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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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ummmm - We're Actually Increasing Emissions?

The federal government formally notified the United Nations that Canada will cut its carbon emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels over the next 10 years as part of the Copenhagen accord on climate change, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Saturday. ...While the government's previous emission targets, announced in 2006, would have resulted in a 3-per-cent reduction in emissions over 1990 levels, these latest targets will actually increase emissions by 2.5 per cent, said Dave Martin, a climate and energy co-ordinator with Greenpeace.
I presume that Mr Martin means that GHG emissions will now increase by 2.5 per cent over 1990 levels.
Meanwhile, as I've posted elsewhere, Portland, Oregon will reduce its emissions to 10 per cent below 1990 levels in 2010. AND - this is a big point - reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating clean energy sources creates more jobs than investing in fossil fuel industries.  Numerous win- win opportunities exist that Canada is neglecting.  Moreover, the risks posed by inaction are far higher than taking action now as pointed out by Lord Stern.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not take action without being pressured due to the short term time line imposed by politics. Let's pressure him: please send him a letter on the benefits of creating a green economy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ottawa Hedging on Cuts to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

P A7 The Globe and Mail, Thursday, January 28, 2010
In an interview yesterday, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the government's overwhelming priority is harmonizing its regulatory approach with that of the US - including the targets for emissions reduction. ....which means a delay in Ottawa's plan to impose emission regulations on industries such as Alberta's oil sands.
Perhaps the government should expand its horizon beyond its attempts to win a majority and consider what life will be like for future generations if climate change goes unchecked.   Does  Minister Prentice not want his grandchildren to be proud of his efforts now? We will not meet Ottawa's  - shall we say  limited targets  -  greenhouse gas emissions targets if we wait for the Americans  to get legislation through Congress and the Senate.  Please write to the Prime Minister and instruct him to set science based, legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ClimateGate and the Great Glacier Melt

Discussing Climategate and the Himalyan glaciers that wll not melt as fast as predicted in the 2007 IPCC reprot, Gwynne Dyer writes:
People who know science and scientists will be disappointed both by the behaviour of Jones and by the glacier incident, but they will not be surprised. This sort of thing happens from time to time, because we are dealing with human beings. But it does not (as the denial brigade insists) discredit the whole enterprise in which they are engaged. The weight of the evidence rests overwhelmingly on the side of those who argue that climate change is real and dangerous. Ninety-seven or ninety-eight percent of scientists active in the relevant fields are convinced of it; all but a couple of the world’s 200 governments have been persuaded of it; public opinion accepts it almost everywhere except in parts of the “Anglosphere”. The United States, and to a lesser extent Australia, Britain and Canada, are the last bastions of denial. From being the least ideological countries 50 years ago, when much of the rest of the planet was drunk on Marxist theories, these countries have become the most ideological today. Disbelief in climate change has been turned into an ideological badge worn by the right, and evidence is no longer relevant.

Hmmnnn - read the comments attached to the article.  The commenters prove Mr. Dyer's point about the Anglosphere being a bastion of denial.  I am beginning to think that our society is so addicted to oil that we are all in the first stages of addiction: denial that the problem exists. What to do?  Keep pushing to change the zeitgeist ....appeals to reason and the provision of  evidence are not working.  

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Redemption of Stephen Harper?


Please follow the link for a fun video (I cannot embed the html as I get a "form error" meassage) - the video will be worht watching - I promise....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Beautiful Destruction (Original Post Jan. 17, 2010 )


Check this site out: Louis Helbig is an amazingly talented photographer who has created terrifying; heartbreaking; and beautiful photos of the Alberta tar sands.  This photo depicts Syncrude's refinery: one of Canada's largest point sources of greenhouse gas emissions per Louis Helbig. And yes, those are toxic tailing ponds around the refinery - just like the one that killed the ducks in 2008.   When you view his blog, you'll realize anew why artists are dangerous......

And thank you to Louis Helbig for allowing me to use his photo.

Arctic Cable Possible Due to Climate Change

For those of you who do not belive in climate change and global warming, you might consider the fact that businesses are busy planning to cope with, and take advantaage of, its effects.
Global warming has melted so much Arctic ice that a telecommunication group is moving forward with a project that was unthinkable just a few years ago: laying underwater fiber optic cable between Tokyo and London by way of the Northwest Passage.  The proposed system would nearly cut in half the time it takes to send messages from the United Kingdom to Asia, said Walt Ebell, CEO of Kodiak-Kenai Cable Co. The route is the shortest underwater path between Tokyo and London.
Please note that Mr. Ebell doesn't dney that climate change is happening!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bright Idea of the Year - Not!

Did I mention earlier that American Senators and Congresspersons are not  whipped into line by their party as Canadian Members of Parliarment are?

In a speech to Congress, a Republican senator from Alaska announced she would use an obscure and rarely used measure to try to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a dangerous pollutant....In an ominous sign for supporters of a climate law, she had the support of three Democratic Senators, further underscoring the unease in Obama's own party in enacting legislation to tackle global warming. In her speech, Murkowski argued that giving the EPA the authority to act on global warming would cost jobs and hurt the economy: "Under the guise of protecting the environment, it's set to unleash a wave of damaging new regulations that will wash over and further submerge our struggling economy."
With all due respect to the Senator, she is wrong . Dead wrong. Nicholas Stern found that doing nothing about climate change will cost the economies of the world twenty (20!!!) per cent of their GDP.   Taking action will cost two (2) per cent of GDP.  A research study carried out at the University of Masschusetts predicted that a federal government investment of 100 billion dollars would create 2 million jobs over two years.  Moreover, this money would "Create nearly four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry and 300,000 more jobs than a similar amount of spending directed toward household consumption and Create roughly triple the number of good jobs—paying at least $16 dollars an hour—as spending the same amount of money within the oil industry."

So Senator Murkowski is attempting to  hit our economies very, very hard.  Sounds like a good plan.....

Haiti's Structural Problems

...the present-day concentration of urban poverty in Haiti, which led to millions of people living in the ramshackle slums that literally disintegrated during the earthquake, owe their origins to policies of economic liberalisation and privatisation begun in the mid-1980s.....Ultimately, the policies of the last four US administrations have been successful in crushing most opposition to the reforms that laid the foundation for the disastrous consequences of the earthquake.
Just a lefty professor's views? Perhaps ...perhaps not. Mark Levine seems to be supported by an article in the Globe and Mail: a prominetnt Canadian business paper.
His native country (the Dominican Republic,) by contrast, declared its independence from Haiti and was left with much more agriculturally viable land and a less densely populated nation. Infrastructure, political institutions and trade relations were able to develop without as much interference from foreign interests.
Haiti needs foreign aid desperately.  (Please donate to a NGO provideing disaster relief in Haiti.) It also needs, as does the rest of the world, liberation from neo -conservative ideology.  Surely, after the Great Recession of 2008, the idea that a free market completely  unfettered by ethics can solve our problems has been discredited?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Senator Edward Kennedy's seat goes Republican

Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley for a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts on Tuesday in what is being called an epic upset for the Democratic Party....Democrat Edward Kennedy held the seat for almost 47 years before dying of brain cancer in August. Before that, his brother John held it for a decade before becoming president.
This drops the Democratic majority in the Senate to 59 out of 100 seats: they no longer hold  a filibuster proof majority. (Not that American Congresspersons or Senators are whipped by their party as Canadian MPs are .)  If President Obama's healthcare reforms are endangered by Mr Brown's elecction,  how will any greenhouse gas emission bill make it through the Senate?
UPDATE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/20/scott-brown-climate-change-bill
Now it seems more likely than ever that Democrats in the US Senate will not touch global warming in 2010 unless they can be assured of sizeable Republican support. However, Senator John Kerry, who is leading the push on climate change in the Senate, said he remained confident of getting broad support for a bill.
The chances of a bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions still looks small to me ......Damn!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Revolution of Evo Morales

On Thursday January 21, Aymara elders and Indigenous people from across Bolivia and the Americas will gather at the inauguration of Evo Morales as leader of Abya Yala, the Indigenous name meaning Our America. On the following day, he will be inaugurated as President of Bolivia for the second time. ....Evo Morales believes that capitalism is at the root of many of the problems facing humanity. He is leading a peaceful social and political revolution rooted in Indigenous values and ideas and that is too big a threat to the powers that be for us to hear much about him.
Apparently the velvet climate revolution has begun.

http://www.rabble.ca/ is an interesting source for alternate news, by the way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reporting on Climate Change in India

Analysing the snow accumulation and ablation patterns in Pir Panjal and Shamshawari regions of the valley during the winters of 2004-05 to 2006-07, scientists have shown that the seasonal snow cover has reduced while the maximum temperature was increasing steadily.  "This decreasing trend in areal extent of snow cover, rise in maximum temperature and decreasing trend in total snowfall may be the indicators of global warming or climate change," senior scientist H S Negi of DRDO's Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, said reporting his findings in the Journal of Earth System Sciences.

Global alarm over climate change and its effects has risen manifold after the  2007 report of the International Panel on climate change (IPCC.) Since then, many of the 2,500-odd IPCC scientists have found climate change is progressing faster than the worst-case scenario they had predicted.

North American media don't seem to be nearly as concerned about the consequences of climate change ......

in my opinion, they contribute to collective denial. 

We Don't Pay Enough for Electricity?

From the Globe and Mail:
We are paying too much for green power dreams and we are paying too little for electricity.  ....the first reason for higher consumer prices in Ontario is that the green Energy Act is committing Ontarians to high costs for green power....consumers are not bearing the environmental costs of fossil fuel-based electricity. We can only reduce our carbon emissions when there is a price on those emissions, either from cap-and-trade or from a carbon tax.
What?  Does this make sense?  In his opening line, the writer suggests that green power dreams are too costly - but, nevertheless,  Ontario Hydro customers are not paying enough for their electricity.  And yes, in theory, consumers should pay for the costs of fossil fuel based electricity .  In theory, we should all be accounting for the environmental costs of our decisions instead of offloading our pollution onto society and future generations.  (Perhaps asbestos companies would have made different choices if their shareholders had born the full costs of asbestosis among their workers.) Attaching a price to carbon emissions is not the only way to reduce them:  has the writer never heard of rationing? The writer did create his report on electricity pricing for the C D Howe Insitute: that may explain his non-mention of rationing.  Pricing carbon leaves the richest amongst us merrily emitting  carbon  - regardless of whether that  tips the climate over the brink. Wasn't  it Audre Lord who said  "The Master's house cannot be dissassembled using the Master's tools?"  I don't think the climate crisis can be solved by the same kind of thinking that got us into the mess in the first place... and , after the Great Recession of 2008, hasn't the ability of the free market to fix all of our ills been discredited?

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Maiming of Copenhagen

I attended a talk by a diplomat, James L. Hunt, last night.  The title of his speech was Copenhagen, a Post Mortem.  He was involved in the negotiations leading up to Copenhagen as a representative of the EU and of the Czech Republic.  He discussed both acute and chronic conditions that led to the maiming of the Copenhagen Accord.  He pointed to the global economic crisis as an example of an acute condition that crippled Copenhagen: leaders and negotiators were so preoccupied with the economic meltdown that their concerns about climate change were sidelined.

He also pointed out that elected governments with a short term focus (short term as compared to reversing climate change) and  sharp national focus are singularly ill equipped to deal with any problem with a long term focus and a global reach.  Dealing with  climate change is viewed by the public as a burden and is certainly not a vote winner for any political party espousing it.  The Liberal Party of Canada is well aware of Mr. Hunt's last point.......

He also discussed the fact that economists such as Lord Stern have judged that the costs of inaction far outweigh  the costs of delaing with climate change now - and that win -win situations exist.  (I have previousl mentioned that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can save corporations, cities, and indiviuals  money .)

So - what to do?

Create  political will:  make it imperative for political parties to deal with climate change.  Generate conditions that make it impossible for poiticians to ignore the consequences of climate change. Keep sending your elected representatives letters demanding a legally binding, science based international agreement on cliamte change.  Alter your own behaviour: buy energy efficent vehicles (or take public transit) and appliances.  Talk to your friends and encourage them to do the same. 

And spend some time thinking about Mr Hunt's point that national governments are badly equipped to deal with long term problems with a global focus.  Who might  cope with these problems effectively? He also asked "Is the model of national eonomic competition the right model?" What is the answer to that?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Haiti - the Tragedy before the Earthquake

The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and damaging other buildings.
CBC Radio 1 news stated that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.   The newscaster did not discuss the causes of Haiti's pverty: it is directly related to, and caused by, environmental degradation .  And environmental degradation is in turn caused by a desperate search for energy by the desperately poor population of Haiti.
 With an electricity sector that only covered 10% of Haiti’s population in 2006, chronic energy shortages have contributed to Haitian’s search for alternative sources of energy. Unfortunately for Haiti’s natural environment, wood became and continues to be the principal energy source in Haiti, accounting for 70 percent of energy consumption in 2006. This resulted in the steady deforestation of Haiti.
The environmental destruction in Haiti  led to a corresponding social destruction.  The fuel wood shortage is exploited by the already wealthy  to exract huge profits from most of the population .... Earthquake or no earthquake, Haiti will not be stable socially until its environment is healed.   Perhaps Haiti is a heartbreaking and frightening reminder of the fact that the economy is a subset of the environment  - and not the other way around.

Partnership Zeitgeist

Dr Madronna Holden is an ecofeminist, storyteller, and doctor of philosophy.
The land on Kauai farmed by large American bio-tech corn and sugar cane companies form a shocking contrast. Modern agricultural practices have increased yield, but turned the farming areas into virtual landfills in the process. Fertilizers seep into the ocean causing reef death, killing fish, and generating plumes of eutrophication. Plastic drip hose and garbage litter the once beautiful flat lands of Kekaha and approach right up to the boundaries of the ancient burial grounds of the kings at Polihale. ....Western culture’s lack of a partnership worldview emphasizing the interconnectedness of all forms of life has led to the serious decline of nearly every ecosystem in Hawaii over the last 200 years. .... Such agricultural practices result from a dominating rather than a partnership system. In a dominator system, those at the top seize profits for themselves wherever they can find them. In a partnership view, all are responsible the long-term results of their actions on other life.
I was struck by her description of a partnership worldview.  I think that the developed world is in desperate need of a paradigm shift to such a worldview.   Such a shift is possible: as Wade Davis described in his book The Wayfinders, our cultural path is not the only one that exists.  A velvet climate revolution would include  a shift in our thinking and our spiritual practices: if we considered the effects of our actions on other life, we would pressure our governments to change laws and regulations so that we lowered our greenhouse gas emissions.  

Monday, January 11, 2010

Andrew Nikiforuk on Canada's Tar sands

A Solution to Economic Growth ?

The kind of culture that would best serve a Maslowian hierarchy of needs is hardly one that would kill the goose that lays the golden eggs--the economy that can provide the goods needed for basic creature comforts. Nor one that merely mocks the use of consumer goods to respond to higher needs. It must be a culture that extols sources of human flourishing besides acquisition. The two most obvious candidates to fill this role are communitarian pursuits and transcendental ones.  Communitarianism refers to investing time and energy in relations with the other, including family, friends, and members of one's community. The term also encompasses service to the common good, such as volunteering, national service, and politics. Communitarian life is not centered around altruism but around mutuality, in the sense that deeper and thicker involvement with the other is rewarding to both the recipient and the giver. Transcendental pursuits refer to spiritual activities broadly understood, including religious, contemplative, and artistic ones.
A culture that disavows consumerism as a way of acquiring status?  A culture that encourages us to develop social links, to grow spiritually, to create art, to love, to be truly happy?   A culture that considers the environmental costs of our choices?  A velvet climate revolution for sure!  Wow!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2010 To be the Hottest Year On Record?

A new El NiƱo warming period has just started in the Pacific.   "If that keeps up for the next few months, it will result in a great deal of heat being pumped into the atmosphere," added Smith. "The signs are that it will. If so, our computer models indicate that this year is more likely than not to be the hottest on record. Even if it isn't, I am quite sure a record breaker will still occur in the next few years."

It is true that Britain is having a spell of extremely cold weather, as is much of northern Europe and the United States. But at the same time, Canada and the Mediterranean region are having unusually warm weather for the time of year.

And despite the horrible weather at present, it is quite possible that we will get one this year."
All of the above is what the Met Office in the UK is predicting.   But La Ninas and El Ninos affect North America as well: so keep your eye on the weather in  2010.  We may have a scorcher of a summer in the Interior of British Columbia.

Giant Windfarms / Giant Monies

The UK government announced a £75bn programme today to build thousands of offshore wind turbines that will kickstart the next phase of renewable power generation in Britain.  The developments could create tens of thousands of new jobs, which will be crucial if the UK is to meet its targets for clean energy and carbon emission cuts.  Gordon Brown said: "This new round of licences provides a substantial new platform for investing in UK industrial capacity. The offshore wind industry is at the heart of the UK economy's shift to low carbon and could be worth £75bn and support up to 70,000 jobs by 2020."
I presume these windfarms will be part of Europe's renewable energy supergrid that I posted about earlier. And how much is Canada investing in windfarms?   Our capacity right now is 3,3319 MW.  The UK has  2,764 turbines that generate 4,070 MW right now, and, according to the Guardian above, has plans to build thousands more.  The federal government had a program (announced January 2007)  to support the deployment of 4,000 MW of renewable energy by 2011. The program was not expanded or extended in the 2009 federal budget. (http://www.canwea.ca/farms/wind-farms_e.php )
The Prime Ministers of our respective countries have a vastly different outlook and ideology...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Bonefish Said

A commenter on the Stranger Slog correcting a climate change denier:

It has been measured that the current change in climate is happening many times faster than any "natural" fluctuation in the earth's climate. Species (such as coral) who have survived dozens of past "natural" cooling and warming phases of the earth are dying off in record numbers (in coral's case, due to acidification, due to larger CO2 levels in the atmosphere. As a chemist, you should know how that works, CO2 becoming carbonic acid when it diffuses into the ocean and all).

Those CO2 levels have not been seen for all the millions of years that coral has been around. What a coincidence that they would "naturally" increase at never-before-seen rates now, just when humankind happens to have had a huge industrial revolution, in which we just happen to be pumping huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. And surely it's just a coincidence that sea temperatures are also increasing at levels that far surpass those occurring during other warming cycles, and that sea level is measurably rising at huge rates to reflect that. And it's just a coincidence that the habitat range of warm-water species happens to be expanding with unprecedented speed, as the habitats of cold-water species (which, like coral, have survived dozens of previous "natural" warming and cooling periods) is decreasing and shifting towards the poles in rates that they cannot adapt to.

Yep. Just a natural cycle that the planet has never seen before. The traceable connection to the atmospheric effects of high levels of carbon, and the traceable connection between said high levels of carbon and the fact that we're pumping it into the atmosphere in huge amounts, all just one big natural coincidence.

Interview With Elizabeth May

MD: You once told me that very few environmental organizations really understand political power and only a handful ever even lobby a cabinet minister or politician. Has that changed at all in terms of the role they need to play and could play if they are going to change things?

EM: I have a terrible feeling of a weakening of resolve in the movement though I am not involved much any more as I am doing my environmental advocacy in a different way now. And for good reasons they don't share things with me for fear of being partisan.  But the environmental movement is changing a lot because there's the establishment groups which have big infrastructure and tend to be vested in saying that something (like Copenhagen) is a success even if it's not. But what's new is the strength of the youth climate movement which doesn't have that same problem and the 350.org movement which is almost entirely viral and they're not going to fall for safe targets and not-good-enough positions.
Only  a handful of  envirornmental activists have every lobbied a cabinet minster or politician?  Or really understand political power ??? WHAT ?  Perhaps we better learn - quickly - in order to create meaningful change.

More Troubles for Tar Sands Oil Producers

Dozens of states are moving ahead with regulations that would penalize more carbon-intensive fuels like those made from oil sands bitumen, and encourage the use of greener alternatives. The states are proceeding amid growing doubts about President Barack Obama's ability to get cap-and-trade legislation through Congress this year. Under proposed regulations, refiners and marketers would either have to reduce their reliance on oil sands and other heavy crudes, or buy credits from low-carbon energy producers. In either case, the value of the Alberta crude to its producers would fall.  California pioneered the low-carbon fuel standard with a plan that was condemned as discriminatory by the Alberta oil industry as well as federal and provincial governments. Now other regions are following California's lead, including 10 Midwestern states that together represent the oil sands' largest export market.
Perhaps climate activists should lobby individual states  and  point out the amount of natural gas and water  consumed in the production of tar sands oil.   Why not?  Disclosing the pillaging of old growth rain forest in Europe put pressure on  forestry companies in British Columbia.  The same sort of tactic might work on oil sand producers .... at the very least, more states would implement regulations similar to Califonia's.  This would slow down tar sand development in Canada - and slow down greenhouse gas emsissions.

Climate Change Is Not A Problem

From the Interior of British Columbia:
It was too hot and too dry in the summer and a year of extremes,” said David Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment Canada, summing up the year in weather in Kamloops.  The total amount of precipitation — rain and snow — for 2009 reached 184.7 millimetres, nearly a third less than the normal 279 millimetres that falls on an annual basis. If the summer seemed extremely hot — well, it was.  The city recorded an astounding 52 days in which the temperature reached 30 C or higher during the months of June, July and August.  Kamloops normally gets 30 hot days in that three-month span.
From the World Bank:

The effects of climate change are already visible in higher average air and ocean temperatures....and many other regions have seen more freqeuent and intense droughts.
But climate change is not a problem.....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

David Suzuki Said...in the Georgia Straight

In imagining a better future, we must open ourselves to the idea of change. And we’d do well to remember that people with vision have been overturning outmoded ways of thinking and acting throughout our brief history on this Earth—often in the face of great resistance. It wasn’t long ago that people in countries such as the U.S. believed slavery was an economic necessity and that abolishing it would destroy the economy and way of life of its “free” citizens.  We really do have to think big—to imagine what a future that offers the most good to the most people and to all life on this planet would look like. Obviously, reducing poverty, conflict, and human-rights abuses is paramount. Environmental problems exacerbate those issues and so must also be dealt with.
We have a choice: we can deal with climate change now or we can procrastinate until we are forced to deal with the effects of climate change.  Which path gives us more control over the kind of future we want? Which way lets us create an egalitarian, sustainable, life and happiness enhancing future?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Idea of Justice

I finished reading The Idea of Justice, by Amartya Sen,  last weekend.  He is not focussed on ideal  and unrealizable theories of perfect  justice, but instead, on how we can reduce injustice in the world we live in.

In Chapter 6, he dissects global justice. 
There is clearly an important issue in the neglect of the interests and perspectives of those who are not parties to the social contract or polity but who bear some of the consequences of decisions taken in that particular polity.....
(That certainly describes the citizens of the developing world who will, according to the World Bank, suffer most of the consequences of climate change while causing very little of it to date.) In Chapter 16, he links democracy, justice, and  public discussion and reasoning.  He states that
It is hard to escape the general conclusion that economic performance, social opportunity, political voice and public reasoning are all deeply inter related.  ....Democratic feedom can certainly be used to enhance social justice and a better and fairer politics.  The process, however, is not automatic amd requires activism on the part of politically engaged citizens.
In Chapter 18, he makes the point that, although a global state and democracy are  impossible to achieve, activists who agitate for better global conditions do
ask very relevant questions and thus contribute constructively to public reasoning.....Active public agitation, new commentary and open discussion are among the ways in which global democracy can be pursued.
I conclude that environmental activists and agitators are not only saving the environment but creating a more inclusive democracy through questioning the status quo - or greenhouse gas emissions as usual.  Climate change activists press us to think about the future.  The subtext to their message  is that we, the ciitzens,  must become more engaged in politics  and more willing to question and constrain elites. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Case to Watch

In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Case No. 07-60756. This case represents another major decision regarding citizen enforcement, utilizing common-law actions and seeking damages resulting from corporate greenhouse gas emissions. ....the plaintiffs, residents and owners of lands and property along the Mississippi Gulf coast, filed this putative class action in the district court against the named defendants, corporations that have principal offices in other states but are doing business in Mississippi. The plaintiffs allege that defendants’ operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries in the United States caused the emission of greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming, viz., the increase in global surface air and water temperatures, that in turn caused a rise in sea levels and added to the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, which combined to destroy the plaintiffs’ private property, as well as public property useful to them.
Those cases have been remanded for further proceedings. But the rulings have paved the way for climate change litigation in the U.S. - and possibly in Canada.  Most provinces track the big emitters of greenhouse gases. Starting this month in British Columbia, industries emitting more than 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year will be required to report annually.
A list like that would give litigants a place to start when deciding who to blame for damages caused by climate change.
I'm quite sure the companies mining the tar sands in Alberta are watching this closely.  Very closely ....and worrying at night.  After all, a paper published in the (peer-reviewed) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that  "oil sands development is a greater source of contamination than previously realized."  Best study tort law on those sleepless nights .....

News - Good From My Perspective

The fallout from Mount Rainier's shrinking glaciers is beginning to roll downhill, and nowhere is the impact more striking than on the volcano's west side.  Inside park boundaries, rivers choked with gravel are threatening to spill across roads, bump up against the bottom of bridges and flood the historic complex at Longmire. Downstream, communities in King and Pierce counties are casting a wary eye at the volcano in their backyard. There are already signs that riverbeds near Auburn and Puyallup are rising. As glaciers continue to pull back, the result could be increased flood danger across the Puget Sound lowlands for decades.  Climate experts blame global warming, triggered by emissions from industries and cars, for much of the ongoing retreat of glaciers worldwide.  North Cascades National Park has lost half of its ice area in the past century. Mount Rainier's glaciers have shrunk by more than a quarter.

Why is this good news from my twisted perspective?  Firstly , because the problems are in North American territory - right in our back yards.   In my opinion, it gets harder to deny the reality of climate change  when glacial till released by climate change is flooding your home.   And I am very happy that the Seattle Times names global warming as the culprit for the same reason.  I hope this will motivate people to press their Senator, their Congressperson, thier MLA, or their MP to take action on climate change.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Urban Agriculture

Mr. Teulon  has 65 raised beds on top of the Freesia condo tower on Seymour Street, after he was asked to take over the unused space, along with gardens that he farms in 13 other single-family yards near his house near 21st and Fraser streets on Vancouver's east side.  Mr. Teulon and four other friends who also do urban farming are now planning to add a five-acre piece of Richmond land to their agriculture empire so they can expand their operations even more.  That expansion of Mr. Teulon's for-profit operation parallels the explosion of interest in community gardens, farmer's markets and local-food diets that has emerged in the past few years.  But experts say his type of operation has more potential to make a significant difference in local food production than the popular, but mostly hobby-oriented community gardens, especially if cities start using their land and buildings more creatively.  The rule of thumb in the urban-ag world is that one person can comfortably farm 2.5 acres, which is enough to provide 100 people with fresh produce. And, when you look around, there is space everywhere.
More good news: we are going to need local food badly when peak oil makes imports  too expensive and greenhouse gas emissions are verboten. Pressure your local city: ask them to allow and encourage urban agriculture on rooftops and in backyards.  Green roofs not only supply us with food: they reduce energy consumption, help control stormwater runoff, and reduce the urban heat island effect.  They also create green space.

Good News For A Change

Europe's first electricity grid dedicated to renewable power will become a political reality this month, as nine countries formally draw up plans to link their clean energy projects around the North Sea.  It would connect turbines off the wind-lashed north coast of Scotland with Germany's vast arrays of solar panels, and join the power of waves crashing on to the Belgian and Danish coasts with the hydro-electric dams nestled in Norway's fjords.

The network, made up of thousands of kilometres of highly efficient undersea cables that could cost up to €30bn (£26.5bn), would solve one of the biggest criticisms faced by renewable power – that unpredictable weather means it is unreliable.  With a renewables supergrid, electricity can be supplied across the continent from wherever the wind is blowing, the sun is shining or the waves are crashing.
Good news for a change:  governments with the acumen and political will to prepare for a low carbon future.  I am going to email the Canadian Prime Minister (again) and bring this Northern European example to his attention.  I wil also email the Premier of this povince as a renewable energy super grid may be something the members of the Western Climate Initiativewill be interested in.