University Sustainability Initiative Saves Climate And Its Bottom Line, While Canada’s Economy Suffers From Lack of Green Practices

New Jersey’s William Paterson University adopted a climate action plan in 2009 that puts the university on a path to becoming carbon neutral by 2065 – and to reducing their baseline by 50 percent by 2025. A cornerstone of that work is their 3.5 MW solar array that snakes around parking lots and buildings.

*Budget conscious universities take heed: the university has spent less than $250,000 on their energy reduction projects and has saved $10.5 million in energy costs. That’s a tremendous amount of saving for doing something that’s good for the planet and enrollment numbers.*

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Meanwhile here in Canada, thanks in large part to our federal government’s single-minded preoccupation with the exploitation of fossil fuel resources at any cost, our economy is expected to face “significant economic repercussions”  because of large-scale neglect of green practises. A Post Media article by Mike DeSousa states that a recent National Roundtable on Energy and the Environment (NRTEE) report asserts:

“Canada risks serious harm to its national economic interests by not proactively developing frameworks nor engaging in initiatives related to Life Cycle Approaches domestically and globally,” said the report.

It also warned that forcing companies to comply with regulations requiring a life cycle approach to their operations in a short time frame would require “larger and more immediate investments” to either respond or “risk losing market share.”

“This risk is real and Canada must act now to maintain its competitiveness,” said the report. Read more here.

No wonder the respected NRTEE’s entire budget was just cancelled by the Harper government, which has demonstrated a distinct penchant for shooting messengers. Interestingly, on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stated that the NRTEE’s demise was directly tied to its recent reports supporting a carbon tax, but the Harper government has been backtracking since then on Baird’s statement. But judge for yourself – Baird stated in the House of Commons:

“It  [the NRTEE] should agree with Canadians. It should agree with the government. No discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families.”

Wow – a carbon tax will “kill and hurt Canadian families”!  Has anyone told the citizens of Alberta and British Columbia this?  Time to head for the hills!

More links:

Power and Politics Video: Environment Panel’s End Blamed On Support For Carbon Tax

Pushing Carbon Tax Cost Research Agency Its Funding, Tories Confirm

Canadian Economy Facing “Significant Economic Repercussions” By Neglecting Green Practises

William Paterson Wins! Sustainability Initiative Boosts School Pride

Dear Mr. Harper

Canada’s Prime Minister Harper has been receiving messages about halting the expansion of the Alberta tar sands from far and wide this week.  First, it was the 400 Canadians who gathered on Parliament Hill this past Monday, 200 of whom put themselves on the line to get arrested, speaking out loudly and clearly for our children and grandchildren’s future.

On Thursday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu along with seven other Nobel Peace Laureates, wrote a letter to Harper calling on him to stop the tar sands expansion. On the same day, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, an arm’s-length government agency with nary a climate scientist among them, warned that Canadians face a high economic cost from the impact of a warming global climate, and the country should act quickly to reduce the financial price by investing in adaptation measures.

Also on Thursday, a group of Canadian researchers released a report which outlined a huge loss of ice in the Canadian Arctic this summer.

Two ice shelves that existed before Canada was settled by Europeans diminished significantly this summer, one nearly disappearing altogether, Canadian scientists say in newly published research.

The loss is important as a marker of global warming, returning the Canadian Arctic to conditions that date back thousands of years, scientists say. 

Individually, these messages are loud and clear.  Together, they are impossible to ignore. The question remains: is Stephen Harper listening?

More links:

Media Release: Nobel Peace Laureates Call on Harper to Stop Tar Sands Expansion

Canadian Ice Shelves Breaking Up At Record Speed: Region lost almost half its ice shelves in last six years

Economic Cost of Climate Change Will Be High

NRTEE’s Report: Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change For Canada

Hundreds Gather on Parliament Hill to Say “No” To Tar Sands

Deny This, Stephen Harper: Joint Initiative Reports on Climate Change

The effects of climate change on Canada in the next century will affect everything from human health and community infrastructure to water resources and even tourism and recreation activities, according to a newly compiled presentation of scientific research published yesterday. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society released the Degrees of Change diagram, an NRTEE compiled document which lays out potential effects of a changing climate on Canada at different degrees of warming. The impacts – 60 in all, based on documented scientific literature – are categorized into eight separate sectors and include; ecosystems, water resources, human health, communities and infrastructure, resource industries, service industries, security and trade and ice, snow and sea. The diagram is included in the October issue of Canadian Geographic and Géographica magazines, which are almost wholly devoted to climate change.

At two-degrees warming, for example, the diagram shows that summer Arctic sea ice extent could be halved, runoff in the South Saskatchewan River basin significantly reduced, and shipping through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway could become more costly due to lowering water levels. The two-degree marker is significant because Canada and other G8 nations have agreed to take measures to limit global temperature increases to no more than that level. However current Canadian policy under the Harper government is set to double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in a much higher rise in temperature. And we are currently experiencing global climate disruption at a temperature rise less than 2 degrees, surprising many scientists who study this issue at the rapidity of change.

NRTEE Chairperson Robert Page stated:

“Climate change is not just a theory. It’s taking place now.  That means we must go beyond cutting carbon emissions. We must start adapting our behaviour, our communities, and our economic activity to the emerging reality of climate change.

The diagram shows even more risks to Canada’s coastal communities, fish and wildlife habitat, and human health, if global temperatures rise beyond the two-degree point.

The diagram is meant to illustrate a range of possible impacts that are scientifically accepted and projected at this time. Some “positive” effects are documented, too – apparently Canadians will be able to golf more, but ski less.

The RCGS and NRTEE are sponsoring expert panel discussions and have collaborated with the RCGS’ Canadian Council for Geographic Education to produce an education resource package to be distributed to 12,000 middle and secondary schools across Canada highlighting the implications of regional and local impacts of climate change. Dealing with the impacts of climate change means educating our children, said RCGS President Gisele Jacob, who stated

The joint Climate Prosperity initiative with the NRTEE reinforces the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s educational role in fostering environmental stewardship in Canada. Education is key to widening public understanding of our changing climate, the impacts and adaptive solutions.”

To generate a national conversation on the impacts of climate change and potential solutions, the two organizations are hosting a series of panel discussions with leading Canadian experts over the next two weeks. The first will take place today from to 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Regional sessions will take place in Halifax on Oct. 13th, Montreal on Oct. 14th, Toronto on Oct. 18th, Vancouver on Oct. 20th and Saskatoon on Oct. 21st.

Those of us who don’t live within a reasonable drive of these cities will have to content ourselves with this month’s issue of Canadian Geographic – don’t forget to get your copy!

More links:

Canadian Geographic

Canadian Geographic – Degrees of Change

Climate Prosperity.ca

The Royal Canadian Geographic Society

Earthtimes.org