Premier Charest: “We Have to Lead By Example” On Climate Change

Quebec premier Jean Charest has emerged as a North American leader on climate change.  He is one of  only a handful of elected politicians who are speaking out strongly and eloquently about the reality of climate change.  Charest has nearly 3 decades of experience in Canadian politics, serving as a Member of Parliament from 1983 to 1998, holding such portfolios as Minister of the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister before becoming leader of the Quebec Liberal Party in 1998.  He has been premier of the province since 2003.

While in Copenhagen in December, Charest strongly denounced Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stance on climate change.  As reported in the Canadian Press on December 22, 2009, Charest tore a strip off of the federal government’s environmental performance.

In 25 years in politics, Charest says, he’s never seen a federal government rely so heavily on the White House before taking a position on an issue, with Ottawa now saying it will model its climate policy on Washington’s.

Charest says the Harper government has displayed hostility toward environmentalists.

Charest was referring to the incident in Copenhagen when Harper press secretary Dimitri Soudas accused Canadian environmentalist Steven Guilbeault – on camera – of being behind a spoof designed to embarrass the Canadian government .  The American pranksters The Yes Men later took responsibility for the stunt.

“You saw it like I did,” Charest told the Quebec television network [TVA].

“His press secretary attacking an environmentalist – on the basis of false information.”

Here is Jean Charest speaking at the Subnational Leadership – Beyond Cap and Trade, an event in Copenhagen co-hosted by the Georgetown Climate Center and the Climate Registry.

Post-Copenhagen – What Now?

It’s been 4 days since the historic UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ended. The general consensus among those concerned about the future of the planet, and the impact of man-made emissions on it, seems to be that Copenhagen was a failure (see my posts here and here).’s David Roberts has written a comprehensive discussion of the conference, Copenhagen: a look back at the most striking narratives, that is worth a read. He discusses why it is significant that it was leaders, and not their negotiators, that were “up in it” the last few days of the conference. He also looks at China’s obstructive role in the process, why the UN may not be the best place to advance this cause, and the role of the U.S. Senate now. He has this to say about looking forward from here:

“What came out of Copenhagen is nothing but a faint promise. To make it something real, much less what’s needed,  will require intense pressure from civil society, elites, businesses, enlightened governments, and ordinary citizens. And guess what? If there is a robust, legally binding treaty signed in Mexico next year, with sufficient targets and timetables … intense pressure will still be required.

This will be a century-long fight. If the green movement is going to sustain itself over time, it might be wise to try to avoid the emotional roller coaster of “last chances” and “historic failures.” That’s a recipe for burnout. There will be no cathartic moment, no final breakthrough, only a war of inches won by sheer persistence and creativity.”

So, relax and enjoy the holiday season and bring in the New Year with gusto. Recharge your batteries (sustainably of course!), and don’t despair (that’s a luxury we can’t afford right now). There’s more work to be done in 2011!

Copenhagen Day 7 – The Earth Needs Our Prayers

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Copenhagen and around the world this weekend, holding signs that read “There Is No Planet B”, “The World Wants A Real Deal” and “Bla Bla Bla Act Now”,  sending leaders a message that people want a real, binding, and enforceable agreement on climate change. Grown men cried in the UN meetings, pleading for a deal that would save their island nations. The World Council of Churches is calling on churches around the globe to ring the alarm on climate change by ringing their bells  350 times at 3:00 pm local time. As today is Sunday, a day traditionally set aside in North America for spiritual reflection and renewal, I thought it would be appropriate to repost Brian McLaren and Tim Costello‘s Prayer for the Earth.

A Prayer for the Earth

Most gracious God, creator of all good things, we thank you for planet Earth and all creatures that share it.

Have mercy on us, Lord. Through ignorance and carelessness we have poisoned clean air and pure water. For monetary gain we have reduced verdant forests to barren wastes. In our craving for more we have plundered your beloved creation and driven many of our fellow creatures to extinction. Only recently have we begun to realize the dangerous future into which our current patterns of consumption and waste are driving us, especially in relation to Earth’s climate. Only recently have we begun to see our need to find a wiser and better way of life in the future, before it is too late and our choices are limited by the consequences of inaction.

We who join in prayer today believe the time has come, Lord. Please guide us now, our God, at this critical moment in history, to better fulfill our role as stewards of this fragile planet. Guide the leaders of nations who will gather in Copenhagen on Dec. 7. Give them courage to set noble goals that reach beyond short-range political expediency, short-term economic profit, and short-sighted self-interest. Impress upon their conscience our sacred duty to bequeath to our children and grandchildren a healthy and thriving environment rather than a world in climate crisis.

The World Wants A Real Deal Candlelight Vigil

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Musings from a Mom on Climate Change

Day 4 into the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, and my initial caption for my posting today was going to be “Living in the Age of Stupid”.  But as I began to write, I remembered that this is the Weekend of Action for a Real Deal around the globe.  Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and grandparents around the world will be gathering en masse to send our leaders a message that the world needs real, binding, and ambitious agreement.  While there are incredibly diverse ways of being human, we have this in common. We are all someone’s son or daughter.  Many of us also have children of our own. My daughters are why I can’t give in to pessimism and hopelessness.  They are worth fighting for.

Recently, I’ve heard skeptics argue that  “fear mongering” regarding the dire planetary emergency we are in should set off warning bells. Fear = untruth seems to be their argument. As a parent, I know when fear is a healthy thing to employ. When my daughters were younger, if one of them went too near a hot stove, I didn’t stand back and point out to her that 1% of people who have touched a hot stove believe that it isn’t harmful. If one of them went near the edge of a precipitous cliff, I didn’t stand back and engage her in debate about the odds of surviving a fall.

California’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger explained it like this:

If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say ‘No, he doesn’t, he is fine,’ I will go with the 98. It’s common sense—the same with climate change. We go with the majority, the large majority.”

"I'm with Stupid" Snowmen

Without Vision We Perish

The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is in its third day, and so far there’s been enough drama, accusations, and threats to put a soap opera to shame. It would be entertaining, if the health of our planet didn’t hang in the balance. To read more of the details, check out this link or this one.  In thinking about what is at stake, consider these voices that are being drowned out by the drama:

  • In Copenhagen this week, in response to the proposal from developed nations of $10 billion dollars a year to combat climate change, Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, the head of the 135-nation bloc of developing countries, said.

If this is the greatest risk that humanity faces, then how do you explain $10 billion?Ten billion will not buy developing countries’ citizens enough coffins.”

Remember, to date, over $1 trillion dollars has been spent on rescuing financial institutions!

  • Joshua Mukusya is a Kenyan farmer who, 30 years ago, set up the Utooni Development Project (UTP) to help rural families improve food and water security by terracing land, building sand dams and planting trees. The UDP’s motto is “Without Vision We Perish”.

For Mr. Mukusya and other Kenyan farmers, climate change is not a debate, it’s a reality.  These subsistence farmers are trying to adjust to the negative effects of climate change, but it is difficult. Mr. Mukusya states:

The climate is changing—it is very clearThe majority of people here have no resources to cope with the situation. If we don’t make changes, we cannot survive… For us, this is a matter of survival. God created abundant land. We need to find solutions to the destruction we have made for ourselves.”

Africa, the world’s poorest continent, is most at risk because of climate change, yet it is the one that has contributed the least to global warming. To hear more about the situation of Mr. Mukusya and other African farmers, check out the video below.  “Taking the Heat” is a Canadian Foodgrains Bank video about African agriculture and climate change:


Climate Inaction Costs Lives

Greenpeace sent a message from the Parliament buildings to the Canadian government as well as opposition parties today, as the UN Climate Change Conference begins:


Send your own message to Prime Minister Harper, Environment Minister Jim Prentice, and/or your own member of parliament.  And don’t forget the opposition leaders, either!

Time for New Thinking on the Climate Crisis

The UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen begins today!  If you are the praying sort, take time today to send a prayer that scientific and moral values will prevail, and our children’s future will be preserved.

Here’s a short video that won the Ecospot Video Grand Prize:


And after you’ve watched it, if you are the emailing sort, contact your elected representative and let them know that you want a real deal in Copenhagen.  Let’s stop ignoring the 1.2 billion elephants in the room!

And if you’re ready to be inspired to more action, click on this link or go to #2 on my video list on the right to hear Al Gore’s address at TED in March 2008. Thanks to Krystofer for bringing this to my attention!

Open Letter to Canadians on Faith and Climate Change

Mardi Tindal is the Moderator of The United Church of Canada. The Hon. David MacDonald chaired the House of Commons Committee on the Environment from 1989 to 1993. Both will attend the COP 15 UN meetings on Climate Change in Copenhagen. In this open letter to Canadians, they explain why the Copenhagen Conference is a place where faith and science must meet.  Here is an excerpt from their letter.  To read the complete letter, click here.

We believe the United Nations Climate Change Conference is a place where faith and science must intersect.

These talks will almost certainly determine the fate of coming generations. The future of our children is at stake. Finding a way forward will require that we attend to the best science available, so we are firmly grounded in reality. But it also demands that we recognize the spiritual values that have guided humans for centuries so we can work toward a vision of wholeness.

Science tells us what is and, given certain parameters, what will come to be. Spiritual values teach us what ought to be. Only the two, working together, can see us safely through this perilous time.

Winter Trees

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Rising Temperatures, Rising Seas

Today on CBC Radio’s National Science Show Quirks and Quarks the topic will be “Rising Temperatures, Rising Seas“.  Sea levels have already risen 20 cm over the last 100 years, and are predicted to rise up to a meter over the next 100 years due to climate change. As the Quirks website states:

this increase in sea level would have vast impacts around the world, especially in heavily populated low-lying river deltas, like those in Bangladesh, China, southeast Asia, Egypt, the southern US and British Columbia.

Click here to listen to the program, or tune in to CBC One at noon today if you are in Canada.

If you haven’t already checked out the website to find or organize a Vigil for a Real Deal during the Weekend of Action December 11 – 13, do so now!