I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Monday, November 30, 2009

I Don't Really Need To Add Anything

This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I've broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto. 
So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.
Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.
In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada's obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.
The purpose of Canada's assault on the international talks is to protect this industry. This is not a poor nation. It does not depend for its economic survival on exploiting this resource. But the tar barons of Alberta have been able to hold the whole country to ransom. They have captured Canada's politics and are turning this lovely country into a cruel and thuggish place.

Munk Debate Tomorrow: December 1, 2009

C02 levels in the atmosphere are climbing steadily higher. Some believe this is having a devastating effect on humans and nature, while others argue that the threat has been overstated. Is this the moment for a bold international treaty to curb carbon emissions? Or, are the social and economic costs of reducing C02 emissions too high in world where a billion people live on a dollar or less a day?

Just days before the United Nation’s historic Copenhagen summit the Munk Debates will tackle one of the great public policy questions of our time: how should the world respond to climate change?
Elizabeth May, George Monbiot, Bjorn Lomborg  and  Nigel Lawson will debate climate change.

Sign up for a FREE webcast  on December 1, 2009 at the above site: look for the Webcast Signup icon.

It should be interesting.....
UPDATE:  You can still view the debate via a podcast from the above site.

Sunshine and Power

The BBC News states that “the cost of installing and owing solar panels will fall even faster than expected. ….solar panels would be cost-competitive with energy form the grid for half the homes in Europe by 2020 –without a subsidy.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8386460.stm
Arise Technolgy, a company dedicated to becoming a leader in high-performance, cost-effective solar technology, was offered $ 80 million in financing by the German government in 2008 to locate a factory in Germany.  Part of this money was in the form of a grant to Arise.  Where are the Canadian government's incentives to alternative energy companies?  Why wouldn't Canada want a company like Arise creating jobs here? Why wouldn't we be investing in clean power instead of protecting the interests of big oil?

The federal government seems to want Canada's  economy to stay a samll, open staples economy..  and that baffles me.

The good news on a personal level is that solar panels function longer than predicted and will be cheaper to install - thanks to the German government. 

Description of Canada Less Than Flattering

Influence rating ★★★
In stark contrast to its cuddly international image, Canada is the dirty old man of the climate world – missing its Kyoto emissions reduction target by a country mile (by 2007, it was 34% above its target) and showing no signs of reigning in its profligacy.  Friends and foes Roundly criticised by developing countries for being way off the pace, now there are calls to suspend it from the Commonwealth.   What they're offering  A pathetic 3% cut on their 1990 emissions levels by 2020 – an offer mired in thick black tar.   What they most want No curbs on its ability to mine those lucrative tar sands in Alberta for oil (a far more carbon-intensive process than regular extraction). Least likely to say "Look, when you set a target, you've got to stick to it, OK?"

Influence rating ★
Talk about punching above your weight.  Thanks in no small part to the colourful and PR-savvy president Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives have become a key voice for soon-to-be climate victims around the world. The island nation is the Vince Cable of the talks – no real power but solidly on the moral high ground (if not the literal high ground).   Friends and foes A member of the G77 group of developing nations, and pals with anyone wanting some good PR.  W hat they're offering To go totally carbon neutral by 2020. A frog with solar panels would look less green.   What do they most want Large cuts by all the developed nations.  Most likely to say "I bet you've never had a cabinet meeting under water."
Some days I wish I had been born in the Maldives.  I might be worried about the prospect of my country vanishing under water - but I wouldn't be ashamed of its position on the crisis of the 21st century. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Apparently Peer Pressure Is Effective

The United Nations secretary general added his voice Friday to the chorus of activists trying to prod Canada into taking greater action on climate change.  Ban Ki-Moon said Canada, as the next country to host the G8 and G20 meetings, must pick up the pace in setting a mid-range goal to curb emissions.  "Many countries, developed and developing countries, have come out with ambitious targets," Ban said.   "And Canada, as one of the leading G8 countries, and G20, Canada is going to soon chair G8. Therefore, it is only natural that Canada should come out with ambitious targets as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hold a meeting at the Commonwealth heads of government summit in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on Saturday. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)I look forward to seeing a comprehensive agreement in Copenhagen where we'll actually get on with actually reducing emissions as opposed to setting abstract targets," said Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Well!!!!!  Apparently having scientists call for Canada's expulsion from the Commonwealth,  the UN Secretary General lecture him, and rhe Queen of England and Canada stress the need for action on climate change was all it took to get Prime Minister on board.  Peer pressure works ...now let us add to it by writing the Right Honorable Stepen Harper and telling himm however admirable his words have been, we want to see ACTION.
Canada has agreed to write a cheque for a $10-billion (U.S.) fund that would help poor nations cope with the consequences of climate change but Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn’t budging on calls for his government to offer deeper and faster cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
If Mr Harper isn't budging on greenhouse gas emissions, just what is the point of helping poorere countries cope with climate change? Or are we only investing in an ark? 

Send him a letter and tell him you want Canada to do better!

It Is The Worst of Times: It Is the Best of Times

One of Canada's top northern researchers says the permanent Arctic sea ice that is home to the world's polar bears and usually survives the summer has all but disappeared. Experts around the world believed the ice was recovering because satellite images showed it expanding.  But David Barber says the thick, multiyear frozen sheets crucial to the northern ecosystem have been replaced by thin “rotten” ice which can't support the weight of the bears. “It caught us all by surprise because we were expecting there to be multiyear sea ice – the whole world thought it was multiyear sea ice,” said Dr. Barber, who just returned from an expedition to the Beaufort Sea.
Word that India will soon roll out emission reduction targets signals an emerging consensus toward a climate-change agreement next month at Copenhagen, despite the Canadian government's much-noticed ambivalence.  India, one of the last holdouts in the fight against global warming, will announce the move within the next few days, French President Nicolas Sarkozy revealed yesterday.  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon placed added pressure on Canada yesterday, chiding Ottawa for its inaction on climate change at a Commonwealth meeting of heads of government, in which climate issues are dominating the agenda.
The push for action in Trinidad reinforces recent progress toward a climate-change agreement ahead of the summit in Copenhagen.
The permanent sea ice is gone - faster than the IPCC models predicted -but, perhaps, the world is finally taking this issue seriously.   Now, if we can get Canadian politicians to commit to action on climate change.....I live in Hope.

What Will Canada Contribute ?

Climate change will hit Africa – a continent that has contributed virtually nothing to bring it about – first and hardest.  Africa will not only be hit hardest, but it will be hit first. Indeed, the long dreaded impact of climate change is already upon us.
Climate change, which was largely brought about by the activities of developed countries, has made it difficult for poor and vulnerable countries to fight poverty. It has created a more hostile environment for development. No amount of money will undo the damage done. But adequate investment in mitigating the damage could partly resolve the problem.
Developed countries are thus morally obliged to pay partial compensation to poor and vulnerable countries and regions to cover part of the cost of the investments needed to adapt to climate change.
Gordon Brown has unveiled a $22bn (£13.3bn) global fund to respond to the world's "climate emergency" by fast-tracking funds to poorer countries from next year.  The prime minister said Britain would contribute £800m to the Copenhagen Launch Fund
What will Canada contribute?  Or will Canada bury its head in the sand and ignore the problem?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Someone Else Thinks Canada Is A Laggard

Canada was a global leader in environmental issues - the main broker, for example, of an international ban on ozone-depleting chemicals - up until the 1990s. In recent years, however, the country has fallen from the front ranks to become one of the world's most conspicuous laggards in greenhouse gas reduction and a virtual nonentity in the clean-tech boom.  This isn't just bad news for the planet; it's bad business for Canada.
In what pinko environmental rag did I find this obviously biased quote?  Glad you asked - the quote is from an article called Now, More Than Ever.  It was published in the December 2009 issue of that commie magazine  Report on Business.  Page 62, to be exact.
The article also states:
a whole new industrial economy....has emerged primarily in those places where climate change has been acknowledged not just as a fundamental fact of life and the defining crisis of the 21st century but also as an opportunity. ...the nations and compamies leading this second wave will continue with installations and innovations ....because building this new generation of infrastructure is a smart business move, based upon sound economics.
And Canada is pinning its 21st century hopes to the tar sands........this is gonna work out well - I can tell.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feel Free To Copy The Letter I Sent To the PM

November 26, 2009
Right Hon. Stephen Harper
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Prime Minister:

Human caused global warming is an enormous crisis for humanity. It is also a highly significant issue of global environmental justice: 80 % of greenhouse gas emissions are released by just seventeen countries – one of which is Canada. People are dying of starvation in the Horn of Africa and drowning in Bangladesh due to the changes caused by global warming. Canada has done nothing but obstruct attempts to rectify this situation. Therefore, and quite rightly, we are the subject of international criticism due to our failure to act in any meaningful way.

Now the Commonwealth is under pressure to suspend our membership due to our recalcitrance. Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies.

Surely you do not wish Canada be suspended from the Commonwealth due to our lack of action on climate change – or to be mentioned in the same breath for greenhouse gas emissions as Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa are mentioned for electoral or human rights violations. Please commit Canada to legally binding, science based greenhouse gas reduction targets.

I'm Not the Only One

who thinks Canada is an international disgrace.
Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies.
Canada's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the world's highest and it will not meet the cut required under the Kyoto protocol: by 2007 its emissions were 34% above its reduction target. It is exploiting its vast tar sands reserves to produce oil, a process said to cause at least three times the emissions of conventional oil extraction.
We can change this. We must change this.  If we do not, each of us is morally responsible for killing people by drowning or drought in Bangladesh, the Maldives, Kenya, et al.

A Change of Mind

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will attend the Copenhagen climate change meeting next month after all, his office said Thursday — a day after saying he would not go.

Harper decided Thursday to attend the meeting to work on a new climate change agreement after the U.S. president and Chinese premier announced that they will show up, his spokesman said.
Perhaps applying "green heat" to Mr. Harper is has been  effective.  However, going to Copenhagen is not indicative of a change of heart on his part.  Please help generate Mr. Harper's change of heart by emailing him.  Ask the Right Honorable Stephen Harper to sign on to  meaningful, legally binding, and science based greenhouse gas emission reductions on our behalf.   (Or one could try lobbying the US President as our Prime Minister appears to be following an American  lead.)

However, there has been a surprising amount of progress in the intervening days, as nations around the world declared their specific commitments to reduce emissions.
In one respect, Mr. Harper's reversal is both embarrassing and politically compromising, forcing him to devote time and political capital on an issue the Conservatives prefer to avoid confronting, since any meaningful effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions threatens to constrain development of Alberta's oil sands.
Please send Mr. Harper an email suggesting that he should constrain development of the Alberta tar sands.

"Green Heat on Harper"

Barack Obama's decision to attend the Copenhagen climate-change conference placed the Harper government on the defensive at a time of rising federal-provincial tensions over environment policy and an internal report that faults federal efforts.
A recent Treasury Board report on the performance of all federal departments has harsh words for Ottawa's efforts. The report found a "declining performance" in air quality, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions.
In previous dire times, Canada responded to a crisis without checking to see what the Americans were going to do. Canada went to war a week after Britain declared war in 1939: America waited to fight the Nazis until Hitler lost his mind and delcared war on them after Pearl Harbour.  Climate change is THE biggest crisis  humanity faces. Why are we waiting to follow America instead of demonstrating leadership?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Paper Boat

But climate change doesn't matter ...
I found this video at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Civil Disobedience: A Call to Action by the Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians sent the following press release.  Apparently, they are so concerned about climate change some of them are risking jail in an attempt to influence the government.  Their contact information is at the bottom of their release after the jump if you want to be involved.

November 22, 2009 (Calgary, Alberta) --- The first of a series of citizen-organized peaceful sit-ins targeting elected officials, tar sands financiers, and the coal and tar sands industries began today at Canadian Environment Minister Jim Prentice’s Calgary constituency office. Six people – five of whom are constituents of Minister Prentice – entered the office just after 10:00 AM refusing to leave, demanding that the Harper government and all parties act to combat the climate crisis and stop the millions of deaths and displacements that will result from more inaction on global warming pollution.

More after the jump:

Expect More

More flooding, that is. 
About 300 households in Duncan and North Cowichan were issued evacuation orders last Friday after heavy rains, melting snow and a high tide led two local rivers to overflow their dykes and flood some low-lying neighbourhoods with up to one metre of water.
As the cleanup efforts continued, some residents questioned whether the North Cowichan Regional District could have reacted more quickly to the threat, and want to know what it plans to do to prevent similar disasters.
Sounds quite familiar to anyone who browses the provincial Ministry of Environment website at
The Ministry of Environment for BC suggests that effects of climate change will include:
 increased river flood risks in the spring and coastal flooding associated with storm surges.
The residents of the Cowichan Valley are right to wonder what plans all levels of governmnet are making to prevent similar disasters.   These disasters will become all too familiar if we don't reduce our production of greenhouse gas emissions forthwith.  Please email the Prime Minister and as him to commit to binding, science based targets at the UN Conference in Copenhagen.

More Good News From Quebec

From the article:
Quebec is taking the final step in its break from Ottawa on climate change, unveiling an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gases and blasting the federal government for inaction only a few weeks before a major international environmental conference

Premier Jean Charest announced Monday that, by 2020, the province will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels, a goal similar to the target the European Union has adopted.

Ontario and British Columbia are the only other provinces with emission-reduction targets. Ontario plans to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 15 per cent below the 1990 level by 2020. B.C. plans to reduce emissions by 33 per cent below 2007 levels, which Quebec said is the equivalent of about a 14-per-cent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020.

Ottawa's intended target is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020 by 3 per cent below 1990 levels. Mr. Charest urged the federal government to be more aggressive, or face a challenge from Quebec and other provinces before the international community.

“We will defend the Quebec position [in Copenhagen]. We won't be shy about it. Furthermore, we are part of a decentralized federation. Once decisions are taken we [the provinces] have the responsibility of enforcing them,” Mr. Charest said. 

I think I'm in love with Mr. Charest!

Monday, November 23, 2009

BC Government's Position on Climate Change

From the above site:
Future Climate Change and Impacts in British Columbia
The rate of global warming projected for the 21st century is much faster than observed changes during the 20th century, and likely faster than at any time during the past 10,000 years. The actual rate of warming will depend on how fast greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, and how the climate system responds. Although climate change appears to be gradual at the global scale, atmospheric warming may in future trigger abrupt changes in regional climate. For this reason, past trends do not necessarily predict how biophysical systems will respond in future.
The best available science suggests that the impacts for B.C. in the 21st century will include:
•a 2-5 0C increase in average annual temperature;
•increased river flood risks in the spring and coastal flooding associated with storm surges;
•glacial retreat in the south; reduced winter snow pack and earlier snowmelt; contributing to reduced summer water supply; and
•increased stress on species at risk; shifts in the geographical range of vegetation, including economically important forest species;
increased river temperatures and stress on salmon; and
•reduced summer soil moisture and increase in forest fire risk.
Water Resources: Rising air temperatures will reduce the amount of precipitation that falls as snow in the winter and in the mountain regions, resulting in lower river levels during the dry summer period. Higher temperatures in the summer will increase the need for water — for people, aquatic life, and irrigation in agriculture. What’s more, the increased heat will heighten the evaporation of water, leading to water loss. This will make it even harder to ensure adequate water supplies.
It may be a good idea to get accustomed to conserving water now!

I Love This Advertisement! (Click on the Pic to see a Larger Version)

My partner saw this on a fly fishing forum.  How right the advertiser was ! And how ironic the ad seems 47 years later .......
I have discovered that the above ad is from a 1962 edition of Life Magazine, available on Google Books.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Himalyan Glaciers Are Melting Too

Click play on Melting Glaciers On the Roof of the World for a disturbing look at how glaciers are receding in Asia.  Climate change is a fact ........ glaciers and polar ice cpas are all going.
But so what if glaciers are melting - what difference does it make? Well, 2 billion people depend on the meltwater from Himalayan glaciers for their basic needs.... Oh so what - that's halfway around the world - a long way from North America.  OK then  - look at a map of Canada - what feeds the rivers running east from the Rockies into Alberta and Saskatchewan?  Bingo!   Glaciers .. and they're melting too. Gee - no one depends on those rivers for drinking or irrigation or industry or fishing, do they?  (Doesn't the Athabasca flow right through Fort Mcmurray? And doesn't tar sand extraction use enormous quantities of water?)  Hmmmnnnnn.... No worries then ......we can continue with Canadian policy  - ignore climate change for another twenty years.

On the other hand, if you think climate change is an immediate concern, email or write the Prime Minister.  Tell him you  don't want to see the prairies waterless in twenty years.

Time Is Running Out

First it was Arctic ice that melted faster than climate change models predicted .... now it is Antarctic ice that is disappearing faster than predicted. Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock ....the sands of  time are running out - and the four horseman are saddling up.
The East Antarctic ice sheet, which makes up three-quarters of the continent's 14,000 sq km, is losing around 57bn tonnes of ice a year into surrounding waters, according to a satellite survey of the region.  Scientists had thought the ice sheet was reasonably stable, but measurements taken from Nasa's gravity recovery and climate experiment (Grace) show that it started to lose ice steadily from 2006.
Perhaps this is a good thing:  it makes much harder for climate change deniers to spin their 'ideas." And perhaps it will trigger political will to Do Something!
It is clear that society is capable of responding dramatically to major threats when there is acceptance of a crisis. At that point, all previous arguments against action are consigned to the dustbin.  (The One Degree War Plan by Randers and Gilding November 2009)
I live in Hope.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Canadians Dismayed by Ottawa's Record On Climate Change

On the eve of major UN climate change talks next month in Copenhagen, a major survey of Canadians has found that more than three quarters of the public feel embarrassed that the country hasn't been taking a leadership role on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Good news for a change!  Hurrah!  

And, you know what I'm gonna say - let the Prime Minster know that you are embarrassed by the Canadian record on climate change!

Floods in Cockermouth, Britain and Climate Change

David Balmforth, a flooding expert at the Institution of Civil Engineers, said deluges on a similar scale will become more frequent as a result of climate change. He said: "Climate change means that is only going to get worse. We cannot hope to defend ourselves from flooding on this scale. "Instead we need to make our communities much more resilient to flooding and this must be placed at the heart of the way we plan, design and build our towns and villages."
Climate change is real - and its effects will get much worse if we don't act now.  Email the Prime Minister - or, perhaps, Barack Obama since the Right Honorable Stephen Harper seems to be awaiting his lead.

Dollars Spent on War in Afghanistan

Wondering how much Canada could have plowed into rolling back greenhouse gas emissions and fighting climate change?

The military mission in Afghanistan could cost a total of $18.1 billion or $1,500 per Canadian household by 2011, according to a government report that also criticized how financial records are being kept.
Pocket change? Not!

Torture In Afghanistan

It is rather embarassing for the Harper government that the whistle blower about torture allegations in Afghanistan during  2006 -2007  is employed by Ottawa as a senior intelligence officer at Canada's embassy in Washington.  Being trusted by one's government with access to delicate and sensitive matters bolsters one's credibility, no?  Mr. Colvin's testimony is also corroborated by  Peter Mackay (Canada's  current defence minister.) Mr MacKay  acknowledged that a new prisoner transfer agreement was implemented in 2007  due at least in part  to Mr Colvin's warnings.    ( The new agreement with the Afghans may have also had something to do with reporting by the Globe and Mail in 2007 that the Conservatives were aware of the possiblity of torture in 2006. )  So let's see - the Conservatives are attacking the credibility of a senior intelligence officer whose reports of torture effected a better prisoner transfer agreement between the Canadians and the Afghans? Perhaps the Conservatives efforts would be better put to a consideration of the effects of the war in Afghanistan..  After all, this the effort that is supposedly winning the hearts and minds of Afghans. Mmmmnnnn  .... yes, torturing people at random always converts them to one's cause.. .......  and enhances democracy.    Morevoer,  the Afghans have run three British armies and one Soviet army out of their country - I'm not betting on Canada doing better than those previous invasions.  Perhaps Canada  should leave Afghanistan and spend the money we're pissing away on an unwinnable war on something else.  Like taking decisive  action on climate change.

Childhood's End

From Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer:
We just barely scraped through the the mid-term exam in the last century: we acquired the ability to destroy our civilization directly, by war, and we managed not to use it. Now it's the final exam, with the whole environment that our civilization depends on at stake.  It's not just about knowledge and technical ability; it is also about self-restraint and the ability to cooperate.  Grown-up values, if you like.  How fortunate that we shoudl be set such a test at a point in our history where we have at least some chance of passing it.
Do we not want Canada to be a shining example to the rest of the world?  Couldn't the  Canadian  ideals  of tolerance, cooperation, peace  and good government lead the globe on climate change? Send the Prime Minister a letter and tell him we want Canada to lead on this issue.  We want the Right Honorable Stephen Harper to demonstrate leadership and cooperation  on this issue - and not  exhibit  a narrow parochial defense of big oil.  It won't even cost you a stamp if you use snail mail and the House of Commons addy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Global Temperatures Could Rise 6 Degrees

A commenter on the above article wrote following:

Anyway, it is hardly conceivable how the governments of the world are willing to spend billions on bailing out irresponsible and selfish bankers instead of spending it on a crash building program of covering the world's deserts with renewable energy plants as well as a massive research & development program and energy efficiency programs. Think of all the benefits of running everything on solar electricity: no local air pollution, less noise pollution, no acid rain, no global warming, no ocean acidification, no destruction of rainforests for biofuels, no heavy metal pollution, less cancer, respiratory diseases, etc. ... the list just goes on. You could add clean aquifers, rivers and oceans if we get rid off fertilizers and pesticides.

How have become so brain-washed by the fossil fuel companies that we cannot see the salvation that is so obvious? For the denialists, yes, it would take an absolutely colossal technological and financial effort to install enough renewable energy in the next 20 or so years, but is saving our pleasant way of life and the global environment in one stroke not worth it? Nothing else will do.

It is high time that at least responsibly thinking people start to entertain this option - we need to realize this is a crisis of immense proportion and then act accordingly, with equal urgency as defeating Nazi Germany, for example. Nothing but a complete mobilization of civil society will do. What our current leaders talk about is sadly inadequate and will undoubtedly lead to widespread suffering. So the choice is ours, but the hour is near.

Dr. Bruno Walther
Visiting Assistant Professor for Environmental Science
College of Public Health and Nutrition
Taipei Medical University
Taipei, Taiwan

Ethics: action is Necessary

However hopeless preventing and ameliorating the effects of climate change seems to be sometimes, and however depressed we become, it is something we must work on.  The consequences of doing nothing are so grave - so dismal - and affect not only our children and grandchildren but every ecosystem in the world that we must continue.  Did the Polish cavalry charge Nazi tanks? Yes they did ..... Did the British surrender at the threat of the German invasion? No they did not.....Did Estonians forget their language living under Soviet rule? No, they did not.... They all did the right thing.

So we too must do the right thing ..... however close disaster seems. And millions of people are working on saving the planet - check out http://www.350.org/ or http://www.wiserearth.org/ if you feel you are alone.  Excelsior!

(By the way, I highly recommend watching Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as a cure for depression.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

We're Fucked

I am deeply and viciously depressed today so I am going to spread it around. 
Item  one: a headline from the New York Times on Nov. 15, 2009  “ Leaders Will Delay Agreement On Climate. ”  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/world/asia/15prexy.html
At a hastily arranged breakfast on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting on Sunday morning, the leaders, including Lars Lokke Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark and the chairman of the climate conference, agreed that in order to salvage Copenhagen they would have to push a fully binding legal agreement down the road, possibly to a second summit meeting in Mexico City later on.
Item two: a post by George Monbiot at
As a report commissioned by the US Department of Energy shows, an emergency programme to replace current energy supplies or equipment to anticipate peak oil would need about 20 years to take effect. It seems unlikely that we have it. The world economy is probably knackered, whatever we might do now. But at least we could save farming. There are two possible options: either the mass replacement of farm machinery or the development of new farming systems that don't need much labour or energy.
There you  have it: The Easter Island Syndrome.  Humanity is delaying doing anything meaningful about climate change or peak oil  and all the while disaster grins ominously at us....

And don't bother complaining about my language - your children have much bigger things to worry about than swear words learned on a blog. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm Angry

The more I think about Stephen Harper saying “Emerging economies already contribute close to half of all global emissions, and that proportion will rise to two-thirds in the future . . .If we don't control those, whatever we do in the developed world will have no impact on climate change," the more annoyed I get.  Harper sounds willing to bet the future of our children and grandchildren on defending our economy at all costs. No, he isn’t even defending the entire economy – he is defending the interests of big oil producers mining the tar sands. (Tar sand extraction is a very big reason why Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are extremely high. Greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional oil and gas production.)

Climate change will create all kinds of problems – and the only solution to those problems will be cooperation on a global scale. The cooperation will be accompanied  by endless boring, tedious negotiations that are also completely vital.  Our Prime Minister is exhibiting none of the characteristics required to lead us and the rest of the world  through the end of the age of oil. Let him know that we Canadians expect better.  We expect our leaders to encourage creative solutions to climate change: we do not want them to stamp their feet and yell "You go first"  at other countries.

Harper's Conversation on Climate Change

In Singapore, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said :
Emerging economies already contribute close to half of all global emissions, and that proportion will rise to two-thirds in the future. If we don't control those, whatever we do in the developed world will have no impact on climate change. http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/11/14/apec-summit.html
Oh sure - developing nations are the source of the problem - rigghhhhttttt.  In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, Canada is one of the worst ten polluters in the world.  Have a look at the following site:
We Canadians spewed  out 17.9 tonnes of carbon EACH in 2007 - just a hair behind Americans.   On a per capita basis, China released 4.8 tonnes while India released released 1.2 tonnes.   Sweden emitted 6.3 tonnes - just to compare Canada to another developed nation.

Prof. Tim Flannery was also interviewed in Singapore : he said 
Canada is by far the biggest defaulter on its Kyoto obligations on a tonnage basis. And as a result of that there is a lack of trust.
Why would anyone in the developing world trust Canada to take meaningful action on climate change? We are busy obstructing any chance at a deal in Copenhagen by blaming the developing world.  Email or write the Prime Minister and tell him you want Canada to show leadership on this issue!

Friday, November 13, 2009

David Suzuki on the Current Today: Friday, November 13, 2009

David Suzuki chatted with Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win a Nobel prize in Economics. She is an expert in polycentric approaches to solving problems.   She is encouraging municipalities and indiviuals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to "Positive Externalities."   In other words,  Ms. Ostrom projects that a city like Vancouver (which aims to be the greenest city in the world) will save money by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  She also suggested that climate change be presented to citizens as a problem to be solved voluntarily now in order to to avoid huge disruptions in the future.  She advocates that, in order to motivate people to car pool or take public transit,  driving alone in a car be taxed at a higher rate than a driver with several passengers.   Listen to the entire show at:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tanezrouft Basin - Sahara Desert - Aerial Shot

The region is known as a "land of terror" because of its lack of water and vegetation.
 The white areas  in the photo area are salt pans.  The Sahara today - a possible future for the interior of all the continents if climate change is ignored .....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Information for Climate Change Activists

From the above website:
The Principles of Climate Change Communication
1. Know Your Audience
• Mental models represent a person’s thought process for how something works. They help shape risk perceptions, actions, and behavior; influence what people pay attention to in complicated situations; and define how people approach and solve problems. Mental models serve as the framework into which people fit new information.
• A confirmation bias makes people look for information that is consistent with what they already think, want, or feel, leading them to avoid, dismiss, or forget information that will require them to change their minds and their behavior.
• People often exhibit a strong preference for their existing mental models about climate change, making them susceptible to confirmation biases that lead them to misinterpret or even refute scientific data.
• Mental models are not static—people can update them by correcting misinformation, inserting new building blocks, and/or making new connections with existing knowledge.
• Discover what misconceptions the audience may have in their mental models about climate change. “Disconnect” the erroneous climate change information from other parts of the model and replace it with new facts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Peak Oil?


The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
Coincidentally, I bought Carbon Shift: How the Twin Crises of Oil Depletion and Climate Change Will Define the Future (edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon) today.  The authors of the various essays agree that humanity's future is going to be drastically unlike our experience during the Age of Oil.  Thomas Homer-Dixon winds up the book by stating that " a carbon shift - either voluntary or involuntary - is now unavoidable."  And, if the whistleblower at the IEA is correct, the involuntary carbon shift is much closer than previously thought.  Perhaps we, as a country, and humanity as a whole,  should ration carbon fuels and use what we still have left to build a way of life that isn't so dependent upon hydrocarbons? Sweden is planning exactly that..... why can't the rest of the world?

Noranda/Falconbridge Finds Reducing CO2 Saves Money (originally posted June 20, 2009 )

I went to a workshop on corporate social responsibility last week (and hey , the words corporate and social responsiblity are not mutually exclusive in my mind anymore!) I learned really cool stuff (at least it is really cool stuff to an environmental geek like me.) Noranda/Falconbridge found that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption saved them money. How much money? Brace yourself - the discounted present value of future savings was $ 438 million dollars! Their output increased 6% while their energy costs were reduced by the same percentage - and, of interest to you corporate accountant types out there - their break even point went down by $ .19 per pound on nickel and $ .05 per pound on copper. This isn't pocket change to anyone! I came away from the workshop with renewed hope and optimism. It is obviously in everyone's financial interest to save the world by rolling back greenhouse gas emissions. Thank you, Nick Shepard of EduvisionInc http://www.eduvision.ca/ for an amazing workshop. 

If you are contacting Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, please mention that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can save individuals and corporations money.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Panic Considered: A Contradiction

Government websites can be really interesting places – at least for geeks like me.
Health Canada has been releasing bulletins on swine flu since last spring. H1N1 or swine flu has killed exactly 115 people in Canada as of November 5, 2009.
To help put this in perspective, the 2003 – 2004 flu season killed 7,708 people.
I talked to a woman yesterday who was terrified at the possibility of death by swine flu. She was talking about staying home with her family until the swine flu epidemic passes.  I attempted to reassure her – I told her that I was absolutely sure she and her family would not die of H1N1.  My assurances didn't seem to comfort her in the least.
Today I could have mentioned that
Dr. Richard Schabas, chief medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward Counties in eastern Ontario, said the H1N1 influenza outbreak needs to be put into proper perspective. About 200,000 people die in Canada every year from all causes combined, including about 4,000 from seasonal flu."By the time all the dust has settled on H1N1, somewhere between 200 and 300 people will have died in this country," Schabas said Thursday during a panel on media coverage of H1N1 on CBC-TV's The National.Schabas criticized the media for not trying to put the story into perspective, and for being "a little too easy to spin sometimes" by public health official.http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/11/06/h1n1-media.html
The person I was talking to zoomed off  in her car after our conversation. I watched her beetle off - and I wondered. Why are people so bad at assessing risks? My friend is far more likely to die in a car accident than to croak from the flu – and she drives every day on a long commute. Moreover, she doesn't worry about climate change.  In fact,  hardly anyone I know worries in the slightest about climate change. But anthropogenic global warming is a clear and present danger to all of us.  It is likely to destroy you, me, our families, and the world as we know it completely and utterly. And it is a problem with solutions -  as my earlier posts have discussed – so why aren’t people rioting in the streets ?  Why isn't inexorable pressure buidling to force governments to take meaningful steps?  Is it possible that the media is a little too easy to spin on climate change as well as swine flu?

It is incumbent upon us all to educate ourselves about the lies the climate change denial industry spreads.  Once educated, we must do everything in our power to awaken everyone who prefers to ignore the truth about climate change. 

Oil and the Earth's Inalienable Rights: A Connection?

Pretty, isn't it? But one's perception alters when one realizes it is an oil slick on drinking water.
Per Amnesty International's  (2009) report on Ecuador:
The human rights situation of Indigenous peoples and environmentalists in Ecuador continues to be a serious concern for Amnesty International. For over four decades, Indigenous communities have witnessed multinational oil companies cut through the Ecuadorian Amazon and their ancestral lands in search of the country's vast petroleum resources. Testimonies by members of these communities, verified by independent health studies and reports (including "Amazon Crude" by Judith Kimerling) have described how oil companies have left dead rivers, road-scarred forests, polluted air, and daily discharges of millions of gallons of toxic waste in their wake that are affecting the daily lives of the communities in the area.
Ecuador's citizens approved a novel constitution in September 2008: it extends inalienable rights to nature.
The Utne Reader (May-June 2009) speculates that "Ecuador was almost certainly predisposed to becoming an early adopter of nature's rights on a constitutional scale" due to the large indigenous population. This view may be correct: indigenous peoples do have a different view of their place in nature than we do. However, I think that witnessing the environmental damage done to the environment and consequently to themselves by oil companies may have motivated Ecuadorians in a large degee as well.  

Ecuadorians understand that the economy is a subset of the environment - and that the equation does not work the other way around.  We all need to respect and cherish Pachamamma - for our own sakes.    While it is unlikely that we will approve a similar constitution in in the near future in Canada,  we can pressure politicians to protect the environment.  We are their employers, are we not?  For starters, please email the Right Honorable Stephen Harper and instruct  him to negotiate a fair, binding, and science based deal on greenhouse gas emissions at Copenhagen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remembrance Day and Climate Change

I have a BA in history and political science. Putting that expensive education to use, and glancing into the dark backward abyss of time, I see that  Canadian propaganda and news produced during WWI bore little, if any relation to actual events for two reasons.  Soldiers' letters home to Canada were heavily censored as were news dispatches. And news reporters and soldiers censored themselves due to their adherence to the myth of the glory of war.   Canadians at home received the usual tripe about a glorious offensive on the Somme even though Sir Douglas Haig privately characterized the offensive as a costly failure.  I am not suggesting thar Canada was unique in this use of propaganda. The British were masters of propaganda: their first act of war during WW I was to to sever the underwater telegraph cables that connected Germany to America.   And  propaganda still  matters today.   Climate Cover Up: the Crusade to Deny Global Warming (James Hoggan with Richard Littlemore 2009) discusses climate change denial and delay. The authors sum up the climate change conversation as " a public policy dialogue that should have been driven by science has instead been disrupted by public relations ."  They also call the dialogue "a carefully constructed ruse to keep people from supporting the kinds of actions that will compromise the profit potential of ExxonMobil" among others.  Per the Monday, October 26, 2009 edition of the Globe and Mail,  the government of Canada has joined with eight big oil sands operators to educate the public.  Shades of WWI  -  the Canadian public did not know about the realities of the terrible slaughter on the front lines in France then - and now the Canadian government does not want the Canadian public to fret about their childrens' inheritance in a world decimated by climate change.. ....Is this what Canadian citizens want?  Do we really  want our government  to put the interests of  big oil producers ahead of the interests of our grandchildren?

Letter To A Climate Change Denier

Humanity is causing global warming.  If you disagree, you do not understand science and the scientific method. The scientists on the IPCC have published in peer reviewed journals: anthropogenic global warming is accepted by the majority of climatologists. Viewing the increasing agreement among climate models and climate scientists as collusion instead of consensus is a rather conspiratorial take on the normal course of scientific investigation. Does anyone remember a time when there was no consensus about what killed the dinosaurs? A furious debate raged among paleontologists – were dinosaurs killed by asteroid strike or volcanoes? Now a consensus exists: they were polished off by an asteroid strike. What happened was not a popularity contest or some sort of political putsch, but rather a slow accumulation of facts supporting one side. Moreover, do you also refute the work of nuclear physicists and insist you cannot be killed by radiation because their work was government funded?

The sun is not causing global warming. According to PMOD at the World Radiation Center at
there has been no increase in solar irradiance since at least 1978, when satellite observations began. This means that for the last thirty years, while the temperature has been rising fastest, the sun has not changed. So much for that argument ….

If you refer to the “30,000 independent scientists [who] recently filed a joint lawsuit against Gore” you are referring to a petition by Frederick Seitz backed up by a ‘review’ by Arthur B Robinson. Mr. Robinson has never worked as a climate scientist: the organization which published his ‘review’ has received at least $ 630,000 from Exxon. Do you prefer to rely on ‘research” funded by Exxon and carried out by people with no training ?

Why do climate change deniers live in denial of a very serious problem that requires action immediately? The World Bank pondered the same subject. In May 2009, Kari Marie Norgaard published a working paper for The World Bank entitled Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change.

She found that Public awareness and concern regarding climate change is not a function of scientific information alone, but psychological and sociological issues as well. Moreover, people ACTUALLY WORK TO AVOID ACKNOWLEDGING DISTURBING INFORMATION in order to avoid emotions of fear, guilt and helplessness. Possibly you are working hard at avoiding confronting the biggest, most serious problem facing us: global warming.

You, and many others, need not cope with your terror and discomfort by denial. Hope exists: it IS POSSIBLE to solve this problem as the City of Portland has demonstrated. That city has reduced greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels without any support from the federal government of the USA. Moreover, they project their greenhouse gas emissions will be 10 % below 1990 levels by 2010. We CAN solve this problem through collective action. Email or snail mail the Prime Minister and instruct him to negotiate an effective, just, and binding deal on greenhouse gas emissions at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. It is a matter of social and environmental justice!

Monday, November 2, 2009

This Post is For You, Uncle Wayne

Uncle Wayne denies that climate change is happening. He directed me to Anthony Watts' website in the hopes of enlightening me. Unfortunately, Anthony Watts cherry picks his data, ignores all measures except temperature (including melting glaciers and ice caps,) and EVEN ignores the fact that  his cherry picked data trends ever upwards. Moreover, Mr. Watts does not have a Phd in climatology and has published ZERO peer reviewed papers. Furthermore, in an example of outstanding  intellectual courage, Mr Watts attempted to have this video pulled from YouTube when it was first posted there - in spite of his own attacks on climate scientists.  But - hey - nice try, Uncle Wayne!