Posted tagged ‘climate change’

COP 21: Setting The Stage for What’s Next

14 December 2015

Impressions from a quick look at COP 21’s Paris Agreement.

love2012

Ok. So I’ve begun to dig into this Paris deal finally. Yes, it is historic and to be cheered given the level where it plays. Just as the Alberta Climate Plan was historic and to be applauded, given its context.

It is notable, given concerns around these subjects late in the negotiations, that the text contains;

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”

Thank you Canada for standing for the right side of that piece.

However, for you and I who live on the ground in the real world and who have infants who look at us with trust; there can be no pause.

– Intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within 2C scenarios, despite all the talk of a 1.5C target, which btw is not a target but a commitment to ‘pursue efforts’. Nearer to actual target is “well below 2C”, which is nice but not quite the same as memes you may have seen singing about a 1.5C commitment.

– Actual national targets are not legally binding so provide all the room necessary for political expediency to take the place of necessary responsible action.

– Carbon neutrality is left to the second half of the century, kicking the can down the road again.

– Longer term goals require carbon extraction from the atmosphere, which means we’re not going to reduce emissions enough, but are going to count on our children to invent something.

– “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

“as soon as possible” Define “possible”. Possible as in ‘nothing else we can do’, or possible as in ‘best that can be done while keeping party donors happy’?

“best available science” in a context of funding and supporting science to come up with solutions as though this were a war-time effort? Or science like under a Harper or US Republican government?

Lots more to read, and lots good in this agreement, but so far imo it looks like aspirational text that can be easily ignored.

Much of the big money is going to go where it thinks it can make more money. It still falls to the grassroots to ensure that the necessary “reputational reasons” are in place for political players (note the deliberate choice not to use the word “leaders”. Those are too rare) and financial bigshots to do what is needed to at least not make a sham of this deal.

In summary, imho, this is huge, historic, stupendous, earthshattering! And on the ground, for you and I, makes not a damn bit of difference. We on the ground still have to stop the pipelines, stop the coal, stop the fracking, stop Site C, stop deforestation, unbridled industrialization, and all the abuses of global capitalism, and as it stands here in Canada do it in a context that still includes C-51.

To borrow a line from the 4th Healing Walk, we still have to Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing.

So, tomorrow is another day, just like the other one.

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Some thoughts from others;

The Paris Agreement: Paper Heroes Widen the Climate Justice Gap – John Foran

COP21 Final Blog – Day 13 – Elizabeth May and NZ Green MP Kennedy Graham

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Stop the Destruction, Start the Healing

13 July 2013

Alberta Tar Sands
It is hard to take in the scope of destruction that has occurred in the tar sands. The mind can’t connect this toxic wasteland to the boreal forest that used to be alive here.

My mind did not make that connection until nearly a week after the Healing Walk when I wrote that line and had to stop writing for a while. This was, I think, what a friend was looking for when she looked at me shortly after the walk and asked “So?”   I didn’t have much to say at the time.

You can look at the tar sands if you don’t think too much. The tailings lakes look like water. The white sand around them looks like nice beach. The floating orange scare-crows are kind of amusing. The boom of propane cannons is familiar from Fraser Valley farms. Don’t think about the smell and what you might be breathing that a dust mask does not filter. Be thankful for the rain that keeps the dust down.

Think about statistics. Like in 2010 per day;

1,460,000 barrels of tar sands oil produced

465,753,000 litres of water used

241,370 tonnes of greenhouse gases

Per day. Those are big numbers. Nearly half a billion litres of water per day contaminated and dumped into these deadly tailings lakes. Nearly a quarter million tonnes, that’s nearly a quarter billion kilograms, of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere per day. I can look at numbers like that and discuss how the atmosphere surpassed 400ppm CO2 recently or how river flows are declining in Alberta as the glaciers recede and climate change brings us the new boom and bust water cycle that smacked down Calgary and Toronto recently. I can talk about these things and then go have supper and enjoy the drumming in the Healing Walk camp and look forward to a swim in a real lake the next morning.

Just don’t think of life and the fact that this grey, stinking devastation used to be a living place with soil and plants and trees, animals and birds and people. Don’t think of complicity in the loss of life, the utter disregard for life that has occurred here. Don’t think of the radius of harm that reaches out with the weather and the water flowing past this place, taking cancer to the fish and the animals and the people who live many kilometres down river. Don’t think of how federal and provincial authorities continue to promote this foul death as the future for Canada while practising denial and obfuscation in the face of growing proof that this development is killing people in places like Fort Chipewyan. Don’t think about how this is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, contributing to species loss occurring now at a rate unprecedented even by the mass extinction that ended the age of dinosaurs. Don’t think about how this devastation is spreading back to our home towns, pushing pipelines and oil trains close to our schools, our local businesses and our home waters.

Tailings Lake
To think of those things — to really connect the disgusting landscape of the tar sands to the life that was once there, to feel that life and to know the threat to life the tar sands pose — is to wrestle with rage and despair that wastes time and saps energy.

Stop the Destruction - Start the Healing
Instead have faith in the ceremony performed by the elders to the four directions as we walked the 14 km loop of Highway 63 in the heart of the tar sands. Think of the rain that cleanses the earth. Think of the capacity of nature to restore itself if given half a chance. Think of the positive energy and the sharing of stories, culture and knowledge among the hundreds who came to witness the tar sands first hand and to raise the call to “Stop the Destruction. Start the Healing”.

Dene Nation Banner
Think most of all of the baby born in the camp at midnight on the fourth of July, on the eve of the fourth annual Healing Walk, in a teepee on a buffalo robe.

Some said it was the fulfilment of a prophesy. I don’t know, it was not my prophesy to look for fulfilment of. I do know that this baby, born at that place at that time, represented to me renewal and the resilience of life. This baby represented the obligation that all of us share to find better ways of being and to make a better place for him and all the babies of today and for generations to come.

Healing Camp Baby
This baby will never know me. But I will remember him and how his birth made my heart glad even in that awful place. I will remember him and my obligation to stop the destruction and start the healing so that one day the Athabasca River will run clean again. Stop the destruction and start the healing so that one day … maybe in this baby’s lifetime … people will be able to eat the fish again without fear. Stop the destruction and start the healing so that the wealth that was in these waters and sustained people in this part of the world for millennia, now stolen to pad the accounts of global corporations already wealthier than nations, can be restored to sustain people again. Stop the destruction and start the healing so that this baby -and all of our children- don’t have to.

All our children

Stop the Destruction – Start the Healing

All I want for Christmas is a more ambitious Canada

14 December 2012

Shell’s “Energy Senarios 2050 (pdf)” speaks of two scenarios in relation to energy and climate change. “Scramble” and “Blueprints”.

In Scramble, governments respond reactively and short-sightedly to climate change, doing too little too late and leaving us faced with “expensive consequences beyond 2050.”

In Blueprints, local actions from the grassroots and at the level of cities and regions help slow carbon emissions. Leadership from the bottom up helps corporations find opportunities in new technologies. The prevailing wind of public opinion allows national governments to follow with some actions that help. There are still turbulent times, but the outcome is certainly better than the Scramble scenario.

It seems like a pretty good, though mild, assessment aside from obviously partisan bits like “misjudged attempts to moderate energy demand through the knee-jerk removal of subsidies“.

However, I am left wondering why in this and so many other papers looking at possible scenarios there so rarely seems to be one that considers a path where governments look forward, see the danger, and act. Really act. Proactively, with courage, and on a scale commensurate with the scope of the problem.

Isn’t that what governments are supposed to do?

Instead, at least among major emitters and in Canada’s case particularly, it’s as though it were 1940 and instead of saying “victory, however long and hard the road may be” Churchill was to say “Hey, we can sell arms to Hitler. Sure the outcome will be catastrophic, but what else can you do?

We need a Churchill to stand up and say;

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our home, to ride out the storms, and to outlive the menace of climate change, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of the government — every person of it. That is the will of the people and the nations. The developed and the developing, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their air, water and soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of the world and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the oil corporations and all the odious apparatus of fossil fuels, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength for the air, we shall defend our planet, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

In fact we do have a handful of leaders saying such things. Elizabeth May here in Canada, leaders in the Seychelles, Bolivia and some others.

Unfortunately these leaders are too few and not in positions to harness people and industry on a war-time scale to attack the problem.

Canada in past wars fought well above its weight class. Some say it was because we were a nation of farmers and loggers and the like. People accustomed to hard work outdoors. Looking at the lives of my own grandfather and father I can’t help think my generation are pretty soft. Were it WWI or WWII now, would we rise to the fight? It seems doubtful. The fight was risky and uncomfortable. The battlefield hours long and pay small with nary a big-screen tv to be found. Our soldiers are probably every bit as good as they’ve ever been, but there are few of them and I think on the whole our population are too well fed and comfortable to face a tough fight. Fortunately the climate change war is not necessarily one to be fought in muddy trenches.

The task is still daunting. Wealthy and powerful forces are entrenched in the status quo. So out of touch with reality are our current crop of politicians that the premier of BC touts growth of natural gas extraction in BC as the next tar sands, as though that was a good thing! Like if we just make enough money selling fossil fuels we can all buy houses outside of the environment! And by the way Ms Clark, Alberta is running a $2-3 billion deficit currently while Athabascan First Nations fight for their way of life and their lives. We want to emulate this in BC?

Having been fed the “jobs and the economy” mantra over and over, many Canadians feel powerless to change. “We need fossil fuels! To drive our cars! To heat our homes!” many lament. What, and we don’t need a stable climate?

What we need is a vision of a Canada without this fossil fuel addiction — and the courage to pursue that vision.

We need to drive our cars? Why? Why do we still build sprawling communities? Why do we still allow industrial parks where the businesses that inhabit them cry for public transit for their employees while by design the area is impossible to serve with public transit economically? Why don’t we build more walkable, cycleable neighbourhoods? Why do we accept spending $2.5 billion on a new Port Mann bridge, but resist any investment in public transit? If you must drive your car, is it so hard to imagine that it be an electric car charged with renewable energy?

We need to heat our homes? Why? Why don’t we build to passive house standards?

We need the jobs fossil fuel extraction provides? Why? We can’t imagine ourselves as anything other than a resource colony for foreign interests?

The foremost manufacturer of mid-sized wind turbines in the world is based in BC. Where are their markets? Not here. Why?

We build warships that are as good as anyones. Yet we assemble Japanese and American cars. Why don’t we build the best electric car the world has seen and sell it to everyone else? Our engineers are not as good as anyone’s? Our workers can’t be as productive?

Climate change is upon us. It is not good enough for governments to ignore it or pay lip service to transitioning away from fossil fuels. We need all the grassroots efforts of individuals, communities and regions. We need those grassroots to get out and vote in leaders not politicians. We need businesses to take responsibility for everything they do and do not do that could help. We need everyone to stop looking for somebody to make a difference and realize, as lily Tomlin said, “I am somebody”.

The changes necessary are vast. The result — better communities, better transportation systems, better quality of life, a less disrupted climate.

Some object that such changes will take decades! Well yes. Better get started!

Economic Engine of a Sinking Ship

25 November 2012

Oilsands are stealing the headlines” and “Economics mean we must move pipeline plans forward – properly” (Vancouver Sun, 20 November) refer to IEA and Deloitte reports to say we must rely on oil-sands for our future.

For balance they might also have referred to reports this month from the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, the U.S. National Research Council, the Society of Actuaries, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

One sounds like a sky-is-falling nut when summarizing the costs these reports portray; displacement of populations, epidemics, pandemics, crop failures, ocean food chain risks, storms, droughts, floods, fires, etc. Yet these are not ravings of extremists and hiding our heads in the tar-sand won’t make these problems go away.

The Copenhagen Accord recognizes that global temperature increase should be below 2 degrees Celsius. PricewaterhouseCoopers states that “To give ourselves a more than 50% chance of avoiding 2 degrees will require a six-fold improvement in our rate of decarbonisation.” They warn that “Sectors dependent on food, water, energy or ecosystem services need to scrutinise the resilience and viability of their supply chains.

When todays children are adults in the world we have made for them, simply saying “I’m sorry” won’t be good enough.

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Note to me: Page 9, Society of Actuaries report

Note that the distribution of insured losses would be slightly different from that of economic losses. According to Swiss Re 1, weather related events have a huge impact on the global economy, and that cost is growing steadily. Over the last 40 years global insured losses from climate-related disasters have jumped from an annual USD 5 billion to approximately USD 60 billion in 2011.

There. Now I’ll be able to find that figure and it’s source when I need it.

Fear, Denial and Geoengineering

21 July 2012

I commented recently on an article titled “Fear of Climate Change May Finally Be Trumping Ideological Denial” on Huffington Post. The article, with comments below, can be read here.

My comment drew a reply by bobt755907 that said I “have the makings of a great Science Fiction writer.”

I wish!

I asked bobt755907 to point out the fiction in my original post and he (I presume it’s ‘he’) said to give him facts and he would respond.

I attempted to do that, but my follow-up reply seemed to be too long to post there. So I am posting it here and linking.

My original post there was:

Greenhouse gases are long lived and climate has great inertia. Climate change creates it’s own amplifying loops in melting polar & glacial ice, melting permafrost, warming oceans, wildfires, etc. Fear will unite and motivate us while climate change continues to get worse. Everything we can do to cut emissions and sequester carbon will provide a cure that takes a couple of centuries to show much result. A fearful and suffering global populace will demand quicker action and so motivate governments to turn to geo-engineering to correct the climate. This may well be a greater threat to humanity and the planet than climate change itself. We must resist the temptation to look for a quick fix and guide generations to stay the course. It is a unique challenge in human history.

Support point by point follows.

Greenhouse gases are long lived
C02 50-200 years, methane not so bad at 12 years, N2O 120 years.
source: links from http://epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html

climate has great inertia
“Thus it requires centuries for Earth’s surface temperature to respond fully to a climate forcing.”
source: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_16/

Climate change creates it’s own amplifying loops in melting polar & glacial ice, melting permafrost, warming oceans, wildfires, etc.

Feedback loops: Forests:
“Canada’s forests have become carbon sources, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than they are accumulating in any given year.
Several factors have contributed to this shift. The annual total area burned by wildland fires has increased substantially. Unprecedented insect outbreaks have occurred. And annual harvest rates have shifted dramatically in response to economic demand, increasing in the 1990s and decreasing sharply with the global economic recession.”
source: http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pages/36

Feedback loops: Sea Ice:
“This results in a positive feedback loop called ice albedo feedback, which causes the loss of the sea ice to be self-compounding.”
source: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/arctic_minimum.html

Feedback loops: Glaciers (etc):
“As glaciers, the polar caps, and in this case, icebergs melt, less sunlight gets reflected into space. It is instead absorbed into the oceans and land, thus raising the overall temperature, and adding energy to a vicious circle.”
source: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2003/1023esuice.html

Feedback loops: Permafrost:
“As the melting caused by a warmer climate could release some of the large amounts of methane now locked into the frozen soil, this might add substantially to the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”
source: http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=En&n=3E75BC40-1#Section33

Feedback loops: Warming oceans:
“the global average RF of surface waters today appears about one unit higher than the pre-industrial values. Thus, the surface ocean today is less efficient at taking up CO2 than the preindustrial ocean providing a positive feedback.”
source: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/outstand/sabi2854/future.shtml

Fear will unite and motivate us while climate change continues to get worse.
“The mental habits that help us navigate the local, practical demands of day-to-day life, they say, make it difficult to engage with the more abstract, global dangers posed by climate change. “
source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/opinion/sunday/were-all-climate-change-idiots.html

As more people are directly affected, more will look for answers. We don’t respond well to abstractions, but when the problem hits home people start to take action and demand action. One example would be the National Peoples Tribunal on Climate Crisis organized by Oxfam and others in India.

“The Tribunal will send a string message to the COP and world leaders that people are out in the streets to force them to take responsibility and conclude a just and fair deal to arrest these impacts on people who have no role in bringing about this crisis.” [sic]
source: http://www.oxfamindia.org/content/national-peoples-tribunal-climate-crisis

Everything we can do to cut emissions and sequester carbon will provide a cure that takes a couple of centuries to show much result.
“CO2-induced climate change is known to be largely irreversible on timescales of many centuries, as simulated global mean temperature remains approximately constant for such periods following a complete cessation of carbon dioxide emissions while thermosteric sea level continues to rise”
source: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v4/n2/full/ngeo1047.html

A fearful and suffering global populace will demand quicker action and so motivate governments to turn to geo-engineering to correct the climate.
“Concerns were growing that high prices could trigger a food crisis like that in 2008, when food shortages triggered riots in some countries.”
source: http://www.canadiancattlemen.ca/news/u-s-corn-soy-hit-record-highs-stir-food-crisis-fear/1001557437/70svy3Wrq4o4r50sxM2vx/?

“Geoengineering, or the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment, is increasingly being discussed as a potential strategy to counteract anthropogenic climate change.”
source: http://www.ipcc-wg3.de/meetings/expert-meetings-and-workshops/em-geoengineering/

“A small group of leading climate scientists, financially supported by billionaires including Bill Gates, are lobbying governments and international bodies to back experiments into manipulating the climate on a global scale to avoid catastrophic climate change.”
source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/feb/06/bill-gates-climate-scientists-geoengineering

This may well be a greater threat to humanity and the planet than climate change itself. We must resist the temptation to look for a quick fix and guide generations to stay the course.
“If any hypothetical geoengineering program were to fail or be cancelled for any reason, a catastrophic, decade-long spike in global temperatures could result, along with rates of warming 20 times greater than we are experiencing today.”
source: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/geoengineering_quick_fix_big_risks

“If you put CO2 in the atmosphere it has a very long lifetime, and you are basically giving a poison gift to your children. By relying on geo-engineering you are equally putting a burden on future generations to continue those projects — potentially for centuries.”
source: http://www.see.ed.ac.uk/~shs/Climate%20change/Geo-politics/Boucher%20geoengineering.html

It is a unique challenge in human history.
I think this goes without saying.

Back to you bobt755907.
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Harper’s Canada very happy with Rio+20

22 June 2012

rio+20Twenty years ago the World Scientists Warning to Humanity said;

If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.

In the same year the original Rio Summit attempted to chart a course to combat global warming and a range of other environmental harms and to protect biodiversity and the basic rights of people to such necessities as water.

Science has continued to warn and governments have continued to talk.

This year the United Nations released it’s Geo-5 Global Environmental Outlook and The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner warned

If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and ‘decoupled,’ then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,

And the world watched while the Rio+20 Summit failed, resulting in a vision statement that does not impose any responsibility to combat the threats we face.

Harper’s environment minister Peter Kent says he is “very happy, very satisfied” with the outcome of Rio+20. He says that his critics “are out of touch with reality”.

Mr Kent’s “reality”, the “reality” of Harper’s Conservatives, consists of the economy. An economy fueled by Tar Sands bitumen and where the ‘natural’ order of things requires perpetual and accelerating industrial growth. Their reality is a construct of society.

My reality consists of natural systems. Seasons, weather, the water cycle, food chains. Systems such as that whereby salmon leave rivers, grow large and strong on the energy of the seas, and return to the rivers of their birth to spawn a new generation and to fertilize the land and feed the creatures that live on it with the energy they bring in their flesh from the sea. Within my reality exist societies and those societies have economies.

Harper’s Conservatives’ reality is causing the destruction of my reality. My reality’s seasons are changing. It’s weather is getting increasingly extreme. Droughts, floods and fires take a growing toll as noted by the insurance industry. The sun becomes dangerous because of depletion of the ozone layer (again). Disease patterns change. Populations of living things are affected in differing ways, as noted by our forestry industry. Food chains are threatened. The oceans warm and become dangerously acidic. The chemistry of the atmosphere is threatened as ocean conditions bring about decline of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton that produce about half of the world’s oxygen. The salmon decline.

I work, such as I am able, to stop the harm that the Conservatives reality is doing to my reality. I believe that if my reality is harmed too much (which may already be the case), their reality will no longer have a place to exist.

For this work they call me an enemy. If I were really an enemy, I would stand aside and watch them proceed.

More on Harper and Religion

26 March 2012

Creation of Stephen HarperOn 3 October 2011 I asked on this blog “Does religious fundamentalism steer Canadian policy?” I wrote just on gut feeling and hoped I was way off base.

Today on The Tyee, Andrew Nikiforuk gives a more informed view on the topic in “Understanding Harper’s Evangelical Mission“.

It seems we who care about the environment are not just enemies of Canada, we may be enemies of God!