Thursday, November 30, 2006

Refuting Global Warming "Skeptics"

As the months go on the idea that their exists "doubt" about the scientific consensus on the reality of global warming continues to surface. That was most recently seen on The Conscious Earth in a small handful of comments in the post "An Inconvenient Truth Squeezed from Classrooms".

If there is such thing as a credible global warming skeptic, they would need to meaningfully confront two powerful facts before their opinions can be taken seriously:
1) That a comprehensive review of all peer reviewed scientific studies through the past decade found every one of them confirmed that global warming is occuring and human made greenhouse gases are to blame. And,

2) That despite overwhelming scientific consensus, more than half of all news media articles surveyed give as much support to climate change 'skeptics' as they do to sound climate science.
This represents both the widespread corruption of our news media, and dismal level of critical thinking in our public discourse. Both will need to be confronted to solve global warming.

See Al Gore's commentary below.

Clip via

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Great Lakes Mired In Raw Sewage

The first ever report on sewage contamination in the Great Lakes ecosystem has revealed poor water treatment standards and the widespread dumping of raw sewage by our cities.

In total, 93 billion litres of raw sewage are entering the lakes each year, posing an environmental risk and a threat to the primary drinking water source for millions of people on both sides of the Canada - US border.

The report, titled The Great Lakes Sewage Report Card, was released by Sierra Legal and evaluates the sewage treatment standards of 20 municipalities from both Canada and the United States. Green Bay, Peel Region and Duluth ranked the highest among all cities while Detroit, Cleveland and Windsor received the report's worst grades due mostly to their reliance on combined sewers - a system that carries both rainwater and sewage in one pipe and can easily become overloaded in heavy rain storms. Buffalo, Durham-York, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toledo and East Chicago did not respond to requests for information and were not included in the analysis.

The report called foir improved treatment standards while making the following general recommendations:

  • Water Conservation: Increased water conservation for households could immediately reduce water use by more than 40% and dramatically reduce the demand for water treatment.
  • Rain Water Diversion: Disconnect residential downspouts and footing drains, and use rain barrels and porous landscaping materials to reduce the volume of storm water entering municipal systems in the first place.
  • Separate Combined Sewage Systems: in order to stop sewage overflows during heavy rains.
  • Stop Chemicals Pollution: Preventing toxic chemicals from entering the sewage system in the first place would significantly reduce the burden of sewage effluent and sludge.
  • Fund Infrastructure and Research

Despite decades of international conservation work to protect the lakes, the report did not find a single municipality with what it considered a fully up-to-date wastewater treatment system.

A better commitment is clearly needed.

The Great Lakes contain 20% of all the fresh water in the world, but they replenish at a rate of just 1% per year. This means that the sewage we are dumping today will be with us for the next century.

Read the complete report here.
See all grades here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NSTA Responds To Their Inconvenient Truth

As most have now read, Laurie David - producer of An Inconvenient Truth - authored an editorial appearing in the Washington Post stating that the National Science Teachers Association refused to accept 50,000 free copies of the movie. In response, the NSTA has issued a press release stating that:

  • NSTA policy states that the association cannot endorse any outside organization's products and/or messages to its members.
  • The NSTA suggested making the DVD available via alternative means of distribution (e.g. by providing a mailing list of our members to producers, announcing its availability in our publications, etc.).

Their statement, however, did not address the quote cited in the Post article stating
"Accepting the DVDs would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters," and this is the issue that has inflamed so many Americans.

While the NSTA readily accepts financial support from special interest businesses, it draws the line at accepting reputable, scientifically endorsed content free of charge. The problem is that while teachers and educators can have 100% control over the way a film is presented in a lesson plan, ongoing financial support as supplied by corporations will always be subject to political pressures. The public is rightfully wary of this and the NSTA, though well meaning and reputable, is no more immune to financial pressure than any other large organization.

True, the NSTA did offer another way of potentially distributing the films, but they did so while hiding behind policy. A policy that obstructs the ready acceptance of a valuable educational resource, while at the same time allows them to receive corporate dollars from organizations like Exxon Mobil who are infamous for funding disinformation on global warming. A fact which was pointed out clearly by the Royal Society - one of the world's leading scientific bodies - earlier this year.

If the NSTA is to be trusted to engage in responsible relationships with active deniers of climate change science, should it not also be trusted to faithfully and objectively distribute information that is consistent with the best science in the world, and that addresses the biggest environmental problem facing all citizens and all students?

I think so.

For more response on the debate visit the comments to the article on

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vancouver Boil-Water Advisory Lifted

The Greater Vancouver Regional District has lifted the boil water advisory for the region. After 11 days, all residents of the Lower Mainland can now safely use tap water.

An Inconvenient Truth Squeezed from Classrooms

The producers of An Inconvenient Truth have offered to supply American classrooms with 50,000 copies of the movie free of charge. That offer has been rejected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the nation's leading science education teachers group, citing a risk to funding from key financial supporters.

One of those supporters is Exxon-Mobil.

The news was buried deep in the Washington Post website and reported by Laurie David, a producer of the film and founder of

In their e-mail rejection, they (NSTA) expressed concern that other "special interests" might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn't want to offer "political" endorsement of the film; and they saw "little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members" in accepting the free DVDs.

Gore, however, is not running for office, and the film's theatrical run is long since over. As for classroom benefits, the movie has been enthusiastically endorsed by leading climate scientists worldwide, and is required viewing for all students in Norway and Sweden.

Still, maybe the NSTA just being extra cautious. But there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.

Oil industry supporters will be quick to endorse the decision, agreeing that An Inconvenient Truth does indeed represent a special interest. What they will conveniently ignore is that unlike industry friendly messages pushed into the curriculum, An Inconvenient Truth is based on, and endorsed by, objective science - the very subject the National Science Teachers Association says it promotes.

What truth is more inconvenient? It depends where your pay cheque comes from.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Organic Green Levi's Jeans

Levi's is releasing of the world's first fully sustainable denims from a major label.

Starting tomorrow 20 Levi's stores across the UK will be stocking the company's new eco jeans featuring completely organic materials and fully certified sustainable production processes. Based on the company's 570 style for women and 506 for men, the new eco jeans will feature 100% organic cotton denim, coconut shell wasteband button, non-galvanised metal fly buttons, and colours produced from potato starch, mimosa flower and Marseille soap.

Unfortunately, environmental groups have again managed to alienate themselves from an environmental victory by creating a downer out of good news. Jessa Latona of the Centre for Alternative Technology used her 2 second sound bite to bemoan rampant consumption rather than to embrace sustainable business.

"Switching to organic cotton and reducing carbon emissions at manufacturing will hopefully become the norm for the fashion industry,"

"However, rather than running to the shops tomorrow and buying a new pair of jeans, consumers could create their own eco wardrobe by recycling and reusing old clothes - getting creative with last season's jeans rather than throwing them out.

I would suggest that rather than searching for ways to criticize sustainable business solutions, Ms. Latona would do well to get creative with her PR opportunities and look for ways to lend momentum to an admirable initiative by Levi's. The most effective thing environmental groups can do is endorse this effort and push other companies to follow suit.

Just 30,000 pairs are being produced for the European launch, but by next winter the company hopes to expand the green friendly range to include more organic choices in their popular Red Tab styles, and they are leaving the door open for incorporating the same sustainable materials and practices throughout other products lines. The one drawback to the new jeans is cost with the initial sticker price set at approximately £80 (roughly $175 Canadian). However, the price should fall as Levi's increases volume and expands the sustainable design into other styles over the coming months.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Campbell for Coal, Campell for Oil. Campbell for Climate? Not a Chance!

The BC government excels in supplying warm and fuzzy sound bites on its environmental record and commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, but at no time has their true commitment been more clearly demonstrated than in the past week.

While the public gathers at Environment Minister Barry Penner's office to protest BC's newly approved coal fired power plants which will single handedly increase BC's carbon dioxide emissions by 120%, Premier Gordon Campbell declared that BC's coastal waters will be open for oil drilling within three years.

Any opening of the BC coast to oil drilling would need federal approval, and Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn has stated point blank that addressing this issue is not in the federal government's plans, but Campbell has continued to pursue the issue despite consistent opposition from the public and the feds.

And so, while the overwhelming majority of British Columbians oppose coal power, oppose oil development and support action on global warming, the BC Liberals continue in their own commitment - to the fossil fuel industry and to moving British Columbia away from a sustainable energy future.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

BC Residents To Protest Coal Power

British Columbia is continuing its march towards the dark ages by pursuing coal fired generation plants.

To date, no coal fired power station has been built in BC, but the Liberal government plans to change that by awarding a contract to build a new coal power plant in Princeton, BC.

Coal power plants are North America's number one source of mercury. And while 1 in 12 American women of child bearing years have blood mercury level high enough to harm an unborn baby, BC has remained blissfully free of similar health concerns thanks to a legacy of responsible choice in favour of clean energy.

BC now faces a choice - to honour and continue that legacy by embracing the province's massive untapped potential for renewable energy, or cave in to business pressure and fossil fuel reliance while causing mercury pollution and a 120% increase in the province's greenhouse gas emissions.

The BC Liberal government was one of many groups active in the Sumas Energy 2 battle (SE2), which successfully stopped an American natural gas burning plant from being built directly across the border, citing air quality concerns for Canadians. Now Canadian residents are being asked to shoulder the health and climate impacts of coal power by the same government that opposed SE2.

Citizen's opposing BC's use of coal are encouraged to attend a protest rally at B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner’s office in Chilliwack on Thursday afternoon.

Details of tomorrow's rally below:
  • Date: Thursday, November 23rd.
  • Time: 3:30 p.m
  • Location: #105 – 8615 Young Street, Chilliwack, BC

Urge Congress To Act On Global Warming

Now that a Democratic Congress and Senate (pun intended) has been elected, you can help keep momentum rolling by sending a letter to the new Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, urging swift action on global warming and clean energy.

Follow this link to send a letter to each courtesy of the League of Conservation Voters action page. The action letter is open to all nations.

Ex Monsanto Employee Says GMO Crops May Cause Disease

There is a perception by many that genetically modified food is a cure all for world poverty and food crises. What if you were to hear that an unintended side effect of eating genetically modified (GMO) foods could be infectious diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, better known as mad cow disease?

This is the threat uncovered by a former Monsanto employee, who has tried and failed to bring such concerns to company management, with the result that an unknown amount of potentially toxic substances is making their way into the food you eat because of the actual technique used by Monsanto to create genetically engineered crops.

Monsanto modifies the genes of existing plants through a technique known as gene insertion. By using a device called a "gene gun" researchers bombard plant tissue with new genes. After firing new genetic material into existing cotton, corn or rice cells, the new genetic information gets imbedded into the existing plant cells resulting in a new variation of the crop (for example it will be resistant to pesticides like RoundUp, allowing farmers to use the chemical to kill off weeds without killing the crop).

The catch is that in addition to inserting the new gene, the technique damages other genes in the plant as well, leading to malformed proteins within the plants DNA. Why does this matter? Diseases such as mad cow disease are caused by certain malformed proteins, and although it would be downright misleading to say that gene insertion causes mad cow disease, it is 100% valid to say that it causes malformed proteins with unknown health effects, and that these new proteins are not being tested or monitored to ensure human safety.

Kirk (a former Monsanto employee) understood that particle bombardment can cause unpredictable changes and mutations in the DNA, which might result in new types of proteins.

Kirk had just been studying mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and its human counterpart, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). These fatal diseases had been tracked to a class of proteins called prions. Short for “proteinaceous infectious particles,” prions are improperly folded proteins, which cause other healthy proteins to also become misfolded. Over time, they cause holes in the brain, severe dysfunction and death.

When Kirk tried to share his concerns with the (Monsanto) scientist, he realized,He had no idea what I was talking about; he had not even heard of prions. “These Monsanto scientists are very knowledge about traditional products, like chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, but they don’t understand the possible harmful outcomes of genetic engineering, such as prion proteins. So I am explaining to him about the potential untoward effects of these foreign proteins, but he just did not understand.”

Worse news still is the amount of time it may take for any health impacts to come to light. Diseases caused by malformed proteins may not show up in humans for decades, in the case of mad cow for up to 30 years. The point being that we are not going to know if the GMO food we are eating today is safe until some time towards the middle of the century.

Not only are Monsanto and biotech industry incapable of ensuring the safety of their products, but this article demonstrates something about the real motivation behind the development of GMO food. Rather than ending world hunger, the true goal is the successful patenting and ownership of our food resources by private corporations. Ask any CEO with a high school education what the perfect money making business is and you will get the following answer - the monopolistic control of a perfectly inelastic good.

What better money making enterprise could there be then having sole ownership over the food we eat?

Monday, November 20, 2006

California Ponders Historic Restoration

The Hetch Hetchy valley, which in the eyes of many rivals Yosemite in sheer drama and beauty, was flooded in the 1920s to supply water and power to California residents. Now environmentalists are bolstered by a recently released government report stating that the restoration of the valley would be both viable and potentially desirable.

The dismantling of the dam in Hetch Hetchy would represent a symbolic act of renewal while providing an invaluable learning opportunity to test best practices for environmental reclamation in a living, breathing laboratory.

At the moment we really don't know what exactly will work best unless we give it a go,' said Joy Zedler, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, who has created a phased restoration plan. Scientists hope to learn much about how to restore a landscape from what is likely to be little more than a moonscape of mud when first revealed. That knowledge will boost reclamation projects around the world. Zedler believes they will amass information that will be used globally

The proposed project has gained widespread support, including that of Harrison Ford, who was involved in making a documentary that backs the plan. However, cost remains the biggest hurdle to the successful implementation of the project, with estimates ranging from $1 billion to $10 billion all in.

Despite the cost hurdles, the plan is not without precedent. In the Florida Everglades over $10 billion has been set aside to restore threatened wetlands. A similar effort in densely populated California would present a startling message of environmental values that would be sure to gain the attention of citizens and policy makers the world over.

Friday, November 17, 2006

UN to Set Post Kyoto Cuts in 2008

Delegates at the international conference on climate change have agreed to set a timetable to cut greenhouse gas emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 during meetings in 2008. The announcement came on the last day of the two week conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

Among the provisions for the timetalbe is an agreement not to force mandatory cuts in the greenhouse gas emissions of developing nations like China - a move that is fair will likely cause continued resistance from President Bush in cutting US emissions.

Polluting Our Way to Stable Climate

Fifteen years ago I watched Highlander 2, the heinous sequel to the entertaining original, that features a future Earth cloaked in an artificially generated ozone "shield" meant to protect humanity from the effects of a shattered ozone layer.

Fast forward to the present day where at the ongoing UN Climate Conference Paul J. Crutzen of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemistry is proposing a similar solution to the global warming crisis.

Leveraging the theory of 'global hazing' Crutzen has put forward the idea that we can combat global warming by intentionally releasing massive quantities of airborne pollutants to block out the rays of the sun.

And while Mr. Crutzen admits that he tabled the proposal "to startle the policy makers" and that he is "not enthusiastic about it", it is apparently gaining the attention of all the wrong people including NASA's Ames Research Center who is reportedly hosting a closed-door workshop on the global haze proposal and other "geoengineering" ideas for mitigating climate change.

That such an extreme solution is being considered when established co2 reduction techniques and energy conservation strategies remain shelved disturbingly reveals how committed policy makers and business leaders are to the deluded idea that mankind can control nature through technology.

There's only one possible good that can come from such a proposal. That by stampeding blindly into embracing the money making potential of this "solution", chemical manufacturers totally annihilate big oil's propaganda attempts to convince us that global warming doesn't exist.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Boil Water Alert for Greater Vancouver

All residents of Greater Vancouver are urged to boil their water before drinking, brushing teeth and washing food for an indefinite period of time.

The warning comes on the heels of yesterday's record storm that left 200,000 Lower Mainland residents without power and resulted in a level of water turbidity never seen in the area due to large amounts of mud and dirt falling into the regions three reservoirs.

CBC Newsworld Airs "The Denial Machine"

In the coming days, CBC Newsworld will be repeating "The Denial Machine", a special documentary on the disinformation campaign forwarded by the fossil fuel industry to deceive citizens about the greatest threat to the future of our planet.

The Denial Machine investigates the roots of the campaign to negate the science and the threat of global warming. It tracks the activities of a group of scientists, some of whom previously consulted for Big Tobacco, and who are now receiving donations from major coal and oil companies.

You can tune into CBC Newsworld on the date and times listed below, or view the program with Media Player at the Fifth Estate website. View the trailer at the bottom of this post and mark your calendars.

Upcoming showtimes:
  • Friday November 17 at 10pm ET
  • Saturday November 18 at 1 am, 4am & 9am ET
  • Sunday November 19 at6 am & 7pm ET
  • Tuesday November 21 at 4am ET

Democrats to Push for Greenhouse Gas Limits

After taking over control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in last week's elections, Democrats have begun to push President Bush into accepting hard limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Barbara Boxer of California, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut - three powerful Democrats who will be heading key environmental committees - issued a letter to Bush yesterday urging the President to urged Bush to work with them "to signal to the world that global warming legislation is on the way."

"The recent elections have signaled a need to change direction in many areas, including global warming," the senators wrote. "If we are to leave our children a world that resembles the earth we inherited, we must act now to address GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.

"When the 110th Congress begins in January, we pledge to work to pass an effective system of mandatory limits on greenhouse gases."
The battle will be a tough one, as Bush's representative to the UN Climate Conference, Paula Dobriansky, reaffirmed the US government's anti-Kyoto stance. It remains to see if the new balance of power in Washington will result in action on global warming or legislative gridlock.

Boxer is the incoming chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Bingaman is to chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Lieberman will chair the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ambrose Dividing Canada Over Kyoto

In the latest spin effort by the two time defending Fossil of the Day award winner, Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose used her speech at the UN Climate Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, to try to convince the world that Kyoto is being used by opposition parties to divide Canada.

Ms Ambrose cites the Tory Clean Air Act - legislation so thoroughly criticized by Canadian media and opposition parties that she can no longer talk about it in her own country - as proof of the Conservative's commitment.

Fortunately, the international community is not buying her line any more than Canadians are. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin responded to Canadian inaction by urging the European Union to impose a punitive import tax on goods from countries such as Canada that refuse to sign on to a tougher second phase of the global warming deal.

Dominique de Villepin said countries that do not commit to new targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions should not be allowed to benefit by avoiding the costs associated with reducing global warming. He said France would make specific proposals for the European Union to discuss in the new year.

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose was not aware of the details of the French proposal

The other thing that Ms. Ambrose seems unaware of is that her Conservatives are a minority government, representing a minority of Canadians. The majority of this country supports Kyoto as well as strong action on climate change, so it is you Ms Ambrose who are attempting to divide the country on this issue. Not the other way around.

British Climate Change Bill Announced

I guess Tony Blair must read The Conscious Earth. Last month, I wrote a piece addressing the critics call for yearly reductions in greenhouse gas emissions rather than the British government's originally proposed 10 year targets.

Ideally, there is probably a happy middle ground to be found. Legally binding annual cuts in greenhouse gases are undesirable for the same reason balanced budget legislation is a poor fiscal policy. They unduly restrict the responsiveness of governments to unforeseen needs and emergencies. Unexpected events do and will occur and can often push a nation into debt for a given year, whether that debt is measured in dollars or carbon dioxide makes little difference. The point is to remain financially, and environmentally sustainable over time.

In today's Queen's Speech, the government announced its new climate change bill promising five-year targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions, and suggesting that an independent commission - rather than ministers - would set the targets. Those targets would in-turn be set within the context of a legal commitment to cut CO2 emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Bang on.

It is now for the government to make good on its promises by passing the bill intact and undiluted. In doing so, they would set an example for most the world to follow.

London Gets Tough of SUVs

In what is likely the world's most aggressive action against SUV's, London mayor Ken Livingstone has unveiled plans to charge the highest polluting vehicles £25 per day to drive in the central city. Meanwhile, cars with the lowest emissions, including electric vehicles and hybrids would receive a 100% exemption.

Mr Livingstone said they would have three years to trade their cars in for less polluting vehicles, and those considering the purchase of a Band G (high emission) vehicle should consider the additional cost.

The move is both correct and visionary for placing the costs of carbon emissions where they belong - on the consumers who choose polluting vehicles over efficient one.

A Different Look At US Emissions

The World Resource Institute has offered a new perspective on US greenhouse gas emissions. By looking at carbon dioxide contributions of each state, they shed new light on the magnitude of the United States' impact on global warming.

As the article points out, if the individual states were ranked as nations six of them would rank among the top 30 greenhouse gas emitters in the world- Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Florida.

Slicing the numbers a different way, the map below shows how the greenhouse gas emissions of other countries compare to the US. In short, it would take the sum total of all emissions from Brazil, Russia, India, the UK, South Korea and Canada to equal that of the United States.

Canada Near Bottom in Global Warming Action

Fifty-six countries are responsible for 90% of the world's greenhouse gases emissions, and Canada ranks a dismal 51st when it comes to providing meaningful action to reduce those emissions.

This is the result of a report issued today that combines each country's emissions levels, emissions trends and climate policy to calculate an overall ranking for each. Canada's performance placed them behind 47th place Australia who did not even sign the Kyoto Accord, while the United States placed 53rd with only China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia faring worse.

The report was announced in the midst of the latest international climate conference in Nairobi, Kenya, where members of Canada's opposition parties, and representatives of Quebec, have lambasted Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose in advance of her arrival at the conference.

Liberal and Bloc Québécois environment critics John Godfrey and Bernard Bigras joined Bechard and the environmental groups, urging the government to recommit to the Kyoto targets. NDP critic Nathan Cullen is expected at the UN meeting today, but was unable to attend the news conference because of a scheduling problem.

Meantime, Bigras handed out to delegates from other countries copies of a letter he wrote, on the House of Commons letterhead, that denounced the Harper government and highlighted the majority support among Canadian MPs for the Kyoto Protocol.

Environmental groups have also chimed in, awarding Ms. Ambrose the Fossil of the Day award for the government's non-existent performance in addressing global warming.

Despite her tough talk, international environmental groups gave her their "fossil of the day" award for making "ridiculous claims" about Canada meeting all of its Kyoto commitments except for the targets.

"What kind of misleading nonsense is this from the ex-chair of the conference of parties (to the Kyoto protocol)?" asked Greenpeace Canada spokesman Steven Guilbeault. "It's absolutely scandalous."

Ms. Ambrose will have an opportunity to pick her own bones with critics on Wednesday when she is expected to address the conference on behalf of the Conservative government.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Earth's Returning Forests

Amidst the frequent backdrop of gloomy environmental news, the American National Academy of Sciences is reporting that deforestation has ceased or reversed in a host of key nations throughout the globe including the United States, Russia, Vietnam, Chile, most of Europe - and most surprisingly - within the rapidly developing economies of China and India.

The report covers the world's 50 most forested countries, excluding Canada who stopped conducting national inventories in 1990 because of internal disputes regarding how to conduct the surveys.

Though widespread deforestation notably continues in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines, the report projects that the tendency towards reforestation will continue, with most countries restoring their forests within 20 to 30 years.

Monday, November 13, 2006

On the Cost of a Sustainable Economy

In a good follow up to my previous post, below is a comment from over decade ago on the cost of addressing global warming.

"To live in a (sustainable) future, we require a design. To pay the bills from the past, we need a means. To act we need a way to serve. For those who say that times are tough, that we can ill afford sweeping changes because the existing sytem is already broke or hobbled, consider that the US and the former USSR spent over $10 tillion on the Cold War, enough money to replace the entire infrastructure of the world, every shcool, every hospital, every roadway, building and farm.

"In other words, we bought and sold the whole world in order to defeat a political movement. To now assert that we don't have the resources to build a restorative economy is ironic, since the threats we face today are actually happening, whereas the threats of the post-war nuclear stand-off were about the possibility of destruction."

- Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce

EU Threatens UK With Legal Action

The European Court of Justice, responsible for trying European Union (EU) law, is threatening to take the UK to court for its ongoing failure to curb greenhouse gases in commercial buildings. Specifically, Britain has not implemented the EU building directive that requires governments to label all public buildings on a sliding A-G scale to indicate their level of energy efficiency.

Predictably, property developers are leading the opponents to the initiative, complaining that rating the energy efficiency of buildings will cause ones with a low score to lose value as companies renting office space will choose more highly rated buildings in order to protect their environmental reputation.

Congratulations folks, that is the whole point. Like energy ratings for appliances and light bulbs, and mileage standards for cars, telling customers how energy efficient their office spaces are is the most direct way to encourage efficient design as well as the redevelopment of older offices to meet more climate friendly standards. Putting better standards on appliances and cars has never resulted in putting GE and major motor companies out of business, and better building standards are not about end the property development industry.

In order for the world to successfully address climate change the business community is going to have to stop derailing solid policy and start living up to what it purports to be - champions of the free market. In their own language, a successful business is the result of survival of the fittest, and in the coming era the fittest for survival will be the leanest and most efficient, not the most wasteful and lazy.

Business has no problem with seeing other companies fail in the face of superior competition. The time is fast coming when the best competitors will be the ones that work with the environment and not against it. For those who cannot make that grade, let them fall. Competition will supply a better alternative.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lest We Forget........

Rememberence Day 2006. In the name of those who've fallen.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Green Party Gets Their Chance

The Conservatives have reached out to the Green Party and will announce today that Deputy Green leader David Chernushenko will join the National Roundtable on Environment and the Economy, a panel that advises Ottawa on environmental policy.

CTV news is reporting that Rona Ambrose will make the announcement later today in an effort by the government to deflect the overwhelming criticism they have received following the release of their environmental plan.

The Federal Green Party has nearly doubled its voter support since January, moving from 5% on January 23rd to more than 9% now, and today's move will usher them into the forefront of Canadian politics. However, working with the Conservatives will be a challenge, and the Greens will need to establish their environmental priorities up front. Otherwise they will risk losing any political momentum they have gained by appearing as a political pawn for the ruling Tories.

Video clip available at the CTV link.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

David Suzuki Interview from The Hour

George Stroumboulopoulos did a great interview recently with David Suzuki on The Hour. Suzuki's vigor is inspiring, as is his searing commentary on the state of the world's climate. Sound bites include a spirited critique on Australian PM John Howard...

"He's so far up Mr. Bush's back side he can't back out"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

US Voters Oust Green Enemies

Last night voters in the US elected Democratic candidates in droves, giving them control of the House of Representatives with control of the Senate likely to follow pending the final results of the Senate race in Virginia.

The overall message to Washington is both progressive and green. For the first time in American history a women will lead Congress as Speaker of the House, while voters ousted 8 of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) 'Dirty Dozen' - elected officials singled out for their abysmal voting records on environmental issues. That number could climb as high as 11 pending the fate of 3 undecided races, including the remaining Senate seat.

For a summary of the dirty dozen click on the image to the right, or visit the LCV results page for the complete results.

Spotted Owl Starves, Population Falls to 16

Another of Canada's spotted owls died yesterday at a BC bird sanctuary bringing the estimated population down to 16. In this instance the owl was a female thought to be a part of one of only 3 breeding pairs remaining in the province.

Though the spotted owl is more widespread in America's Pacific Northwest, their population has been rapidly falling in British Columbia - its only home in Canada - under the heavy pressure of old growth clear cut logging. Despite repeated calls for a comprehensive recovery strategy and critical habitat protection, the BC government continues to allow logging in their old growth habitat while federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has publicly stated that the owls "do not currently face imminent threats to its survival or recovery."

The spotted owl is a specialized creature that has evolved to thrive specifically in the old growth forests of the west. They rely on the habitat for both food and protection from predators, and for this reason are considered a barometer for the health of the forests themselves.

In this latest case, the owl was recovered from the side of Highway 3 in Manning Park, alive but severely emaciated. It died shortly later despite the efforts of care takers at the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ambrose's Bad Hair Day

Here's an assertion. Rona Ambrose, Federal Environment Minister, was appointed at that position not because of her environmental credentials but because the Conservatives decided that her reasonable good looks were a useful distraction from the fact that the Tories intended to do nothing for the environment, despite it being a strong value in Canadian polls.

Agree or disagree, enter the alleged furor caused today when environment groups were hung out to dry in the heavily right leaning CanWest Media group.

Preceding an accurate and unflattering portrait of Conservative climate change policy, environmental groups including Greenpeace, and Climate Change Action asserted that Ms. Ambrose would be known more for her hair than her enivornmental record.

The (UN Climate) Convention has seen some outstanding Presidents and some ordinary ones. Canada’s Rona Ambrose was neither. She might have the best hair of any COP President, but she will be remembered as the worst COP President in the history of the climate convention.

Should environmental groups stick to the issues and avoid personal attacks? Yes. However, that is a simple statement that ignores a key right wing strategy - the glossing over key issues with superficialities in order to gain voter share. Ambrose was not given the Environment portfolio because of her green qualifications, yet for the past 10 months her face has been paraded before mainstream media continuously, while her party bought time to announce their environmental non-action.

However ill-advised the environmental groups spin may have been, the issue does beg the question - what group is being more degrading to women? The party that at every opportunity props an attractive neophyte before the camera for their own political gain? Or the groups that have the audacity to point that fact out?

Record-Breaking Rain in BC

From Sunday through monday, the soutwestern corner of British Columbia experienced record setting rain with two feet of water falling in a twelve hour period.

An hour outside of Vancouver in the suburb of Chilliwack 200 homes were flooded, while in the provincial capital of Victoria hundreds more homes and businesses were flooded and the main route between Victoria and Sooke was shut down.

So far the Federal Tories have not laid blame, but it is expected they will fault bottom trawling fishing, rather than global warming.

Tories Recognize Global Warming,...When it Suits Them

Not only was the Conservative green plan a failure in addressing the realities of climate change, but in the face of a failing fisheries industry their own cabinet cannot seem to keep their story straight.

In the face of last week's study in the journal Science that forecast a 100% collapse of all commercial fisheries within 50 years, and in addition to Canada's continued refusal to sign a UN backed moratorium on bottom trawling fishing, Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn placed the blame on declining stocks on, you guessed it, global warming.

"It's not just a matter of overfishing or the use of certain technologies," Mr. Hearn told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons.

"The temperature in one of our stations, for instance, off St. John's, has increased by four and a half degrees. That has a tremendous effect."

The minister prefaced his remarks by saying he is no scientist.

That goes without saying. What he is, is a Tory hypocrite who, like the rest of his party, will use environmental issues in whatever way suits him in order to protect status quo industries.

The oceans are affected by global warming like other ecosystems. Nobody disputes this. However, it was exploitive overfishing and the destructive use of bottom trawling that previously led to the colossal collapse of Canada’s Atlantic cod fishing industry, and that now represent the most immediate threat on the world’s remaining stocks.

Bottom trawling is a destructive fishing practice where large nets weighted with chains are dragged across the seafloor to catch groundfish species like sole and cod. In addition to harvesting massive quantities of fish, the technique destroys ocean ecosystems needed for the replenishment and maintenance of stocks by scraping up coral and other seafloor life.

Even George Bush has figured this one out and has called on key Cabinet officials to work for an end to the destructive practice, while Canada continues in its refusal to sign the UN moratorium on bottom trawling.

What Minister Hearn fails to see is that between the continued use of trawling and the current rate of over harvesting, we will pull every fish from the water and destroy every inch sea floor habitat long before global warming can play primary role in the collapse of fish species.

Even so, environmentalists will gladly accept an about face on the recently released Conservative environment approach that utterly fails to address climate change.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Aussie Voters Not Buying Anti-Kyoto Line

On the heels of a poll released last week indicating that 79% of Australians want the government to sign on to Kyoto, a new poll shows that 91% of citizens want the government to do more about global warming, including cutting the country's reliance on coal. Coal is a major export for Australia, while coal fired generation accounts for 80% of Australia's electricity supply.

London Climate Change Rally 25,000 Strong

On Saturday, more than 25,000 people crowded Trafalgar Square in London to call on world leaders to step up action against climate change, and to push the British government towards year-on-year reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Organized by the Stop Climate Chaos - a coalition of environment, trade and community groups - the successful day of action proceeded with no arrests or public disorder while bringing greater attention to global warming in advance of today's United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

Harper Snubs EU - Cancels Summit

In the face of likely criticism over abandoning Kyoto commitments, Stephen Harper has annoyed European Union leaders by canceling the Canada EU Summit scheduled for November 27th. Harper cites a need to stay in Canada while the House of Commons is in session, despite the fact he is scheduled to be in Europe at the end of the month for a NATO meeting.

The European Union is Canada's second largest trading partner. Holding a market of 457 million people, it represents a key business partner and a potential growing market for Canadian products, but since gaining office Harper's Conservatives have allowed this and other key international relationships to slip. In September, The Globe reported that Canada is also losing ground in their once growing relationship with the emerging Chinese economy. These developments run counter to what has been solid Canadian trade policy for the past 5 years.

Through the early part of the decade, Canada has had the stated objective lessening reliance on the US - a policy that served to ensure greater long term economic stability through building diverse trade partnerships, and one that would afford Canada the independence it needs to make key domestic and environmental decisions.

With Harpers priority of strengthening US ties above all others, its little wonder that Canada's new environmental plan will only serve to have Canada more quickly 'approach' an American style of inaction on a host of environmental issues, global warming being just the first.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Global Warming Will Usher Arnold to 2nd Term

Arnold Schwarzenegger is 5 days away from being re-elected as California's governor. Heading into the weekend, Schwarzenegger holds a 16 point lead over the Democratic challenger Phil Angelides, a margin not seen in California in the last twenty years.

The most recent poll indicates a marked turn around in the race from earlier this year, when back in February the two opponents were in a dead heat at 39% a piece. The solid footing of the Republican governor also bucks a nation wide trend of Democratic support heading into the November 7th elections, with Schwarzenegger's surging numbers largely being credited to his strong commitments on the issue of climate change.

Arnold has succeeded where few others have in North America. Not only has he successfully reached across political lines to work with opposition Democrats, but in the process he has successfully passed the continent's strongest legislated action on global warming. And although it is too early to declare a victory in the election race, or for climate change action, the news shows that a rising environmental concern is making its way to the polls.

Recent polling places climate change as the top environmental concern among American voters - a good sign for green candidates heading into next week's elections.

Source: DeSmogBlog

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Can the US Do Anything?

A report this week shows that China is leading all nations in investment in renewable energy development. Of the $38 billion spent worldwide in 2005, China was responsible for $6 billion or nearly 16% of the total. The US was a distant third despite boasting a GDP almost six times greater than that of China.

The uncomfortable question American's will increasingly be facing is "are we capable of doing anything?". While the US is idle, two of the developing nations Bush most often points the finger at for not being a part of Kyoto are leading with some of the boldest renewable energy policies in the world.

In addition to their investment in renewable energy, China already has legislated renewable energy targets while an expanding number of their wealthiest businessmen are heading companies that produce clean power, including the sectors richest citizen. The story is similar in Brazil where earlier this year the country attained energy independence, largely through committing their economy to domestically produced ethanol from sugar cane, ensuring a lower carbon impact for their developing economy.

In the way of comparison, the US has no legislated renewable energy targets and has ensured their own economy will be wedded to foreign supplies of fossil fuels into the unforeseen future by aggressively pursuing Canadian oil and gas interests, invading two middle eastern countries, and laying plans for the invasion of a third.

Meanwhile, their policy is fronted by the dollars from the fossil fuel, and military industries under the guise of 'security', and the fallacious cat calls of 'questionable science' directed at climate change experts by oil funded lobbies.

American citizen's in general, and conservative's in particular are quickly approaching a reckoning, and the confrontation of a shattering reality. If America is the leader of the modern world, why do they lean like a drunken cripple on the oil of other countries and the loans of other nations? Why are they training their eyes and their guns on the citizens of their own country, while ignoring larger threats facing us all? Why do they devote their resources to foreign conquest and leave their own cities in ruin? And why do they deny rational evidence of global warming, while they point the finger at every other nation to do something about it? Are these the actions of a leader?

It took Brazil three decades of dedicated policy to attain energy independence. The US can take the first steps towards regaining their own independence on November 7th.

Here's hoping.