly persuasive economic calculations are a case of muddled concreteness."

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Lomborg errors web site

More involved people than GL have been challenging the credibility of Lomborg. Biologist Kåre Fog, Denmark writes a web site on Bjorn Lomborg, He laments the media attention to Lomborg. He doesn't know to what extent (indeed if any) Lomborg was influential in the US not signing on to Kyoto Protocol or other delaying action on climate change. He talks about the Danish Ecological Council posting a book showing the flaws and errors saying, "It was available from June 2002. Unfortunately, it has received little attention so far. It is strange to me that Lomborg´s book, which is full of errors and flaws and not reliable, is sold in large numbers throughout the world, whereas a book that corrects the errors and gives a more balanced view of the same topics, is nearly completely ignored."

Fog, Kåre. Lomborg-errors.

The Danish Ecological Council. Sceptical Questions and Sustainable Answers. The Ecological Councils response to Bjørn Lomborg’s book "The Sceptical Environmentalist," Edited by Christian Ege and Jeanne Lind Christiansen. 2002.

Lomborg's 2001 book: not good scientific practice

The Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty, an almost unique committee established by the Danish government, reviews complaints such as forging of data and plagiarism. Danish legislation stipulates that DCSD’s chairman must be a high-court judge. Three complaints, two Danish and one foreign, were filed about Bjorn Lomborg's 2001 book. The Committee wasn't sure the book was science but it was presented as science. The ruling was that the book was not consistent with good scientific practice.

Lomborg appealed to the Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation who asked for a review of the terms of reference of the Committee.

The Committee in its 2004 report reviewed the case and didn't seem to feel the need to retract or review any further. Among the items in that annual report were:
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GL isn't discounting Lomborg due to his being non-climatologist or even a non-scientist or lack of other credentials although all of those are important depending on which positions one takes. We weren't impressed with his 2001 book. Rather Lomborg is being judged as untrustworthy, for conjuring up eco-conspiracies without providing evidence e.g. his assumption that world environmental researchers including climatologists are either willingly misleading or willy-nilly miscalculating their estimations of impacts of human-caused impacts on the environment. If this charge of his had any basis, his extraordinary ability for gaining media attention would surely ensure a multi-million dollar advance by the oil companies for an expose of such an eco-conspiracy. Somehow that book hasn't been written.

Perhaps it is timely that in another article, GL discusses papers on linking science and policy sent by Alex Bielak of Environment Canada. Bielak and co-authors report on the the role and qualifications of intermediaries, the people who help to interpret, translate, communicate or otherwise help decision-makers and the public use science. David Suzuki who just won a prize for his work in raising awareness of climate change is such an intermediary*. Although Suzuki has a science background, like GL's editor, his scientific expertise and recent publications are not on climate change. Instead he interprets in ways which we here at GL see as generally consistent with the scientific research to the public and any governments who will listen. All of us, Lomborg, Gallon now deceased, GL's editor and Suzuki are basically policy wonks when it comes to climate change and when expressing opinions on science not within our training Without our own recent peer-reviewed research, we can still speak to the policy implications of science but we have to be careful. To use an analogy in medicine, we could comment on fair access to health services but have to be careful not to have the hubris to tell the surgeon where to cut with the scalpel. Lomborg's hubris has no such limits when it comes to mending the damage to another kind of patient, the global environment.

* Among the recognition of the Right Livelihood Award, described by sone as the alternate Nobel prize, Suzuki is honoured for his "lifetime advocacy for the socially responsible use of science."

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US President Obama signed an Executive Order setting environmental goals for federal agencies including to:

According to the press release, the federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.

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It is possible that the President’s order that federal departments should set an example while also saving taxpayer money might have had a push from an audit of the Department of Energy DOE. The audit was entirely on how the DOE conserved energy by using setback controls, both mechanical and software to decrease the temperature difference between outside and inside during non-working hours. The inspector general audit reported that DOE is supposed to lead the country on energy efficiency and provide direction for smart, efficient energy management. DOE didn't set back the thermostats in over two-thirds of its buildings even though the department advised consumers and businesses to do so.

As well as not using setbacks where they were available, the Department also let a number of controls deteriorate so setback was impossible and despite expanded leasing of space, failed to require setback capability in leased buildings. The report also lists prior audit reports showing how the department wastes energy.

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Extract from the Citation of The Norwegian Nobel Committee when awarding the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.


Amit Bhattacharya's EarthShastra blog in the Times of India congratulated Obama on the prize and then asked him to deliver on the promise, to repay the debt the US owes the world. He wrote, "The US has been the single biggest CO2 emitter since around 1915 (when it overtook Europe). Its cumulative share in human induced carbon emissions currently stands at around 28% (World Energy Outlook 2009) - in other words, the US is responsible for almost one-third of the CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels since 1890. Scientists say much of this carbon is still in circulation and causing global warming.

That's a tremendous debt US owes the world. Yet the US continues to tie any CO2-reduction commitments to actions taken by China and India, countries that started developing only in the last 20-30 years."

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