It’s Time To Stop Spinning Our Wheels On Climate Change

Much of the UN climate negotiations that went on in Copenhagen in December, 2009 was just so much hot air and spinning of wheels without any movement towards a liveable planet and a sustainable future for our children.  But maybe things are changing. Recently a new bike innovation, called the Copenhagen Wheel, has been introduced, which might help this very green city reclaim it’s well-deserved reputation as an environmental leader. The Copenhagen Wheel, which is being touted as a way to help its namesake city become carbon-neutral by 2050,  is a collaboration between MIT, the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Ducati Energia. Michael Lemonick over at Adventures In Climate Change had this to say about it recently:

Here’s how it works: you replace the rear wheel of your bike with the Copenhagen Wheel, which houses both an electric motor and a regenerative braking system that feeds power to the battery when you pedal backward to slow down. But (as they say on low-budget TV commercials) that’s not all! The wheel is Bluetooth-enabled, so you can use a smartphone to lock and unlock your bike, change gears and decide how much of a motor assist you prefer. You can also call up real-time information about how many calories you’re burning—and, thanks to built-in sensors, you can call up information about conditions around you, including temperature, humidity, noise and even nitrogen oxide pollution.

Check it out:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN7oLQezqqE&feature=player_embedded]

More links:

The World’s Smartest Bike

 

Calling Prime Minister Harper On Climate Change

I just found this great video on the Facebook site “Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament”, and traced it back to the  blog “I Phone The Prime Minister of Canada Everyday” right here on WordPress.com.  Check out this hilarious video that blogger Hinson Calabrese from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia recorded, and then head to his blog for more.  It’s wonderful political commentary and a call to political action at the same time:

Non-binding Climate Deal – The Planet Will Have to Wait

The news out of Copenhagen is not good, despite President Obama’s positive announcement of a deal before he left yesterday. And Stephen Harper called it a “comprehensive and realistic” agreement. That tells me that Canadians and the planet are the losers. Read more analysis of it on CBCThe Guardian and The Toronto Star.

Meanwhile, I’m stepping into my fossil-burning vehicle for a 5 1/2 hour drive home for Christmas. While I drive, I will be thinking about the festive season and love for family and friends that is expressed in Christian parts of the globe at this time. Yet, we in “christian” North America and Europe are the ones that have created the bleak future for our children and grandchildren, and many generations after that. If we can’t collectively wean ourselves from the “heroin” of fossil fuels that we are addicted to, the gift we are giving them is bleak indeed. If Canadians and other citizens of democracies truly understood what was at stake, there would be no way in hell that our leaders would have gotten away without a real, binding treaty in Copenhagen. I’m convinced that we love our children more than our fossil-fuel burning cars and carbon-dependent ways. And the crazy thing is, we shouldn’t be in the position to have to chose between them. There is a better, greener way – our leaders just aren’t showing it to us.

This video reminds us what is at stake:

One Day Fast for Global Climate Justice

350.org is calling on people in the developed world to fast for 24 hours on Thursday, December 17 as part of the movement calling for strong climate action by world leaders. Their website asks us in the developing world to stand with those are already suffering from climate change:

We will fast voluntarily, for one day on Thursday, in solidarity with the millions who have and could lose their lives to preventable and involuntary hunger, disease and conflict resulting from climate change.

We call on world leaders for a real climate deal now–a deal grounded in science and strong enough to get us back to 350.


Click here to go to the 350.org website to pledge your participation.

350.org is also asking people to call their leaders to tell them the world needs a science-based treaty to get emissions in our atmosphere at 350 ppm or below – click here to find out how to do this.

An Open Letter to the Canadian Opposition Parties

This week, Canadians and the rest of the world found out that the Conservative minority government is considering allowing the oil and gas industry in Canada to significantly increase emissions in the next decade, rather than cut emissions. Here is what CBC, which broke this story, reported on Monday:

For example, the proposal suggests that the oil and gas industry would have to cut 15 megatonnes of emissions, rather than 48 megatonnes under its Turning the Corner plan.

It also says projected growth in greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands in northern Alberta will be 165 per cent by 2020 and proposes to cut that growth — not emissions — by 10 per cent.

This is a really BIG deal. This minority government, with strong ties to Alberta’s oil barons, is abusing its position to sacrifice Canada’s future for short-term financial gain. As I quoted yesterday, “real Conservatives would be working to conserve all that is good about Canada, not just rich people’s money”.  If Canadians understood what this policy means for us and our children, there would be rioting in the streets. There is NO WAY that we would stand for it.

It is the role of the opposition parties to oppose government policies and let Canadians know how these policies will impact us. Yet where are those opposition voices on this, the most crucial issue that Canadians will ever have to deal with? Our future, and the future of our children and grandchildren, hangs in the balance. Canadians are an intelligent, caring bunch. None of us would support a policy or a government that threatened our children’s health and happiness. Where are the voices that should be telling us this?

Micheal Ignatieff seems to be missing in action. Mr. Ignatieff, the Liberals are not going to win a landslide in Alberta anyway – your party is ideally situated to be voicing strong opposition to this dirty Alberta tar sands and the weak Conservative climate policy that they are responsible for.

Mr. Layton – where is a strong NDP voice on this? Your party should be standing for the average Canadian – the vast majority of us don’t work in the oil and gas sector. Why haven’t we heard a lot more about Bill C-377, The Climate Change Accountability Act? This was your private member’s bill, and according to your website:

Today, with the passage of NDP Leader Jack Layton’s private member’s bill, The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-377), Canada’s House of Commons has become the first elected chamber in the world to adopt science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent, from 1990 levels, by 2050.

“This is a world first,” said Layton. “Our legislation sets tough but achievable targets that will ensure Canada does its share to avoid the dangerous two-degree increase in average global temperature that scientists warn us about.”

Yet this bill was passed a year and a half ago – the Harper government is ignoring it, and Canadians aren’t hearing anything about this. Please, educate us about this bill and hold the government’s feet to the fire. They are ignoring the majority-determined will of Parliament.

And Elizabeth May – why, oh why, did you run in an unwinnable riding in the last election? We badly need your intelligent and articulate voice in Parliament on this issue. It looks like you have a better chance in the next election – godspeed!

While the Afghan detainee issue that is dominating the news and parliament hill these days is important, and the government should be held accountable, how much more important is this issue? Opposition parties, wake up! Please LEAD in this issue – Canadians are desperate for a strong voice in this, whether or not they realize it.

Day 9 – Canada Solidifying Its Reputation As An International Pariah

Canada is already feeling the effects of climate change.  In British Columbia, hot summers and mild winters have led to an unprecedented infestation of the mountain pine beetle – destroying $6 billion worth of trees. The infestation is now spreading across the provincial border to Alberta.In Ontario, Lake Superior fell to its lowest recorded level in September 2007, and the water level in other Great Lakes has also been affected by higher temperatures. A drop of 0.08 – 1.18 metres in the Great Lakes water levels will cost the hydroelectric industry $240 – 350 million each year.  On the prairies, according to Natural Resources Canada, “Increases in water scarcity represent the most serious climate risk in the Prairie provinces.” Droughts will lead to billions of dollars in economic losses.

Yet, the Harper Conservatives have chosen to completely ignore the advice of their own experts. Going into Copenhagen the Conservatives’ plan for responding to this looming national and international crisis was pretty pathetic. It was bad enough that their position was weak to begin with, with Harper and Environment Minister Prentice making it sound like their offer of a 3% reduction below 1990 in Canada’s greenhouse gases by 2020 was reasonable, while what will save us from catastrophe is nothing less than a 40% reduction. The Harper Conservatives also repeated that they could do nothing without the Americans (so much for Canadian sovereignty!). This stance is interesting because several provinces, including British Columbia and Quebec, have formed their own responses to climate change without the federal government because they can’t wait any longer!

But now, instead of the pathetic 3% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that the Conservatives put forward, CBC News has revealed that the Conservatives have considered abandoning some of the greenhouse gas reduction goals set out in its 2007 green plan and allowing weaker targets for the oil and gas sector! Click here for the full story.

As James Hoggan points out in DeSmogblog. com, Canada has already earned international humiliation in Copenhagen as a country that is lobbying AGAINST a reasonable agreement. Thanks to the actions of the Harper government and their obstructionist stance on climate change, there is a movement afoot to kick Canada out of the Commonwealth. This is Canada we’re talking about, not the former apartheid regime in South Africa or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, in whose company Canada would be if this movement succeeds. Dozens of representatives of developing countries leave the room when Canada speaks these days. Canada has already been awarded 4 “Fossil of the Day” awards in Copenhagen, more than any other country.

Canada’s regressive behavior on this issue has even caught the attention of the pranksters “The Yes Men” whose latest hoax was a news release stating that Canada was now committed to reducing emissions by 40%. This was followed by several other fake releases that included comments from a member of the Ugandan delegation praising Canada’s decision. A third (fake)release followed, purporting to be from the Canadian government saying that the previous releases were spoofs, but then provided a “quote” from Prentice:

It is the height of cruelty, hypocrisy, and immorality to infuse with false hopes the spirit of people who are already, and will additionally, bear the brunt of climate change’s terrible human effects. Canada deplores this moral misfire.”

Click here to read about it on The Yes Men website, and here for the CBC coverage.

The Canadian government’s behavior is more than embarrassing, it is shameful. I am upset that Canada is becoming an international pariah because of the Harper Conservatives  failure to do what’s good for the whole country now and in the future, because they can’t see past Alberta oil money. As Brian Gordon stated recently on  InformedVote.ca:

Real Conservatives would be working to conserve all that is good about Canada, not just rich people’s money.

Call or write your MP, and let them know that you want Canada’s reputation to be an enlightened, progressive one again, not one that makes us an international pariah and the butt of jokes.

Voices From The Brink – Copenhagen Day 6

Day 6 of the UN Climate Change talks in Copenhagen. Here are some voices that are trying to be heard as humanity stands on the precipice of global disaster:

Antonio Lima, of Cape Verde, the vice chair of Alliance of Small Island Nations (AOSIS), said climate change was a looming disaster for the poor — like the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius 2,000 years ago that buried the Roman city of Pompeii. He said

They did not know what they were facing. Now we know what is going to happen. It will be the planet Pompeii.”

Former Canadian Olympic skiier Thomas Grandi delivered a letter from 20 Olympic athletes to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s constituency office in Calgary this week. Grandi stated:

Clearly we have seen changes and there’s been a few seasons in the last decade where the whole schedule has been up in the air because there hasn’t been snow where traditionally there has been snow.”

In their letter to the Prime Minister, the athletes warned that outdoor sports such as skiing and snowboarding, which are part of Canada’s winter heritage, are being threatened.

Author, activist, and co-founder of 350.org Bill McKibben wrote in “The Physics of Copenhagen: Why Politics-As-Usual May Mean the End of Civilization”:

When it comes to global warming, however, this is precisely why we’re headed off a cliff, why the Copenhagen talks that open this week, almost no matter what happens, will be a disaster. Because climate change is not like any other issue we’ve ever dealt with. Because the adversary here is not Republicans, or socialists, or deficits, or taxes, or misogyny, or racism, or any of the problems we normally face—adversaries that can change over time, or be worn down, or disproved, or cast off. The adversary here is physics.

McKibbon goes on to say:

And here’s the thing: physics doesn’t just impose a bottom line, it imposes a time limit. This is like no other challenge we face because every year we don’t deal with it, it gets much, much worse, and then, at a certain point, it becomes insoluble—because, for instance, thawing permafrost in the Arctic releases so much methane into the atmosphere that we’re never able to get back into the safe zone.

Click here to read the whole column at Grist.org.

This is the Weekend of Action for a Real Deal – go to 350.org and find a vigil near you. Join this weekend’s global actions and candelight vigils.

Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done

Check out this video – part of the “Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done” Earthkeepers campaign. Earthkeepers was started by the Timberland company, which manufactures outdoor boots, shoes and gear.  The Earthkeepers website states:

We at Timberland started Earthkeepers because we love the outdoors. Making outdoor boots, shoes and gear is what we do for a living. No more outdoors means no more living. For us—or anyone else. Of course, we realize that by making our products, we’re part of the problem. We believe it’s time for companies, like ours, to take a look at how the way they do business affects the environment and do something about it.

The campaign encourages people to get involved by signing an online petition urging leaders to take action in Copenhagen by setting emissions targets. Earthkeeper wants citizens of the world to tell those world leaders, “Don’t Tell Us It Can’t Be Done” because it can!

Watch the video, and then go to  this link to sign the petition.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vo6UQQnzo8]

Fourteen Days to Seal History’s Judgement on this Generation

Published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages, the editorial 14 Days to Seal History’s Judgement on This Generation, is a call for action from world leaders on climate change:

Today 56newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action,  climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear.

Read moreFourteen Days to Seal History’s Judgement on this Generation