“If the Climate Were a Bank, You Would Have Already Saved it”

If the climate were a bank you would have already saved it.” These were Hugo Chavez’s words at the Copenhagen summit. It’s December 18 and the last day of the international climate summit has arrived. Negotations are in disarray, and it seems that no agreement will be reached. News headlines today read “Disappointment, Disarray” and “Movement But No Breakthrough“. And for its efforts to stall a real deal,  Canada has won the “Colossal Fossil” Award from NGOs and Environmental Groups who said:

“Fossil of the Year goes to CANADA, for bringing a totally unacceptable position into Copenhagen and refusing to strengthen it one bit. Canada’s 2020 target is among the worst in the industrialized world, and leaked cabinet documents revealed that the government is contemplating a cap-and-trade plan so weak that it would put even that target out of reach.

…This government thinks there’s a choice between environment and economy, and for them, tar sands beats climate every time. Canada’s emissions are headed nowhere but up. For all this and more, we name Canada the Colossal Fossil.”

In contrast, here are some voices from Copenhagen speaking out to save the planet:

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wadehe:

Africa is physically threatened. You can see coastal erosion, the fact that lake Chad has shrunk, the Congo basin — a true lung of humanity — has been massacred by European operators…the Sahara desert which, like a steamroller advances toward the south on a broad desert band.

Airam Ramesh, Indian Environment Minister

By trying to shake Kyoto, they (rich nations) are trying to shake one of the basic pillars on which the world had resolved to fight climate change.” (Canada is one of the few industrialized nations whose official policy is to strike down the Kyoto Protocol.)

American Senator John Kerry:

“If (former Vice President) Dick Cheney can argue that even a 1 percent chance of a terrorist attack is 100 percent justification for preemptive action, then surely, when scientists tell us that climate change is nearly a 100 percent certainty, we ought to be able to stand together…and join in an all out effort to combat a mortal threat to the life of this planet.”

*Heavy sigh* What is a concerned citizen of the planet to do? When all else fails, turn to comedians to provide much-needed perspective. At least we’ll do down laughing! In that spirit, check out this “moment of clarity” from funny guy Lee Camp, entitled “God Promises a 30% Increase in Global Warming by 2012 While at Copenhagen Climate Conference“:

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.

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

Read moreCopenhagen Day 7 – The Earth Needs Our Prayers

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

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!

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

Read moreOpen Letter to Canadians on Faith and Climate Change

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 350.org website to find or organize a Vigil for a Real Deal during the Weekend of Action December 11 – 13, do so now!

“Truthiness” about Global Warming Rampant

“Global warming” is the phrase of the decade, the Global Language Monitor declared this week.  Also making the top 25 words of the decade is “truthiness“.  This word was coined by political satirist Stephen Colbert to describe the  fondness for appeals to emotion and gut feeling, rather than facts, in contemporary political discourse.  He particularly applied it to the Bush administration’s penchant to make public statements that sounded true but contained little factual information, and even untruths.

Unfortunately, truthiness is rampant right now over climate change/global warming.  Websites such as “Friends of Science” and astroturf groups like “Information Council for the Environment” or the “National Resources Stewardship Council” have a truthiness ring to them.  The trouble is, “Friends of Science” is not a friend of science but is funded by oil and gas companies.  And the only resources that the National Resource Stewardship Council is worried about stewarding are those of those same oil and gas companies, which fund it as well.

Articles on climate change, whether on news websites or in local and national newspapers, are followed by a flood comments from deniers making unsubstantiated and misleading statements.  In response, I noticed a comment recently saying “Can anyone respond to this article, or only lobbyists?”

Don’t doubt that there is a war being waged right now for the hearts and minds of citizens in industrialized countries.  There are companies with extremely deep pockets who are very invested in maintaining the status quo.  They got rich by exploiting our dependence on fossil fuels, and they’d like to keep it that way.

But don’t take my word for it.  Whenever you hear a discussion/rant on climate change, make sure before you believe everything you are being told that you take the time to consider the background of the person or institution offering the information. Do the vast majority of the world’s scientists really have a conspiracy going to fool the rest of us?  Or are there vested interests out there willing to put time and money into confusing the issue?  If you want to investigate further,  DeSmogBlog is a good place to start, as are OpenSecrets.org and ClimateSight. But don’t take my word for it – check into it yourself!