While this is officially a memo to America, I’d say the rest of us should pay attention, too. Especially here in Canada where our current federal government has officially tied our national climate policy to that of the United States. Until, of course, President Obama started taking actions to reduce CO2 pollution. Since then, Stephen Harper’s government has stopped talking about being in lock step with America.
President Obama is frustrated with Senator Inhofe and his ridiculous snowball, and the other Republicans blocking progress on climate change.
“Look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act,” Obama said, pitch and volume rising. “The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day, and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate! It is crazy! What about our kids?! What kind of stupid, short-sighted, irresponsible…”
In his final press conference of 2014, President Obama spoke frankly about the so-called “benefits” to Americans of the Keystone XL pipeline. He points out it’s Canadian oil being transported over the United States to be sold on the global markets, with very little benefit to U.S. consumers. It’s good for the Canadian oil industry but doesn’t even nominally benefit Americans at the gas pump. President Obama also lists the climate-change related costs, such as rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and more wildfires and floods, that should be taken into consideration. It’s very refreshing (albeit long overdue) to hear the President of the United States being honest about this project and the mounting cost of climate change.
(And this final 2014 press conference President Obama called exclusively on female reporters for questions, which started a twitterstorm of debate. Nicely played, Mr. President.)
President Obama also weighed in on the controversial Keystone XL during his visit to the Colbert Report earlier this week.
The full segment is below; the Keystone XL conversation starts at 11:40 and runs to 13:20.
“Keystone is going through an evaluation process. Right now it is being held up by a court in Nebraska which is making a decision about whether the route is legal or not.
In the first instance, I don’t make the decision or not. The State Department evaluates it. What I’ve said I’m going to make sure that if we look at this objectively, we’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change. Because these young people are going to have to live in a world where we already know temperatures are going up and Keystone is a potential contributor to that. We have to examine that, and we have to weigh that against the amount of jobs that its actually going to create, which aren’t a lot. Essentially this is Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market. It’s not going to push down gas prices here in the United States. It’s good for Canada; it could create a couple of thousand jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline. But we have to measure whether it’s going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet, which could be disastrous.”
This exchange took place in the Canadian House of Commons yesterday:
Mr. Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay—Superior North, GP):
Mr. Speaker, two of Canada’s greatest challenges are rising CO2 and growing poverty. The Conservative government has not addressed either one.
Proposed by the Citizens Climate Lobby, carbon fee and dividend would address both by setting a fee on carbon to curb our petrol addictions and putting that money straight back into the pockets of each and every Canadian.
Will the Minister of Finance please consider carbon fee and dividend?
Mr. Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that our approach is working. Thanks to our actions, carbon emissions will go down close to 130 megatonnes from what they would have been under the Liberals.
What does the other parties want? They want a $20-billion carbon tax. Let us look at what this would do to hard-working Canadian families. This would be a tax on electricity, transportation, heating for their homes, clothes, groceries, and the list goes on. Canadians do not want more taxes. They do not want a $20-billion carbon tax.
We are going to continue with our approach.
The Canadian federal government seems intent on maintaining the status quo, and claiming to take action on climate change with sector-by-sector regulation which doesn’t even apply to the oil and gas industry.
As a Canadian and a mother concerned about climate change, I don’t find your regurgitated talking points reassuring, Mr. Carrie. Canada can do better.
Here’s what President Obama said in an interview with Thomas Friedman on Showtime’s Years Of Living Dangerously segment that aired yesterday:
The way we’ve solved previous pollution problems like acid rain was we said, “we’re gonna charge you if you’re releasing this stuff into the atmosphere. We’re gonna let you figure it out, but we’re gonna to tell you that you can’t keep dumping it out in the atmosphere and making everybody else pay for it.” So if there is one thing I would like to see, it’d be for us to be able to price the cost of carbon emissions.
Here’s a clip of part of the interview:
Mr Carrie and his leader might want to pay attention to what the President of the United States of America says about climate change. Stephen Harper and his government have always linked Canada’s policy to that of the U.S. – at least as long as the U.S. wasn’t taking a leadership role. It seems the U.S. is changing its tune but Mr. Harper’s still singing from the old songbook.
Thank you, President Obama, for using your “bully pulpit” to publicly confirm the accuracy of climate science. Now, what the world needs is action based on the science, not business as usual:
As President Obama unveiled his plan of action to address climate change earlier this week, my husband and I were part of a group of 370 citizen lobbyists from across the U.S. and Canada who fanned out over Capitol Hill to make the case for the market-based approach of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What a whirlwind of a week! While I can’t say that we solved the climate crisis, I can tell you that our meetings with 435 congressional offices, the World Bank, the IMF, and the Canadian Embassy are shifting the conversation about pricing carbon pollution.
In his speech at Georgetown University to debut his climate plan, Obama announced that he would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.
Mark Reynolds, Executive Director of Citizens Climate Lobby responded to President Obama’s speech by emphasizing the conservative nature of a straightforward carbon tax:
“The President is making good on his State-of-the-Union promise to address climate change, when he said, ‘If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will’. We’re here to tell Congress there’s still time for them to act, particularly if they want to avoid the use of increased regulations to reduce heat-trapping gases. The clock has started on the process that will eventually result in the use of EPA regulations to reduce carbon pollution in the energy sector. Is this what Republicans want? Or would they prefer using a market-based solution that speeds the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy?”
A number of conservative economists, including Reagan advisor Art Laffer and Romney advisor Greg Mankiw, have backed a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most efficient and effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They maintain that carbon-based fuels enjoy an advantage over clean technologies because their costs to society – health, security and environmental – is not reflected in the price that’s paid for them. Correcting this distortion would allow the market to function properly and reduce the demand for fossil fuels.
“We believe this solution – a tax on carbon that gives all the revenue back to the public – could be embraced by conservatives, especially as an alternative to government regulations. That’s the message our volunteers are taking to Republican offices today.” Mark Reynolds, Executive Director, Citizens Climate Lobby
Citizens Climate Lobby wrapped up a three-day conference today with hundreds of volunteers conducting meetings with 439 House and Senate offices.
“The President’s speech couldn’t be better timed,” said Reynolds. “It gives Republicans a good reason to take a serious look at a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Like objects in a passenger-side mirror, the tipping point for a carbon tax might be closer than it appears.”
In case you missed President Obama’s awesome speech, here it is:
Is the Keystone XL pipeline really what President Obama wants to leave as his legacy, for future generations to remember him by – and curse him for?
Meanwhile climate destabilization continues as unabated as our carbon dioxide emissions:
- Czech PM Declares Emergency As Floods Threaten Prague: Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas declared a state of emergency for most of the nation on Sunday as swollen rivers caused by days of heavy rain threatened Prague’s historic center and forced evacuations from low-lying areas.Prague authorities limited public transport and planned to close underground stations in the center of the city as water from the Vltava River overflowed into picturesque areas popular with tourists. The main train line connecting the capital and the east of the country was also shut. Click here to read full story.
Rising waters from the Danube, Ilz and Inn rivers have inundated parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic after days of heavy rainfall. Emergency operations are under way to deal with record levels of flooding in some areas, as landslides have killed at least nine people, with many more still missing. Click here to see pictures.
- Meanwhile it’s so dry and parched in Texas even the dead can’t rest quietly: …Across South Texas, the drought scorched front yards, dried up lakes and forced Corpus Christi into water restrictions. But one of the unexplored consequences has been the drought’s effect on cemeteries. Once serene sanctuaries, these final resting places now show signs of distress from too little rain.
Sections of Rose Hill Memorial Park where Matson’s parents are buried are patchworks of cracked dirt and weeds. In Seaside Memorial Park, where slain Tejano star Selena Quintanilla lies in rest, scattered live oaks that once provided shade have died and started to shed their bark. Click here for the full story.
As U of Ottawa climate scientist Paul Beckwith tweeted this morning:
At the present time we humans are behaving like brainless frogs. Frogs, it turns out, don’t remain in water being heated to the boiling point unless their brains have been removed.
It’s always enjoyable (and all too rare!) to share good news, and I’m pleased that there’s some to share on this, the last Friday in April:
- The Ontario government under newly elected premier Kathleen Wynne announced on Wednesday that it will be partnering with the government of Manitoba and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) to keep the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in northwestern Ontario open. The federal government of Stephen Harper made the controversial decision last year to withdraw funding and shutter the 40 year-old world-renowned freshwater research station. As the SaveELA website describes,
“Studies conducted at the ELA have provided sound scientific knowledge for the development of environmental policies both nationally and internationally. Some key areas of influence have been in understanding and managing algal blooms, acid rain, climate change, mercury pollution, greenhouse gas fluxes from hydroelectric reservoirs, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”
I understand that ELA scientists were gearing up to study whether or not emissions from the Alberta tar sands reached beyond that province’s borders. While carefully worded, the press release from the Ontario government does seem to underscore the importance of science to their government, in contrast to the anti-science bent of the Harper Conservatives. It will be interesting (in an appalling way, I’m sure) to see the spin Greg Rickford, the increasing elusive CPC Member of Parliament for the region (and my own MP) puts on the whole ELA disaster when he attempts to run for re-election in 2015. Here’s part of what the Ontario Government press release said:
Experimental Lakes Area is a one-of-a-kind, freshwater research region in northwestern Ontario that attracts scientists from across Canada and around the world.
The important science and research performed in this area informs our pollution reduction strategies, our understanding of climate change and how we can protect our lakes and rivers here in Ontario, across Canada and around the world.
Supporting science and research is part of the new Ontario government’s plan to build a fair, prosperous Ontario for the benefit of all. (Click here for full press release)
Kudos to Diane Orihel, who got the Save The ELA campaign off the ground last summer, and to Peter Kirby, the Kenora lawyer who has been working tirelessly to keep the momentum going when Diane pulled back to finish her studies. And of course Dr. David Schindler, the founder and former director of the ELA, has been a tireless and outspoken advocate for the ELA and against this reckless decision. A friend and fellow environmental activist wrote yesterday, “I’m in a bit of a shock because we actually succeeded” but it may still be too early to break out the champagne. As Dan Lett wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press yesterday, there are still stiff obstacles to overcome – mostly in Ottawa – before the ELA is secure. I’ve got my fingers crossed!
- This news may fall under the category of “too little, too late” but it’s still progress; President Obama tweeted around pointed attack on the climate deniers in Congress. The link went to a page on his website headlined “Call out Climate Deniers in Congress”. It reads:
The science on climate change is clear
But many members of Congress are in complete denial, and they’re standing in the way of progress.
We need to call them out.
Watch this embarrassing video – and join the fight to get serious on climate change:
Sweet! Have a wonderful weekend.
We act not because it’s easy, but because it’s right.
Thousands of people are gathering in Washington DC today to send a message to President Obama that clean air, clean water, and a stable climate are not negotiable – the Keystone XL Pipeline must not be approved.
The times, they are a-changin’! Not only did President Obama speak clearly about the need to act on climate change in his State of the Union address earlier this week, yesterday on CBC Radio’s flagship supper-hour news show, As It Happens, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobsen was interviewed about Canada’s lack of action on climate change in light of President Obama’s commitment to action. Sadly, the same show also featured a conversation about an American scientist crying foul about the Canadian government’s attempt to muzzle him and his arctic research. the issue of government censorship is something that should concern all Canadians, not just climate activists; but let’s focus on the renewed energy on the part of the Obama administration to tackle the premier issue of our times (and yes, that pun was intended). This couldn’t have been predicted even during the election campaign, as there was a cone of silence over the whole issue of climate change. But all of us who want a stable climate, and clean air and water for our children and grandchildren, should be very vigilant – the dirty energy forces opposing the shift to clean renewable energy are powerful and will fight to the death to preserve their financial monopoly over energy production, no matter what the cost to humanity or the global ecosystem. Todd Smith’s new music video reminds us of this:
DeSmogBlog Canada: The Resurgence of an Evolving Climate Movement: Part 1