It’s the End of the World as we Know It, and I Feel FINE. What’s Next for Abrupt Climate Disruption?

Paul on a Mission or is it Klaus Kinsky in Aguirre, the Wrath of God?

It’s the End of the World as we Know It, and I Feel FINE. What’s Next for Abrupt Climate Disruption? // May 4, 2021

People often ask me for my projections and guesstimates on what happens next with our ongoing abrupt climate system disruption.

For example:

When we we first lost all Arctic Sea Ice?

When will methane burst out from the Arctic?

What will happen to our global food supply? Will we have a global famine?

What is the best way to pull carbon from the atmosphere/ocean system?

Will we deploy solar radiation management technologies? Lime the oceans. Put mirrors everywhere on land, oceans, or in space?

How does one deal with all this bad news?

I chat about some of my thoughts on these complex questions as I sit on a log in a forest in Northern Ontario in front of a gorgeous waterfall.
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The Legacy of Elliot Lake Ontario: From “Uranium Capitol of the World” to Retirement Community // May 7, 2021

As I was driving home to Ottawa across northern Ontario just North of Lake Huron, about half way between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, I had to make a mandatory (for me) 40 km jog north to Elliot Lake.

Once known as “The Uranium Capitol of the World”, this small town deep in the northern Canadian Shield forests once produced about 70% of Canadian produced uranium representing about 25% of world output.

In 1953 this region was just rock outcrops, forests, and lakes. Franc Joubin, a Toronto prospector, discovered uranium ore deposits here. At that time, uranium was considered the ore of the future:

“Uranium, it’s like sex!! It’s got glamour.” Even school kids in Ontario knew that uranium was the fuel for atomic energy, and was man’s most modern and widely publicized source of almost unlimited power. The Ontario government was convinced of the long term viability and permanence of mining uranium, and set up a planned community in the forest. The town was founded in 1955, and by 1960 there were huge sprawling split level homes on crescent streets, fluorescent street lights, three story apartment blocks, shopping malls, schools, churches, two movie theatres and a hospital. The boomtown was thriving with 25,000 people, including over 9,000 underground workers (miners) and most of the best paid workers in Canada. There were fixed orders for more than a billion dollars of uranium, for delivery between 1957 and 1962. Pessimistic economists predicted boom times into the 1960s, and the optimistic ones essentially said forever. Not to be.

The problem is that mining uranium ore releases lots of radioactive radon gas, and being a gas, radon goes deep into all the lung tissues and causes lung cancer, and many miners started dying. The radioactive mine tailings rock and dust spreading in the air and water soon spread around the town and many non-miners also got sick and died. The Ontario government refused to acknowledge the problem, so in 1974 over 1000 uranium miners went on strike to raise the issue. Of course mining continued, and by 1984 almost 300 miners had already died of lung cancer. Large quantities of radioactive waste rock from the tailings were used in construction of house foundations, and still contained about 85% of the original radioactivity, carrying nasty elements like Thorium-230 and Radium-226; in fact the disturbed ore gave off 10,000 times more radon gas than the undisturbed ore.

Economic pressures (large uranium finds in Saskatchewan; fewer nuclear power plants being built; Canadian government decision not to sell uranium for weapons programs) led to Ontario. Uranium mines being decommissioned in the early 1990’s.

Elliot Lake is now a retirement community, and is relatively COVID free (I joke that the high radioactivity kills any virus there).

The Ontario north is still a vibrant place for mining and forestry. There was silver mining in Cobalt, ON; iron ore mining in Temagani, nickel mining in Sudbury (my next video); gold mining in Timmins, and of course uranium mining in Elliot Lake.
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My Rant on Abrupt Climate System Change From a ClearCut Boreal Forest Site in Northern Ontario // May 2, 2021

My son and his friend are planting trees in Northern Ontario for a few months, and needed transport to the site near Kenora next to the Manitoba border, so I rented the smallest most fuel efficient car I could find and we crammed in all their stuff and hit the road. I was able to circumvent Ontario’s current stay at home orders since planting trees is considered an essential service job in Ontario, as it should be. On the way, we managed to listen to every interview that Elon Musk has ever done with Joe Rogan, amazingly there are a lot and even one interview that went on for over 3 hours.

On my way back home (very long road trip) I have been relaxing and taking in the amazing scenery in Ontario’s far North, and Ontario is huge. In fact it’s a 22 hour drive each way, and I am filming and posting a series of videos as I meander and explore on my way home.

Here, I investigated a clear cut forest site, to ponder our terrestrial carbon sink which is likely to become a source in a mere two decades with business as usual.
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About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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