Obama Calls Out Climate Deniers, & Other Good News

It’s always enjoyable (and all too rare!) to share good news, and I’m pleased that there’s some to share on this, the last Friday in April:

  • The Ontario government under newly elected premier Kathleen Wynne announced on Wednesday that it will be partnering with the government of Manitoba and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to keep the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario open. The federal government of Stephen Harper made the controversial decision last year to withdraw funding and shutter the 40 year-old world-renowned freshwater research station. As the SaveELA website describes,

“Studies conducted at the ELA have provided sound scientific knowledge for the development of environmental policies both nationally and internationally. Some key areas of influence have been in understanding and managing algal blooms, acid rain, climate change, mercury pollution, greenhouse gas fluxes from hydroelectric reservoirs, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” 

I understand that ELA scientists were gearing up to study whether or not emissions from the Alberta tar sands reached beyond that province’s borders. While carefully worded, the press release from the Ontario government does seem to underscore the importance of science to their government, in contrast to the anti-science bent of the Harper Conservatives. It will be interesting (in an appalling way, I’m sure) to see the spin Greg Rickford, the increasing elusive CPC Member of Parliament for the region (and my own MP) puts on the whole ELA disaster when he attempts to run for re-election in 2015. Here’s part of what the Ontario Government press release said:

Experimental Lakes Area is a one-of-a-kind, freshwater research region in northwestern Ontario that attracts scientists from across Canada and around the world. 

The important science and research performed in this area informs our pollution reduction strategies, our understanding of climate change and how we can protect our lakes and rivers here in Ontario, across Canada and around the world.

Supporting science and research is part of the new Ontario government’s plan to build a fair, prosperous Ontario for the benefit of all. (Click here for full press release)

Kudos to Diane Orihel, who got the Save The ELA campaign off the ground last summer, and to Peter Kirby, the Kenora lawyer who has been working tirelessly to keep the momentum going when Diane pulled back to finish her studies. And of course Dr. David Schindler, the founder and former director of the ELA, has been a tireless and outspoken advocate for the ELA and against this reckless decision. A friend and fellow environmental activist wrote yesterday, “I’m in a bit of a shock because we actually succeeded” but it may still be too early to break out the champagne. As Dan Lett wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday, there are still stiff obstacles to overcome – mostly in Ottawa – before the ELA is secure. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

Rickford in happier days, at funding announcement in 2009
MP Greg Rickford (centre) in happier days, at funding announcement in 2009

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  • This news may fall under the category of “too little, too late” but it’s still progress; President Obama tweeted around pointed attack on the climate deniers in Congress. The link went to a page on his website headlined “Call out Climate Deniers in Congress”.  It reads:

The science on climate change is clear

But many members of Congress are in complete denial, and they’re standing in the way of progress.

We need to call them out.

Watch this embarrassing video – and join the fight to get serious on climate change:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/biUc0D6_UPA]

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Sweet!  Have a wonderful weekend.

Federal Government’s Gutting Of Environmental Protection Affects All Canadians

Here’s a brilliant clip put out by one of Canada’s largest unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). In less than two minutes the video manages to depict what the government of Stephen Harper is doing to Canada’ s environment (they’ve even taken the word “environment” out of the Environment Canada’s website – I wish I was joking!), as well as most Canadians’ reaction (stunned disbelief) to this descreation of our cherished land and water. For more information on the Harper government’s long list of crimes against the environment, and our children’s future, check out the links below the video.

The Harper government’s budget cuts target essential public services that ensure the health, safety and well-being of citizens. Impacted sectors include food inspection, aviation safety and security, environmental protection and employment insurance. We are all affected by these cuts.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/Stl8jkCNMhY]

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NOtothecuts.ca

ShitHarperDid.ca

Global Issues: Harper Government Guts Environmental Programs

Tory Government deletes references to “environment” on Transport Canada website

Environment Canada Name Stripped From Weather Website

*I’m on a road trip for the next few weeks, with Andrew Nikiforuk’s Energy  of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude tucked into my backpack and plenty of permaculture podcasts loaded on the IPod (and yes, I do realize the irony of taking Nikiforuk’s book on a road trip – but don’t forget I’m traveling in a fuel-efficient VW diesel Golf, which gets about 60 miles to the gallon on the highway). My internet access will be sporadic, so 350orbust will be in holiday mode, too, with some videos posted along with my regular weekend posts. Catch you later!*

What Up, Steve?

This is a Friday shout-out to all those Canadians who, like me, are fed-up with the undemocratic and oily ways of the Harper government. Thanks from this northern Ontarian to The Caravan, ahip-hop band based out of Halifax Nova Scotia for this music video. You can always head over to ITunes to thank them by dropping 99 cents their way.

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rz0GDSrkw-Q]

Millions of Canadian Taxpayer Dollars Are Spent On Tar Sands PR

Apparently the current federal government can’t afford to spend taxpayer money on climate action or giving affordable healthcare to the poorest and most vulnerable among us, refugees, but it can spend $9 million dollars on greenwashing the Alberta tar sands. That’s not my Canada!

graphic: Greenpeace
graphic: Greenpeace

Click here to tell Harper we need climate action, not public relations.

Limiting Scientists’ Free Speech: A New Canadian Tradition

Ah, Rick, I love you, and your honesty and willingness to use your celebrity status to remind Canadians what our nation has come to under Stephen Harper. Thanks!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=advh4xb6gRQ&feature=youtu.be]

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Wondering what all the fuss is about? Listen to Dr. Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist from the University of Victoria, discuss the current clampdown on Canadian scientists by the federal government:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUUVkW_mnlE&feature=youtu.be]

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More links:

Canadian Federal Research Deal “Potentially Muzzles” U.S. Scientist: Arctic Research Agreement Contains “Excessively Restrictive” Language

Prestigious Science Journal Slams Harper Government’s Muzzle on Scientists

Information Commissioner Called Upon to Probe “Muzzling” of Federal Scientists

It’s Not Working: A Wake Up Call For Baby Boomers

I was lucky enough to hear TEDx Vancouver when it was livestreamed in October. I knew then that I wanted to post Dr. John Izzo’s talk as soon as it was available on the internet; so here it is, The Defining Moment For A Generation-in-Waiting:

A provocative and passionate public speaker and thought leader, Dr. John Izzo consults and advises some of the most admired companies in the world. With a Masters degree in psychology and a Ph.D. in organizational communication, he has devoted his life and career to showing leaders how to create workplaces that bring out the best in people, and people who create the best workplaces. A best-selling author, he has taught at numerous prominent North American universities, and continues to conduct leading edge research on workplace values. Dr. Izzo believes our society is at a pivotal moment in history where a surprise group of people might be poised to lead us towards meaningful change… if they answer the call.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/_NxOoeEJmjQ]

IdleNoMore Idles On

Graphic: Earth Tribe- Activist News
Graphic: Earth Tribe- Activist News

The mainstream media speculates that IdleNoMore, the movement for indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice that swept across Canada in recent months has petered out. The Harper Conservatives in Ottawa desperately hope that it has, but the truth is more complicated. Like waves breaking on a shore, the IdleNoMore movement has receded for the moment, gathering power for the next wave that will break onto the shore of Canadian consciousness and politics.

Thomas King, author and professor of english and theatre studies at the University of Guelph, wrote and directed a video, Not The Indian You Had In Mind, that challenges stereotypes of First Nations people, and helps explain the roots of IdleNoMore, and why it will be back. Here’s a clip from the video. Follow the link below to watch the full 5 minute video on the National Screen Institute of Canada’s website.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/uquwv93c1_I]

Watch the full video here.

Meanwhile Chief Theresa Spence has not been idle since she ended her 45 day fast on January 23rd. This week at the 82nd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva Switzerland, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada filed an “Early Warning and Urgent Action” request. The request is in response to the majority government of Stephen Harper’s Bills C-45 and C-38, as well as the on-going issues of lack of adequate housing and safe drinking water in indigenous communities across Canada.

Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian government and the world will be paying close attention to the CERD’s consideration of a submission from the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the Mushkegowuk People of Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada filed last week under the CERD’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures,” IITC said in a statement, alleging that the bills—passed in June and December 2012—were put through without aboriginal consultation. The two bills, opponents claim, gut key environmental protections, in essence abrogating treaty rights. Bill C-45, by changing the way aboriginals can own land on reserves, also undermines treaties, opponents say.

Ron Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nations stated:

The world needs to know of the total disregard shown by this government toward the Indigenous Peoples of this part of great Turtle Island. When you disregard the sacred Treaties and continue to disrespect our Mother Earth and all of creation, including the sacred water which sustains all life on the planet, there is no way that Indigenous Peoples can stand back and do nothing.

Read more about this story on Indian Country Today Media Network and on NationTalk.ca.  On CBC.ca, check out Paul Martin Says Ottawa Has “No Understanding” Of Native Issues.

aaron paquette art.RISE

 
 
 

President Obama’s SOTU Sends Message To Canada: Act On Climate Change Or Get Left Behind

The times, they are a-changin’! Not only did President Obama speak clearly about the need to act on climate change in his State of the Union address earlier this week, yesterday on CBC Radio’s flagship supper-hour news show, As It Happens, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobsen was interviewed about Canada’s lack of action on climate change in light of President Obama’s commitment to action. Sadly, the same show also featured a conversation about an American scientist crying foul about the Canadian government’s attempt to muzzle him and his arctic research. the issue of government censorship is something that should concern all Canadians, not just climate activists; but let’s focus on the renewed energy on the part of the Obama administration to tackle the premier issue of our times (and yes, that pun was intended). This couldn’t have been predicted even during the election campaign, as there was a cone of silence over the whole issue of climate change. But all of us who want a stable climate, and clean air and water for our children and grandchildren, should be very vigilant – the dirty energy forces opposing the shift to clean renewable energy are powerful and will fight to the death to preserve their financial monopoly over energy production, no matter what the cost to humanity or the global ecosystem. Todd Smith’s new music video reminds us of this:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/d56faxnxII4]

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Click here to listen to the interview with Ambassador Jacobsen.

DeSmogBlog Canada: The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement: Part 1

Meanwhile:

jan 2012 to jan 2013 warmest ever

How Republicans (& Canadian Conservatives) Can Answer Obama’s Challenge To ‘Reduce The Threat Of Climate Change’

obama's state of the union.2013

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Citizens Climate Lobby:

In his State of the Union address, the President said, ‘If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations [from climate change], I will.’  Republicans who wish to avoid more regulations should embrace the free-market approach of a revenue-neutral tax on carbon.

Saying that “for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,’ President Obama used his State of the Union address to reaffirm his commitment to actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” said Obama. But with prospects appearing dim for legislation to price carbon, the President quickly added, “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

While the President did not spell out “the executive actions we can take,” many observers assume the centerpiece of that plan will be to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA has already formulated rules for new power plants that will virtually rule out construction of coal-fired facilities. The President now intends to regulate emissions from existing power plants, a move that may require the closing of many coal-fired plants and produce howls of protest from GOP lawmakers.

Republican efforts to block such regulations are likely to be a waste of time and energy, given the Supreme Court has already ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants.

Rather than curse the darkness, the GOP could light a solar-powered lamp. They can unleash the power of the marketplace to speed the transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean sources of energy. The mechanism to motivate that transition is a consumer-friendly tax on carbon that gives revenue back to households.

A number of conservative economists have endorsed this approach.

Art Laffer, President Reagan’s economic advisor has said, “By eliminating subsidies for all fuel types and making all fuel types accountable for their costs, free enterprise will make clear the best fuels for our future. Reduce taxes on something we want more of – income –and tax something we arguably want less of – carbon pollution. It’s a win-win.”

Greg Mankiw, economic advisor to President George W. Bush and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, also supports a revenue-neutral carbon tax, saying, “Economists have long understood that the key to smart environmental policy is aligning private incentives with true social costs and benefits.  That means putting a price on carbon emissions, so households and firms will have good reason to reduce their use of fossil fuels and to develop alternative energy sources.”

The concept behind the carbon tax is simple: Polluter pays. There are many costs to society not reflected in the price of fossil fuels. These include the health costs of respiratory problems induced by air pollution, military costs to secure the shipment of oil from the Middle East, and costs to repair damage from weather-related disasters that are becoming more frequent and destructive because of global warming. A tax on carbon begins to take these costs into account, ultimately making clean energy the cheaper and preferable option.

What would a simple and effective carbon tax policy look like?

  •   Start with a tax on coal, oil and gas of $15 per ton on CO2 that each fuel will emit when burned. The result at the gas pump would be an additional 13 cents per gallon.
  • Increase the tax by $10 a ton each year.
  • Implement the tax at the fuel’s first point of sale – the mine, wellhead or port of entry.
  • Take the revenue from the carbon tax, divide it equally among everyone in the U.S.,  and return it to consumers, preferably as monthly or quarterly “dividends.”
  •  To protect American businesses from unfair foreign competition, apply border tariffs on goods coming in from countries that do not have comparable carbon pricing.

The tax, which is imposed upstream at the first point of sale, will eventually be passed down to consumers. By returning revenue to households, we protect consumers from the economic impact of rising energy costs associated with the carbon tax. At the same time, these rising costs influence consumer choices, like making their homes more energy efficient or purchasing vehicles that are more fuel-efficient.

By motivating clean-energy investments in the private sector, federal subsidies to spur the development of solar, wind and other technologies will eventually be unnecessary. Yet another reason Republicans should want to embrace a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

The provision of border tariffs in such legislation does far more than protect American businesses. Republicans often reject national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the argument that our efforts will make no difference if other countries aren’t doing the same. Senator Rubio’s stance, reported in a BuzzFeed interview Feb. 5, is typical:

“Anything we would do on that would have a real impact on the economy but probably, if it’s only us doing it, would have a very negligible impact on the environment. The United States is a country, not a planet. If you did all these things they’re talking about, what impact would it really have?”

A border tariff would negate that argument. If companies doing business with the U.S. must pay a duty on carbon, trading partners like China and India will prefer that the revenue is deposited in their own treasuries rather than given to the United States. Carbon tariffs, thereby, become a strong incentive for other countries to follow the U.S. lead and implement their own carbon tax.

The President has made it clear that, one way or another, America will “respond to the threat of climate change.” The question is whether that response is through expansion of government regulations or through the power of the marketplace. Republicans, who abhor the former, should embrace the latter with a revenue-neutral tax on carbon.

Stop the phony ‘debate’ about climate science

Republicans would find it easier to discuss climate solutions if they accepted the conclusion of nearly every scientific study done on global warming: It’s happening, and human activity is the primary cause.

Senator Rubio, like a number of his colleagues, continually casts doubt on climate science with statements like this:

“Well, first of all, the climate’s always changing. That’s not the fundamental question. The fundamental question is whether man-made activity is what’s contributing most to it. And I understand that people say there’s a significant scientific consensus on that issue. But I’ve actually seen reasonable debate on that principle.”

Reasonable debate? Let’s direct the senator’s attention to the following pie chart:

Powell-Science-Pie-Chart

Jim Powell, who was a member of National Science Board for 12 years,[1] conducted a search of peer-reviewed climate change articles from 1991 to 2012. Of the 13,950 articles he reviewed, only 24 “clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming.”

The visual representation of Powell’s study should end all discussion. We must waste no more time debating the existence and cause of climate change. Attention must now focus on solutions.

Disasters awaken public to climate reality

At the beginning of the year, the U.S. government confirmed what most Americans already knew: 2012 was the hottest year our nation has ever experienced, shattering the previous record set in 1998 by a full degree.  That record heat contributed to a host of disasters that awakened many to the harsh consequences of a warming climate.

It started last year with wildfires in the West. Trees, ravaged by drought and insects thriving in warmer temperatures, became kindling for infernos that consumed more than 9 million acres across the U.S. In one horrific episode, a wall of flame swept into Colorado Springs and reduced 346 homes to ashes.

Then came the drought. At its peak last summer, 65 percent of the U.S. was experiencing moderate or worse drought conditions. The impact on the agricultural sector has been devastating, as corn crops withered and grass used to feed cattle fell into short supply. Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. estimated the drought reduced U.S. gross domestic product between 0.5 and 1 percent. Damage estimates range between $75 billion and $150 billion. Dust storms across the Great Plains conjure images of the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.

More and more Americans became aware that something was wrong last spring when record-breaking high temperatures in early March gave way to scorching heat in the summer. Jaw-dropping images of the record ice loss in the Arctic (at left) provided further evidence that our world is heating up.

Climate change really hit home, however, with the arrival in late October of Superstorm Sandy, which inflicted damage in excess of $60 billion. Recovery and cleanup efforts continue months after the storm roared ashore. The influence of global warming was evident in Sandy’s intensity, size and path.

Hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires are all naturally-occurring phenomena that happened long before the current rise in global temperatures. What’s different is that our weather is now “juiced” – much like a baseball player on steroids – by a warmer climate, increasing the odds that severe weather will strike with greater intensity. Climate Central has an excellent series of short videos – “Extreme Weather 101” – explaining the impact of climate change on drought, heat waves, snowfall and rainfall.

If this is what our world looks like with barely 1 degree Celsius of warming in the past century, what hellish future awaits us if average global temperatures climb 4 degrees C or   6 degrees C (11 degrees Fahrenheit), as a number of studies have predicted?

The longer we delay action to address climate change, the more difficult and costly it will be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that prevent us from breaching the 2 degress C threshold of global warming considered manageable by most scientists. Despite the toxic atmosphere in Washington, Democrats and Republicans must work together to enact legislation that will put a price on carbon, one that will speed the transition from fossil fuels to clean sources of energy.

arctic ice. 1980 and 2012


[1] First appointed by President Reagan and then by President George H.W. Bush.