Bracing For Disappointment As Durban Climate Talks Begin

The annual circus round of global climate talks starts on Monday in South Africa. I wish I was feeling more optimistic about the possibility of elected politicians to come to an agreement that would preserve an admittedly changed, but still relatively stable climate, for future generations. As the IEA reminded us recently, we have five years left. If nothing changes by 2017, if we don’t revolutionize energy systems, if  countries can’t agree on a global climate deal, global warming will breach the 2 degrees Celsius barrier and we will be locked into runaway climate change.

As I type this, I’m bracing myself to listen to our federal “Environment” Minister Peter Kent on CBC radio’s The House. Sure enough, he starts by bashing the Kyoto Accord, and then goes on to cover Canada’s inaction on climate change with the fig leaf of wanting “all the world’s emitters” to be part of an agreement. The Kyoto Accord, as Evan Solomon points out, was a binding agreement, unlike Copenhagen. In response, Mr. Kent feels that Canada is “well on its way” to meeting its (unacceptably low) 2020 targets. Then he pulls out that old chestnut, that Canada represents only 2% of the world’s emissions (yes, Minister Kent, but we emit much more per capita than any other country except Australia). He doesn’t have a plan to reveal on how Canada will meet the rest of the (unacceptably low) 2020 targets, but says they will be revealed “over time”.  The federal environment watchdog has pointed out that the federal government’s approach is disjointed, but Mr. Kent defends the Harper government’s piecemeal, half-hearted approach. In conclusion, Mr. Kent’s ideal outcome for the Durban conference is for a “modest” but non-binding agreement that includes “all emitters”.  Not surprising that this environment minister, who doesn’t understand what ozone is yet has slashed funding for this crucial environmental monitoring, also doesn’t have a clue about the urgency of the climate crisis (although you’d think he’d at least read the International Energy Agency’s reports, coming as it does from a petroleum industry watchdog, as opposed to anything that scientists or environmentalists produce which Kent’s ideological bent would disallow).

I fear what we will see in Durban is many politicians but few leaders, even as we teeter closer to the precipice of global climate catastrophe.

Durban COP17 Resources:

Allianz Knowledge, an insurance and financial giant, has excellent resources for understanding climate change in general, and the U.N. climate talks in general:

Are Durban Climate Talks Worth the Bother?

Politicians Need To Listen To the People, Not the Polluters

The House: November 26, 2011

Hamilton: Fiscal Challenges? Maybe It’s Time To Reconsider a Carbon Tax

“With Renewable Energy You Can Do Impossible Things”

I think it’s time for good news for a change, don’t you?  First, let’s recognize that it’s day 81 of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, and that results of that catastrophe, on the people and the environment, are just beginning to be felt. But today I’m going to talk about bright spots on the green horizon – because there are some!  For example:

  • Yesterday in Payerne, Switzerland a solar-powered plane landed after a 26 hour record-breaking flight. The pilot, Bertrand Piccard, said:

There is a before and after in terms of what people have to believe and understand about renewable energies,

He went on to say that the flight was proof new technologies can help break society’s dependence on fossil fuels.

When you took off it was another era,” said Piccard, who achieved the first nonstop circumnavigation of the globe in a balloon, the Breitling Orbiter III, in 1999. “You land in a new era where people understand that with renewable energy you can do impossible things.”

Click here for the full story.

And while we are discussing solar, some good news on my family’s steps towards generating some “green” energy. This week, our 20-year old roof shingles were replaced to prepare for the 6 – 7 Kilowatt solar panel system that will be going up sometime in the next few weeks. We have applied, and been accepted into, the Ontario microFIT program. I will share more info, and pictures, as the project progresses.

  • And in other good news, one year after a ban on lawn pesticides in Ontario, surface water is much cleaner. It only makes sense, but it’s nice to have confirmation that legislation like this can make a dramatic difference in just twelve months. From

68 stream water samples were taken over 2008 and 2009, representing the water quality before and after the ban took effect. Sampling points were selected in areas mainly influenced by residential run-off — away from golf courses, sewage treatment plant effluents, and agricultural applications. The samples were analyzed for 105 pesticides and pesticide degradation products.

The results are dramatic: three pesticides estimated to account for half of lawn care product applications dropped by 86% (2,4-D), 82% (dicamba), and 78% (MCPP: 2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid). On the other hand, concentrations of glyphosphate (Roundup) and carbaryl did not drop significantly. The results for glyphosphate (Roundup) are attributed to continued use of this pesticide in certain exempted applications. The carbaryl results are not explained; perhaps this is due to the persistence of carbaryl in sediment.

Go to for the full story.

  • A third independent inquiry into the so-called “Climategate” scandal that was headline news all over the climate skeptics blogs six months ago has, once again, cleared the scientists of any wrong-doing. Muir Russell, the author of the third report, said clearly “Their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt.”Yet the blogosphere remains strangely quiet on the matter, except those who are claiming (yet another) conspiracy.  To read more, check out “Third Inquiry Clears ‘Climategate’ Scientists of Serious Wrongdoing” at Here’s a bit of what it says:

Climategate, as its “gate” suffix suggests, has attained mythical status. For skeptics, the 1,000 or so e-mails and documents hacked last year from the Climactic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia (UEA), in England, establish that global warming is a scientific conspiracy. There is no such proof. Here’s what happened.

And then a brief synopsis of events leading up to the latest inquiry is given, including Sarah Palin’s damning (and now, clearly completely inaccurate) opinion piece in The Washington Post that asserted “leading climate ‘experts’ deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to ‘hide the decline’ in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals.” The Newsweek article concludes by pointing out the muted response by the media and blogosphere to the news that there was no conspiracy on the part of climate scientists, compared to the blaring headlines touting a conspiracy when the story initially broke:

But, as NEWSWEEK’s Sharon Begley pointed out, the retractions of the original “smoking gun” stories have been muted. Climategate, now a firmly established “gate,” will probably continue to be cited as evidence of a global-warming conspiracy. Indeed, the reaction to the report today has been somewhat odd. Bloomberg News’s headline was ‘Climategate’ Scientists Wrongly Withheld Data, Probe Finds‘*. It is inflammatory and misleading—the report did not say that information was withheld. It said that the scientists could have been better at responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, and generally, as Begley also noted, more open to scrutiny.

Go to for the full story

*Interestingly, if you click on this link to, the story headline is now changed to “Climategate Scientists Cleared Of Manipulating Data”

Related links:

Tell Obama to Put Solar on the White House

And, for those of us not in the United States, go this link and ask YOUR leader to put solar on his/her home this year:

Put Solar On It

“We’re Not Doomed, We’re Just In Big Trouble” – Gwynne Dyer On Global Instability And Climate Change

“Recent scientific evidence has…given us a picture of the physical impacts on our world that we can expect as our climate changes. And those impacts go far beyond the environmental. Their consequences reach to the very heart of the security agenda.”

Margaret Beckett, former British foreign secretary

This is the quote that opens Gwynne Dyer’s book, Climate Wars. Mr Dyer is a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian. In 2010 he received the Order of Canada. His website summarizes his career this way:

Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.
His first television series, the 7-part documentary ‘War’, was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80s. One episode, ‘The Profession of Arms’, was nominated for an Academy Award.  His more recent television work includes the 1994 series ‘The Human Race’, and ‘Protection Force’, a three-part series on peacekeepers in Bosnia, both of which won Gemini awards.  His award-winning radio documentaries include ‘The Gorbachev Revolution’, a seven-part series based on Dyer’s experiences in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 1987-90, and ‘Millenium’, a six-hour series on the
emerging global culture.

So, what does Climate Wars have to say about the challenges the world faces in the coming decades, thanks to the grossly inadequate response of most governments to the threat that it poses? Some of the expected consequences of runaway climate change in the decades ahead are dwindling resources, massive population shifts, natural disasters, spreading epidemics, drought, rising sea levels, plummeting agricultural yields, devastated economies, and political extremism. Any one of these could tip the world towards conflict. Mr. Dyer points out that the military forces of both the United States and Britain have taken this threat seriously for years, although under George W. Bush’s presidency,  it was dangerous to one’s career to be seen treating climate change as a real and serious phenomenon. Despite that, the Pentagon hired the CNA Corporation to study the geopolitics of climate change. The resulting report, produced by the CNA Corporation in collaboration with eleven retired three- and four-star generals, was issued in April 2007 and is titled National Security and Climate. In that report, General Anthony C. Zinni, former commander-in-chief, U.S. Central Command, wrote:

You already have great tension over water [in the Middle East]. These are cultures often built around a single source of water. So any stresses on the rivers and aquifers can be a source of conflict. If you consider land loss, the Nile Delta region is the most fertile ground in Egypt. Any losses there [from a storm surge] could cause a real problem, again because the region is so fragile.

We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll. There is no way out of this that does not have real costs attached to it.

For more of Gwynne Dyer on climate change, check out these videos or go to CBC’s website to listen to Climate Wars.



Weak, Ineffective Government Policies Behind Canada’s Low Ranking On Environment

In 2009, Canada was at the bottom of 57 industrialized countries in the Climate Change Performance Index (only  Saudi Arabia was ranked lower). A ranking of Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries by environmental record places Canada at the bottom, ranking 24th out of 25 countries, ahead of only the United States. The top ranking countries are Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

In a new study conducted by Simon Fraser University and the David Suzuki Foundation that examines the reasons behind Canada’s poor environmental record shows that weak government policies are behind Canada’s poor environmental record, not the country’s cold climate and large size. The news release states:

The study is one of the first ever to examine the reasons for Canada’s poor environmental performance. Factors such as Canada’s cold climate, large size, and heavy reliance on natural resource industries were examined and found that none explain Canada’s poor performance.

“The traditional explanations for Canada’s poor performance are simply not valid,” says Dr. Thomas Gunton, lead author of the study. “These so-called natural disadvantages are offset by a major natural advantage we have over other countries — the availability of low polluting hydro power.”

The research shows that if Canada’s environmental policies were strengthened to the level in other developed countries such as Sweden and Denmark, Canada’s environmental ranking would move from 24th to 1st.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s the 21st Century – let’s move towards the future with hope, secure in the knowledge that we are being good stewards of this beautiful country. We need to formalize in government policies the reality that endless growth is not possible on a finite planet. Nor is endlessly pouring toxins into our environment possible without paying a high price sooner or later. Right now, there are 170 square kilometres of toxic tailing ponds sitting in Alberta’s boreal forest, generated by the dirtiest project on earth, the tar sands. Where, oh where, are politicians and leaders with vision?


Canada’s Cold Climate No Excuse For Poor Environmental Record.

The full report, “The Maple Leaf in the OECD” is available by clicking on the title.

Activists Demand End to Fossil Fuel Subsidies, Call For Clean Energy Now

Thursday June 17 was a Global Day of Action in the lead-up to the G8 meetings in Muskoka (June25-26)  and the G20 summit in Toronto (June 26-27). Around the world, activists called on world leaders to invest in the future by tackling climate change, fighting poverty and inequality, and rethinking the global economy.

From the tcktcktck website:

Toronto, Canada is the site of the G20 and played host to the main action of the day. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chair of the G8 & G20 Summits, has said that ‘climate is a sideshow’. With that in mind, event organizers decided to make Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper the star of his own sideshow.

In a parade through Toronto’s bustling financial district, “Prime Minister Harper” led a group of his favourite banker buddies in a series of joyful dances as they handed out billions of Canada’s brand-new ‘billion’ dollar bills. In their wake, they left a messy crowd of oil-drenched citizens being cleaned up by taxpayers. This peaceful and vibrant anchor event was designed to send a clear message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Stop dancing around the issues and put climate change on the agenda of the G8/G20.

Here’s a video of the Toronto event:


More links:

Watch an interview with Robert Fox, Director of OxFam Canada, on CTV TV

Oily Activists Demand Clean Energy” Toronto Sun

G20 Day of

Louisiana Congressman Melancon on BP Mess: “Everything I Know And Love Is At Risk”

While testifying at a subcommittee meeting on the Gulf oil catastrophe, Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon showed a candor and depth of genuine emotion rarely seen in today’s superficial, sound-bite dependent political climate.  He opened his brief statement by rattling off a list of disasters his constituents have endured and went on to chastise those engaged in political posturing:

“I’m sick of it,” Melancon said, saying later “Our culture is threatened. Our coastal economy is threatened. And everything that I know and love is threatened.  Even though this marsh lies along coastal Louisiana, these are America’s wetlands.”

At that point, overcome by emotion, Congressman Melancon could not continue.

Congressman Melancon’s reaction should be the reaction of each of us, as we see what our addiction to fossil fuels is doing to the Gulf coast, and to the planet.  His words are what echo in my mind when I contemplate the future we are bequeathing to our children. Our culture is threatened, our economy is threatened, everything we know and love is threatened.  The time to take action is now, while there is still time to salvage some of what we know and love!


Click here to go to or  Kick The Fossil Fuel for ideas and information about how we can turn this around, for everything and everybody we know and love!

Climate Change Denier Christopher Monckton’s Fabrications Eviscerated By University of Minnesota Professor

From Climate Progress, Professor John Abraham’s step-by-step deconstruction of one of the most famous of the anti-science deniers, the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, a.k.a Lord Chris Monckton:

The number of errors Chris Monckton makes is so enormous it would take a thesis to go through every single one of them.”

Click here to see the slide presentation of Professor Abraham, where he addresses Monckton’s talks, slide by slide, and shows how erroneous his assertions are, and how he twists the data of real scientists. A must-see!

Meanwhile down in the Gulf of Mexico BP still can’t say whether the oil will stop after it’s latest attempt to stop the underground volcano. Here’s a video from Greenpeace USA taken last week showing the extent of the disaster at that point, and hundreds of thousands more gallons have poured into this fragile ecosystem since then.


Click here to go to 1,000,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling’s “Write a Letter to the Editor” action page to make your voice heard against Big Oil’s push to “Drill Baby Drill”.

The BP Disaster Illustrates The Problem is Oil, The Solution Is to Break Our Addiction

It’s time we kick the fossil fuel habit – melting ice caps, global weather weirding, and now the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico make this clear.  And then there’s the economy, which, according to our esteemed Prime Minister Stephen Harper, trumps everything, as if there isn’t a planet to live on when we’re finished extracting resources like we were liquidating a business!   With all due respect, Mr. Harper, it’s time to start fighting climate change now while we still have an economy to fight it with!

The Daily Kos put it this way:

[Louisiana Governor] Jindal probably likes the sound of his voice when he says he has a solution to dealing with this leak, but the fact that his solution is such utter nonsense underscores this one central, immutable fact: oil is dangerous, and there’s no way to make it safe. Yes, we’re addicted to it. No, we’re not going to stop using it overnight. But we must break that addiction. And if don’t learn that lesson from this tragedy, we’re going to be taught it again, and again. And each time the consequences will keep on getting worse.

Click here to read the full Daily Kos post.

Here is a video on how badly BP has dealt with the protecting the Gulf coast after the disaster – with a warning, there is very crude language in this video but many of us feel that kind of outrage when we see the @!!@@ mess in the Gulf – all done in the name of making an almighty dollar!


Read more:

Conservative Economics, The Windmill Technique, and Climate Change“. Father Theo’s

Join the FaceBook Group “1,000,000,00 Strong Against OffShore Drilling”

Click here to go to the Live Oil Spill Camera.

Conservative PM: “I Want This To Be The Greenest Government Ever”

Unfortunately for Canadians, it’s not our tar-sands loving Conservative Prime Minister making this bold statement.  It’s David Cameron, the new Conservative Prime Minister of Britain.  His coalition government just committed itself to the 10/10/10 campaign, pledging to cut carbon emissions by 10% in the first 12 months of the new government. Here is more of what he said:

I don’t want to hear warm words about the environment. I want to see real action. I want this to be the greenest government ever… I intend to make decisions put off for too long to fundamentally change how we supply and use energy in Britain… To give the power industry the confidence it needs to invest in low carbon energy projects.

Despite the desperate deniers claims to the contrary, climate change is not an issue on the left or the right of the political spectrum. Back in 1990 British Conservative PM Margaret Thatcher, who worked as a research chemist before becoming a tax lawyer and then politician, gave her first speech on the need to address climate change in 1988, to the British Royal Society.  She told the assembled scientists that three changes in atmospheric chemistry needed their attention:  greenhouse gases, the hole in the ozone layer and  acid emissions from power plants. She said these issues warranted not just good science to resolve uncertainties but also government action to diminish pollution and promote sustainable development. Later, in 1990, Thatcher addressed the 2nd World Climate Conference, saying:

…the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.

… But of the other greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is by far the most extensive and contributes about half of the manmade greenhouse warming. All our countries produce it…

These figures underline why a joint international effort to curb greenhouse gases in general and carbon dioxide in particular is so important. There is little point in action to reduce the amounts being put into the atmosphere in one part of the world, if they are promptly increased in another…”

Click here to read the entire transcript of her speech.

Meanwhile, Canadians are saddled with a minority Conservative government that is becoming increasingly isolated internationally because of its intransigence on the issue of climate change and its support of the “dirtiest project on earth”, the Alberta tar sands. Harper recently dismissed everything, including climate change, as “just noise” next to the economy.  Harper and his buddies just don’t get it!  If you have an economy built on unsustainable principles, it’s going to get “noisier and noisier” until the noise of global climate instability and environmental degradation costs so much to deal with, in economic as well as human terms, there isn’t any “economy” left standing.

There are some Conservatives, like David Cameron, who believe in conserving the planet as well as the economy.  Harper, listen up! Margaret Thatcher, Conservative to the core of her being, put it this way:

“In recent years, we have been playing with the conditions of the life we know on the surface of our planet. We have cared too little for our seas, our forests and our land. We have treated the air and the oceans like a dustbin. We have come to realise that man’s activities and numbers threaten to upset the biological balance which we have taken for granted and on which human life depends.

We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavours have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.”


To sign a letter to Prime Minister Harper to protect Canada’s biodiversity, click here.

To learn more about Bill C311, the Climate Accountability Act, which Harper and his Conservative party oppose, click here. To encourage all Senators to pass this bill, click here for sample emails and email addresses, and other contact info.

We Have Better Choices Than “Drill Baby Drill”

The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” Utah Phillips

The magnitude and the potential for ecological damage is probably more great than anything we’ve ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico.” Nancy Rabalais, a scientist who heads the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, on the BP/Transocean oil rig explosion. Click here for more information on the impact of the spill on the Gulf’s ecosystem on Think Progress’s “The BP Oil Spill’s Toll on Gulf Coast Wildlife: All Bets Are Off.”  To get a sense of the magnitude of the disaster, click here to go to The Atlantic for “If You Think You have a Sense of the Oil Spill’s Scale”  which allows you to overlay a scaled representation of the Deepwater Horizon spill onto a Google Earth view of any city or region you choose.

The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico shows clearly what our fossil fuel addiction is doing to our planet (if climate change and widespread loss of biodiversity isn’t obvious enough!). This could be a pivotal moment, however, when we finally turn from our addiction to filthy fuel and embrace clean energy. There are much better ways for us to get our energy – but Big Oil & Gas don’t want to wean themselves off their addiction to billions and billions of dollars in profit every year, so they are very invested in the status quo (and don’t forget we, the taxpayers, subsidize these companies to the tune of $500 billion dollars a year!). But there is a cleaner, greener way!

I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ’til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Thomas Edison

“The world’s deserts can supply energy for every conceivable demand by humankind.” Dr. Gerhard Knies

Rather than continuing to base our economy on a finite supply of dead things, we can base it on sources that are practically infinite and eternal: the sun, the moon and the Earth’s inner fire.” Van Jones

From “Friends of The Earth”: