Good News About Climate Change – Really!!

More and more concerned and informed people around the world are becoming aware of the bad news about climate change – our polar ice caps are melting, carbon dioxide and other climate change-inducing emissions in our atmosphere are rising unchecked, our weather is becoming increasingly unstable and “weird”, political instability and wars over shrinking water and food supplies are a reality in Darfur and  are looming just around the corner for the rest of us, and the list goes on. As Energy Bulletin said recently:

How do we handle Peak Oil AND climate change? …You know we are going to run out of civilization’s life-blood: fossil fuels. And if we burn what’s left, the climate will tip into a mass extinction event. Meanwhile, barking madness seems to be the only growth industry. Is it time for more pills, booze, or end-time religion?

But before you throw up your hands in despair and/or seek refuge in the aforementioned escapes, let’s talk about the “good” news.  For example:

  • There is still time to take action and stop our race towards destruction; not an unlimited amount of time (7 to 10 years), but still enough time if enough good people work at it long and hard enough.  As Andrew Simms wrote recently on The Guardian’s “100 months to Save The World” blog:

Like a bad disaster film, the naysayers have been in charge over climate change. It’s not too late to rewrite the final scenes.

  • There is a precedent for the kind of global cooperation that is needed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The global community came together to address the danger to our ozone layer (with Canada under Conservative PM Brian Mulroney showing strong leadership) and the result was the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete The Ozone Layer in 1987. In this international agreement, CFC production was sharply limited beginning in 1987 and phased out completely by 1996. Scientists now report that the upper atmosphere ozone depletion rate has slowed down significantly during the past decade, although full recovery will take several lifetimes. We CAN do the same with climate change if the global community works together now, before the climate has reached the tipping point.
  • Another precedent is the retreat away from the brink of global annihilation due to nuclear war.  Who would have thought it possible, before it happened, that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled and the Cold War would end?  Yet those things did happen, and those of us who are concerned about climate change should take heart.
  • The financial meltdown in 2008 demonstrated that, when the political will is present, money can be found quickly and  directed at solving a global crisis. The money to save our failing economic system appeared at the speed of light, in political terms, because the cause seemed so pressing to those holding the government purse strings. When we persuade our elected leaders that climate change is THE pressing issue that humanity faces today, the same thing can happen with regards to funding solutions.
  • Energy and climate experts say the world already possesses the technological know-how for trimming greenhouse gas emissions enough to slow the perilous rise in the Earth’s temperatures. What is lacking is the political will.
  • If, on a global scale, our species gets together and addresses climate change effectively, the civilization and planet that we will leave for our children and their children will be much safer, more humane, and more democratic. The air and water will be cleaner, our forests will be protected and cherished, our cities will be more livable, and our whole way of life will be based on sustainable principles.

If you need more hope than I’ve given you here, I recommend reading “The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need” by Calgary author Chris Turner.  Turner was inspired by the birth of his young daughter to spend a year traveling around the world exploring what sustainability really means.  As Turner writes in the introduction to the book:

Life is not an either/or proposition, and it’s always a bit melodramatic to reduce it to any single choice. Still, this is as close to the fundamental crossroads as humanity’s ever come, and the implications of our choice of path are global in scale and monumental in impact…

The front pages of the newspaper may look like bad news, an ominous and intractable mess – storm clouds on the horizon, the four horsemen at the gate – but the back pages and the margins are filled with solutions. Tools and technologies, organizations and ideas – everything we need to avoid catastrophe. And they lead to a better way of life. That’s maybe the most surprising, electrifying thing about this geography of hope: it beats what we have now, even if our climate wasn’t compelling us to change.

The world we need: it all exists. It only took a year to find. And anything that exists is possible.

To be part of the generation that beat climate change: this is possible.

Here is Chris Turner in Calgary, the heart of Alberta oil country, giving a talk entitled “The Great Leap Sideways” (via ZeroCarbonCanada’s website):


Good News – Ontario Poised to Phase-out Coal Completely

Back in 2001, Ontario’s Liberal government passed legislation to eliminate the first coal-fired power plant by 2005. Once this was accomplished, a second goal was set to shut down the 4 remaining coal generating stations in the province by 2014. This coal phase-out is the single largest greenhouse gas emission reduction initiative in North America – equivalent to taking almost seven million cars off the road. For more on why it is so important to stop using coal as an energy source now, go to

The Ontario Clean Air Alliance recently published a report that points out that Ontario has a significant surplus of coal-free generating capacity now and could finish the coal phase out in 2010, four years ahead of schedule.

Given that Ontario’s coal-free generation capacity now exceeds our peak day demands by more than 18%, we no longer need our dirty coal plants to meet North American reliability standards. Nevertheless, according to the Ontario Power Authority, we need to retain some of our coal capacity on standby reserve until December 31, 2014…

The report concludes that:

By achieving a virtually complete coal phase-out before this summer’s G20 Summit in Toronto, Ontario can protect public heath and provide climate change leadership to Canada, the United States, China and the World.

Ontario has emerged as a North American leader as it moves towards more sustainable ways of generating electricity, particularly after the Green Energy Act was passed last spring.  The GEA proposes to double renewable power generation in Ontario by 2015, to create thousands of “green” jobs, and to cut the bureaucracy around new alternative energy initiatives. Let’s hope that the Ontario government keeps up its push towards green energy and away from carbon emissions that endanger the health of its citizens and the planet, and follow the OCAA’s recommendations.

To read the Ontario Clean Air Alliance Report in full, click here.

To read more about the Green Energy Act, click here to go to the Ontario Ministry of the Energy and Infrastructure website. Go to for an analysis of it by Ontario environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe.

To send a message to Premier McGuinty encouraging him to continue down the road to sustainability by following the OCAA’s recommendations, you can call him at 613-736-9573 or
send him a fax at 613-736-7374. His email address is:

To send the same message to Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, email him at: You can reach him by phone at 416-615-2183, or fax him at 416-615-2011. *Correction – my original post cited George Smitherman as the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, but he has resigned and is now running for Mayor of Toronto. Thanks to a reader, Richard, for pointing out this error.*

Toronto Lagerwey Wind Turbine

More “It’s Snowing So Global Warming Must Be a Hoax” Headlines

Last month when the U.S. and Europe were brought to a standstill by brutal winter weather, there was a proliferation of posts on the blogosphere of contrarians shouting “It’s cold! It’s cold!  Whatever happened to global warming??”.  The eastern U.S. has just been slammed with snow again, and it seems these same people are at it again,too.  As I wrote then:

Some of these denialists really don’t get it!  Well, some of them do know better and just want to obscure the issue (check out the DeSmogBlog for more info on this); but a lot of them just haven’t done the research that is required to become better informed on this issue.  This is what scares me about their nonsense – these “it’s unusually cold therefore climate change isn’t happening” people are simply trying to out-shout the scientists who have studied this topic in depth.  It’s the Fox “News” approach to the most important issue humanity has ever faced – don’t do your homework, just shout louder than your opponent.

What is important to remember is that as more and more climate change-inducing emissions accumulate in our atmosphere (such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) and form a warming “blanket” on the earth, our climate will become more and more unstable and unpredictable. The result will be more and more instances of extreme winter weather like parts of the world are now experiencing.  There will also be more droughts, hurricanes, etc.  That is one of the reasons that Former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern, recently revised his initial estimate that failure to act urgently on climate change would cost between 5 to 20 percent of global GDP, up to 50 percent or higher (a third of the world’s wealth).

Meanwhile, in the Arctic, The National Snow and Ice Data Center recently reported that “Arctic sea ice extent at end of December 2009 remained below normal, primarily in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic. Average air temperatures over the Arctic Ocean were much higher than normal for the month, reflecting unusual atmospheric conditions”.

Click here to read the full post from January 7th,  “Cold Snap “Proof” that Climate Change Not Happening?”.

  • But in the “good news” column, amidst the snow storm, the Obama adminstration has announced that it will be forming a new agency to monitor climate change. The announcement was made jointly by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jane Lubchenco.  NOAA will set up the new Climate Service to operate in cooperation with NOAA’s National Weather Service and National Ocean Service. Locke said at a news conference this week:

Whether we like it or not, climate change represents a real threat. Climate change is real,  it’s happening now.

Locke went on to say that  climate information is vital to the wind power industry, coastal community planning, fishermen and fishery managers, farmers and public health officials.

Click here to read more on Huffington

  • Another piece of good news is that the British Columbia government has rejected pressure from mining companies and announced this week that no mining, oil or gas development or coal-bed gas extraction will be allowed in the Flathead Valley in southern British Columbia.  The pristine area borders on a World Heritage Site, B.C.’s Waterton Park and Glacier park in Montana.  The government has said it will, instead, build a new “creative economy” around clean technology, innovative forestry industries and tourism.

Click here to read more.

Here’s a neat time lapse video of the recent snowfall in Washington D.C . posted by YouTube user “amandareckonwith“. Although for those of us on the Canadian prairie a snow storm is not as much as a novelty as it is, perhaps, for those folks in D.C.!

Some Good News To Bring In The New Year

I’m always happy to read some positive news, especially at the close of 2009, after world leaders failed to reach a real and binding climate change treaty at the Copenhagen summit. If you, too, need some good news, click here to read about the Top Ten Good News Stories of 2009, from the U.S.-based Good News Network.

While there aren’t many good news climate-change stories out there right now, you can click here to read about the top 9 eco-stories of 2009 (that have nothing to do with climate change) from Mother Nature News.

On the good news/climate change front, here, from Climate Change News,  is an interpretation of the Copenhagen Conference that asserts that Copenhagen was a triumph for those of us concerned about climate change, not a disaster.  Click here to read the article.

And more on the potentially good news front from Bill McKibben’s blog on, from December 21st:

But–good news today. 100 groups have today endorsed the petition filed with the United States Environmental Protection Agency by and the Center for Biological Diversity (which did almost all the work). The petititon asks the EPA to set the official safe air quality standard for the US at 350 ppm co2. Since carbon dioxide is a globally mixed gas, it’s not quite like the other pollution the act usually regulates this way–but it turns out there are provisions in the law which make it possible for America’s environmental regulators to figure out what the country’s contribution to a safe atmosphere should be.

Click here to go the Center for Biological Diversity’s web page and read more about the campaign and see the list of groups who’ve signed on.

Hope you enjoy these good news stories – and if you know of more, please let me know!  Anyway, Happy New Year!  Here’s to saving ourselves from ourselves in 2010!