APRIL 2008 Issue



R.P.T.s Earn Professional Privileges, Forum Writer Responds

Re: Including Technologists Denigrates APEGGA’s Value, by Horace R. Gopeesingh, P.Eng., Readers’ Forum, The PEGG, March 2008.

I have always respected that whenever change is introduced there will be differences of opinion. This is generally healthy and constructive. However, sometimes negativity creeps in and one of those differences of opinion is based on fear or lack of knowledge.

I trust the editor’s note provided additional clarification for Mr. Gopeesingh. A part of me was still bothered, however, that educated and experienced professionals continue to judge based on misconceptions.

Although I can’t be sure of the basis for his comments, Mr. Gopeesingh appears to be genuinely threatened by what he presumes to be less educated and experienced individuals taking on engineering roles and denigrating the value of APEGGA. Mr. Gopeesingh has never met me but I can guarantee he wouldn’t realize I graduated with a diploma and not a degree, unless I told him so.

I wish I could speak on behalf of the roughly 180 other members who use the R.P.T.(Eng.) designation. I can say we are people who have successfully proven ourselves through education and experience. We have earned the privilege of independently practicing engineering in defined scopes, and we are proud to do so.

I have over 25 years of experience and, just as my peers with engineering degrees are, I am highly educated and committed to professional development.

I respectfully invite Mr. Gopeesingh to speak to engineers-in-training who I have had the sincere privilege of mentoring and working with, to see if they have suffered from a denigration of their values and education. 

Douglas J. Shapansky, R.P.T.(Eng.)


Faulty Assumptions Underlie Idea Of Halting Climate Change

Re: APEGGA Needs Clear Climate Change Stance, by David J. Parker, P.Eng., Readers’ Forum, The PEGG, February 2008.

Contrary to the view of Mr. Parker and similar ones no doubt held by many others, I applaud APEGGA for having not, to date, taken a public policy stance on the issues he discussed.

There have been dismal failures of overwhelming scientific opinion in history. Examples include opposition to Galileo and opposition by medical professionals to hand washing. To find out more, Mr. Parker and others should read the Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.

The whole idea of stopping climate change and possibly even reversing it is founded on two basic, subjective assumptions: that we know which set of all possible sets of climate conditions is best for the planet; and that those conditions prevailed on Earth during a period that came to an end early in the last century.

Considering the length of time the Earth has existed and the innumerable different climate regimes that have occurred during its history, the chance that these two assumptions are objectively correct is very, very remote.

Also, there are associated flaws in the so-called science, which have either been ignored or given far less prominence than is appropriate. A glaring one of these is our failure to adequately assess the effects of an increase in world population by several times since the end of the “pristine” era, just passed.

In “fighting climate change,” we need to seriously consider whether we are dealing with science or unbridled human hubris.

Clyde Ovens, P.Eng.


Many Sources Build Stance On Climate Change

Thank you for being the vehicle for a much-needed and enlightening debate on climate change. I would like to respond to the various letters that have appeared since my appeal for APEGGA to take a principled stand on this critical issue.

I am not a scientist and do not profess to be. I take my information from as many sources as I possibly can and use the limited scientific training I do have to distinguish what appears to be bogus from what seems to be solid science. I suggest other engineers should show the same humility and deference for the peer review process that the scientific method is based upon, and has served us well for many centuries.

Of course there are dissenting opinions to the theory of climate change and discussion should always be welcomed. For example, I recall many years ago some engineering colleagues in Britain who were waging a vigorous, albeit futile, attack on Maxwell’s equations.

My extensive reading on the subject informs me that the following points reflect the current state of the climate change debate.

1.         It is true that much of the science of climate change is derived from models and, given the complexity of the planetary ecosystem, none of them will ever be completely accurate. In spite of that, they all closely follow the observed increase in mean global temperature of 0.66 C. Computing power is greater than it has ever been and newer models continue to provide consistent results with increasing levels of certainty.

2.         To my understanding, all the alternative explanations for the present warming have been debunked. Whether it be solar activity, Milankovitch wobble and tilt, measurement inaccuracies, proxy measurements, ice cores, Earth orbital changes, etc., they are all either invalid, or accepted as inadequate or at the wrong places in their cycle. Anthropogenic forcing is all that is left as a satisfactory explanation.

3.         None of the criticisms mention the enormous amount of other data beyond the computer modelling, such as retreating glaciers, excessive weather events (heed the pleas of the insurance industry), drought frequency (Darfur is the first war resulting from climate change), Arctic ice loss (shipping now possible in the Northwest Passage), Oceanic acidification (coral reef bleaching), Antarctic ice melt, decline of species (particularly amphibious), flooding, hurricane intensity and frequency, incidences of tropical disease vectors, and the B.C. pine beetle infestation.

4.         It is true that the scientific evidence is not 100 per cent certain, but what scientific theory is? For many years the atomic theory of matter was thought to be the final answer until Dirac developed quantum mechanics.

Einstein famously said that “God doesn’t play dice,” but others found that she probably does. The theory of global warming was first postulated in 1896 by Swedish chemist Sven Arrhenius. It is not a recent concept and the specified gases are indeed very effective absorbers of infra-red radiation.

5.         Given the implications of allowing climate change to proceed unchecked, is it morally acceptable to sit back and wait for the last few uncertainties to be resolved? The only way we will ever be 100 per cent certain is to continue with the “uncontrolled experiment” and wait till the year 2100.

Based on the concepts of “sustainable development” and the “precautionary principle,” is it not a wise choice to assume that there may be an element of validity in the theory and observation and plan for the worst?

6.         Taking action will cost about one per cent of the global GNP, says a review by Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank.

If we are wrong we will have a much greener and more diversified economy without the other problems of fossil fuel dependence (smog, particulates, traffic congestion, sulphur deposition, mercury contamination, depletion of water resources and energy conflicts). If we are right we will have prevented a major catastrophe.

7.         The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not the only scientific body studying this phenomenon and coming up with similar conclusions — the world-renowned Hadley Centre in Britain and the Wuppertal Institute in Germany, for example. Check out as well the one million hits you’ll receive from a Google search of the words “climate change academics.”

The idea that climate change science is getting a free ride and not going unchallenged does a disservice to the integrity of the scientific community worldwide.

8.         It’s been mentioned that the Vladivostok ice core samples seem to indicate that carbon dioxide concentrations have varied from 200 to 300 p.p.m. over the last 430,000 years. This is completely in line with previous ice core tests, which concluded that CO2 has not exceeded 300 p.p.m. for the last 650,000 years. It is now up at 380 p.p.m. and rising at an ever-more rapid rate.

Also, no mention is made of the other greenhouse gases (methane, nitrous oxide and CFC) and their much higher forcings. Addressing the intensity of these would vastly improve agricultural techniques, waste management, forestry practices and other environmental problems beyond climate concerns.

9.         There were a few dissentions from the ranks of the intergovernmental panel. However, no mention is made of the dissenting IPCC opinions at the other end of the spectrum.

When the last and most impactful report was delivered in the spring of 2007, many scientists withdrew their support because too little emphasis was placed on the dire consequences of positive feedback effects.

If any of the regenerative feedback effects kick-in — and it is not known when they could — the consequences become unstoppable. These effects include permafrost melt, the albedo effect, methane bubbles trapped in Arctic sea ice and perhaps others not yet known.

10.       There has been criticism that historic CO2 buildup appears to have come later than actual warming. This observation reinforces the positive feedback hypothesis, since global heating releases considerably greater amounts of carbon and thus accelerates the process.

11.       Nine of the past 10 years have been the warmest on record. These are direct measurements with highly accurate instruments. In control theory it is known that increased energy into a system generally creates greater turbulence and perturbation, hence “climate change” as opposed to an even warming, as the lay public believes should be happening.

12.       The “evidence” that Greenland underwent a warming period has received no corroborating evidence from other sources from elsewhere in the world. It was expedient at the time for Danish settlers to promote their new colony and attempt to encourage others to follow. Reports of vineyards and good farming would go a long way in those efforts.

13.       Much has been said about the cooling that happened in the early 20th century. Thanks to the U.S. grounding of aircraft for several days after September 11, it’s been established that we are in the midst of a “global dimming,” and that we have been since the Industrial Revolution and its massive increase in particulates and aerosols.

The average global temperature did fall for some time into the 1940s but has since resumed an inexorable climb.

14.       It is irresponsible to cite prehistoric warming events — the causes of which are still unknown — as evidence that global warming is a normal, recurrent event. The very fact that this present warming coincides with the largest buildup of industrial activity there’s ever been, and the parallel observed increases in greenhouse gases, must indicate that this is an anomaly.

15.       If global warming is indeed a hoax, as a few vocal critics so adamantly maintain, then it is certainly the biggest one every perpetrated in the history of humanity. Remember: resistance to the entire proposition became fierce after it first threatened our carbon-fuel-based economy.

The proposition has not arrived without dissent, yet it has arrived and acceptance is now almost universal. Given the amount of capital behind this attempted suppression, surely that gives the theory considerable credence.

16.       It is true that the sky is not falling today, but that is the nature of environmental problems — they, with notable exceptions such as the drying up of the Aral Sea, are a slow-motion disaster.

One is reminded of the boiling frog concept. If a frog is immersed in hot water it will immediately jump out. If  the temperature is slowly increased, however, the frog will stay put and die.
Will we stay put, or will we take note of the thermometer?

David J. Parker, P.Eng.


Basic Data On Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide

Re: Results of the APEGGA Climate Change Consultation.

Results of the survey are similar to those of another one, which gathered opinions from climatologists and related scientific discipline experts worldwide in 2007.

Its findings said: “The most recent survey of climate scientists by Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch, following the same methodology as a published study from 1996, found that while there had been a move towards acceptance of anthropogenic global warming, only 9.4 per cent of respondents ‘strongly agree’ that climate change is mostly the result of anthropogenic sources. A similar proportion ‘strongly disagree.’

“Furthermore, only 22.8 per cent of respondents ‘strongly agree’ that the [Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change] reports accurately reflect a consensus within climate science.”

With respect to the criticism that our articles lack specific detailed data, I would like to present the following factual data for consideration.

1.         The world’s atmosphere contains approximately 860 gigatonnes of carbon in the form of CO2.

2.         Human annual emissions contain approximately eight gigatonnes of carbon.

3.         The annual recycle rate of CO2  by the natural sinks, i.e. mainly plants and water, is approximately 300 gigatonnes.

4.         The average lifespan of a CO2  molecule in our atmosphere is 2.5 to three years.

5.         If the level of CO2  in our atmosphere doubled from 384 to 768 p.p.m., the increase in temperatures around the world would be 1.7 C maximum.

6.         At an annual rate of 1.62 p.p.m. it would take 237 years to double the CO2 content of the atmosphere.

7.         One p.p.m. of CO2  is equivalent to 2.2 gigatonnes of carbon.

One does not have to have a PhD in climatology to understand these facts —  they are basic physics.

From this data one can conclude that: the total residual man-made carbon in our atmosphere amounts to 24 gigatonnes (three times eight), which is equal to 10.1 p.p.m., thus the total effect of human emissions since the beginning of time is to raise the carbon content from 374 to 384 p.p.m.

This translates into a 0.06-C increase in global temperatures.

Therefore, while it is correct to say that human activity has impacted the atmosphere and caused some global warming, this type of general statement must be put into perspective and quantified. The IPCC never does that. Instead it relies on vague generalities, which although factual are extremely misleading — they lack any specific details about relative magnitude.

Another item of news media propaganda, one that I find particularly offensive, is the continual reference to the reduction of CO2 in our atmosphere as being “green” and environmentally friendly, and the reference to CO2 as being “pollution.” In actual fact the complete opposite is true with respect to all these statements.

For the last 15-plus years, thousands of experiments have been conducted by researchers around the world on almost every type of plant, measuring the effect of increasing the CO2 in the nearby atmosphere by 300 p.p.m. The results are consistent — plant growth increased 40 per cent on average.

Clearly the process of photosynthesis in plants and the ocean’s plankton absorbs CO2, uses the sun’s energy to split the molecule, uses the carbon to build the plant or plankton, and expels the oxygen as a waste product. Terrestrial plants and marine plankton are the basis of the food chain, so if the supply of the basic nutrients for a large number of animals and sea creatures is increased by 40 per cent, how can CO2 possibly be “pollution” and how can it be “green“ to reduce plants’ fundamental food supply?

Another interesting fact is that the IPCC’s computer programs showed that with increased global temperatures, 90 per cent of the world would have increased rainfall and soil moisture, and 10 per cent would see a decrease. True to form, the IPCC obsesses that the 10 per cent with less rain will get “droughts” and the 90 per cent with more rain will get “floods.”

We are increasingly being inundated by grandiose engineering schemes to sequester or reduce CO2. Really, all we have to do is plant trees and stop deforestation.

I believe this process would be less costly and require far less maintenance and operating costs. As a secondary effect, trees absorb the sun’s energy, so it is neither reflected nor radiated back, which will in turn reduce radiative forcing.

Barry Moore, P.Eng.


Supply Chain Study Of Oil and Gas Industry Needs Member Support

This is an invitation to your members to take part in a study to identify major supply chain trends in Alberta’s oil and gas sector. The multi-phase and multi-national study’s goal is to gain better understanding of supply chain management issues, and to create a research agenda for this area at the University of Alberta.

The project’s initial round is a survey, which needs responses by individual SCM practitioners in the upstream division (see website address below.) We’re hopeful that the project’s survey phase can be completed soon, and contributors to it will be invited, as non-paying guests of the University of Alberta School of Business, to attend the project’s related workshop in late April. Together with international academic experts, workshop participants will be invited to discuss survey results, and to project strategic priorities together for the province’s petroleum sector.

This project, called SCM 2010 and Beyond, was inaugurated in 2006 by Dr. Steve Melnyk at Michigan State University. It has come to include other world-recognized sites for supply-chain studies, such as IMD in Switzerland and the Darden School at the University of Virginia.

Participating managers or SCM consultants have assessed, with academic researchers from these sites, key performance factors applying within different regions of the U.S. and Europe. This year, the U of A is the partnered university with Michigan State, and it invites you to collaborate in the project’s fourth Western Canadian lobe.

You are asked to provide evaluative responses as an individual practitioner, not as a representative for an organization or department. The surveyed results will get reported back to all participants, but anonymously in an aggregated format.

Your participation is crucial to the success of this survey and to a better understanding of supply chain management issues in Alberta. The survey is straightforward and should not take more than 15 or 20 minutes.

Before or after submitting your completed responses, please confirm that you are about to or have done so, by e-mailing to cibs@ualberta.ca, or by contacting John Doyle at 780-492-9108.

Dr. Edy Wong
University of Alberta School of Business

Editor’s Note: To take the survey, go to http://nebula.bus.msu.edu/Burns/SCM2010/alberta2008/scm2010_alberta2008.htm.