Thursday, May 31, 2007

Schwarzenegger & Campbell Sign Climate Change Agreement

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger arrived in BC today amidst a ceremonial welcome by the provinces First Nations community. Arnold was given three ceremonial gifts before getting down to business with BC Premier Gordon Campbell and signing a five point agreement on fighting global warming.

The two leaders have committed to working together on the issue regardless of the participation of the US and Canadian federal governments.

The memorandum of understanding signed by the pair commit B.C. and California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, collaborate on clean energies and technologies and build a series of hydrogen- refill stations along the highway linking Vancouver to Baja, California.

California and B.C. will also share data about the health of the Pacific Ocean

The memorandum is also seen as sign that Campbell is prepared to join California's current efforts in setting stiff reduction targets, penalties for companies who don't meet those targets, as well as a carbon trading market enabling "green" companies to sell carbon credits to polluters. However, the weak point in BC's position is still the fact that they have not put their own commitment's in law, and to date the government has only released scant details about how they intend to attain the steep reductions they have promised.

Last year, California legislated a mandatory 25% reduction of greenhouse gases by the year 2020, while in February, Campbell committed BC to a 33% reduction by the same deadline.

But all in, today's announcement is a good beginning.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth Study Guide

Teachers and educators seeking study guides and lesson plans to accompany the film An Inconvenient Truth can visit the Australian AIT site. They offer a downloadable pdf file at no cost.

Harper Government Sued Over Kyoto Failures

The Conservatives are facing the first global warming lawsuit every launched in Canada following the failure of their revised, and widely criticized, climate change plan showed that they planned to abandon the Kyoto Protocol.

Friends of the Earth Canada has launched a landmark lawsuit today against the Government of Canada for abandoning its international commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. Filed in Federal Court in Ottawa by Canada’s largest environmental law organization, Sierra Legal, the lawsuit alleges that the federal government is violating Canadian law by failing to meet its binding international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the government must abide by its international agreements in preventing pollution. What this means on the ground is that the Harper government is facing an embarrassing lawsuit in front of the Canadian public that largely discredits their rhetoric while revealing how appallingly little they are actually aiming to do with their climate change plan.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bypass the US in G8 Climate Talks

A leaked document shows that the US remains rigidly opposed to any action on global warming that involves firm targets and timelines. The G8 nations will be meeting next month to discuss new commitments in fighting global warming, but a memo obtained by Greenpeace outlines the firm opposition from the US.

"The US still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," a red-inked note reads.

"The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses 'multiple red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to," it continues.

"We have tried to 'tread lightly' but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position."

Meanwhile, Britain and other EU nations are seeking a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050, and last week Japan announced a proposal that would see a 50% reduction by the same date.

But as long as the world is hung up on US buy-in, the entire process needs a wake up call and reality check - in that order.

The US will never agree to real progress on this issue so long as the current administration is holding the presidential reins. The first step other nations need to take is to realize this and start creating solutions that have a chance of working. Step one, send the US away from the negotiating table. Step two, go directly to China and India.

China will surpass US emissions this year. Rapidly growing India is a ways behind but already clocks in at number four (Russia, China and the US are ahead of them for now). At more than a billion people each, and unprecedented annual economic growth, it is essential that these rapidly emerging superpowers are brought into international efforts immediately, regardless of US participation. If the US is throwing a wrench into those efforts, then they need to be sent home. The fallacy of the debate is buying into the notion that the US needs to be there in the first place.

The EU will continue to bring forward aggressive targets and action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Japan will also. Add the combined clout of the Asian superpowers and formal US participation becomes a side issue. These economies can establish and drive an international carbon market. Once that emerges many US companies will inevitably opt in as a viable carbon market creates new business opportunities. Also, the massive trade deficit of the US means that they'll be purchasing most of their products from other nations with way higher efficiency standards. So the US carbon footprint stands to benefit by proxy, if not directly.

This still leaves the thorny issue of direct US emissions - namely in the form of industrial, energy, and automotive emissions. For this, the best solution is their state and municipal governments. Increasingly, US cities and individual states are forging their own global warming strategies. When the international community begins dealing directly with these institutions and stops banging their head against the Bush administration wall, they will greatly help efforts already going on in the US - and inevitably, Washington will need to follow.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

An End to Old Growth Logging in BC?

Not quite, but it promises to be greatly reduced thanks to a new forestry plan announced by the BC government. In it, Forests Minister Rich Coleman stated that the province would begin shifting harvesting from old growth to second growth timber, and would quickly move to reduce raw log exports from the province.

Whether or not this leads to a more sustainable forest industry will largely depend on what annual allowable cut is set and how effectively the harvest areas are managed - particularly with regard to critical wildlife habitat and salmon bearing waters. Likewise, it is also unclear what this announcement will mean for Canada's endangered spotted owls. At last count, just 16 remain in the province and a recently leaked report stated that the government was choosing to capture and breed the remaining birds, rather than protect the old growth habitat they need for survival.

Details of the new policies will be announced in the next two weeks.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Conscious Earth 1 Year Anniversary

Today marks the official birthday of The Conscious Earth. When I began this blog on May 25th, 2006 it was done primarily as a way to write on a consistent basis. Choosing to explore the environmental challenges of the modern world as subject matter was a natural, givent that it's always best to write about what you know and love.

One year later, a growing subscriber base of close to 300 and more than 5,000 monthly vistors have chosen to share in this exploration of sustainability and in a hope for a healthier planet. To everyone who has taken the time to stop by, read a post, leave a comment, or link to these pages, I offer you my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for bringing so much success through this first year.

Looking back on the past 12 months, here is a short snapshot of the people who supported the site, as well as the highlights from a busy - and possibly revolutionary - year in environmental awareness.

Highlights from Year 1:

May 30, 2006: The Flogging of Corn Cob Bob
Jul 05, 2006: Oilcaholics Anonymous: Klein vs. Gore
Jul 19, 2006: Will Ferrel as George W. on Global Warming
July 27, 2006: Leaked Memo Reveals Coal Industry Propoganda Plan
Aug 20, 2006: Gore Cracks the Conservative's Lies
Sep 29, 2006: Suzuki to Dion, "Take My Research"
Oct 19, 2006: Ta Da! Tory Clean Air Plan Unveiled
Nov 27, 2006: An Inconvenient Truth Squeezed from Classrooms
Nov 22, 2006: Ex Monsanto Employee Says GMO Crops May Cause Disease
Jan 17, 2007: Global Warming Shifts Doomsday Clock
Feb 01, 2007: Right Wing Think Tank Climate Report Leaked
Feb 23, 2007: The Environment - A Religion of Fact
Apr 23, 2007: Global Warming Gaffe

Thanks to the sites below for your support in sending readers this way:

The Influence Machine
Free Range Living
Posthuman Blues
Downtown Eastside
The Green Geek
Eco Chick

Thank you once again for all of your support.

Arguing with a Denier? Here's Your Ammo

The people at RealClimate have saved us all a great deal of work by putting together a one-stop post for climate change information.

The article highlights key information for novices and experts alike, and also provides links for debunking the bogus arguments of skeptics. To their list, I would add the following two resources:

1. DeSmogBlog's Denier Database: offers a thorough and ongoing investigation of the 61 signatories to an anti-climate-change petition sent in April, '06 to Canada's Prime Minister. Supporters claim it is signed by "60 leading scientists." DeSmogBlog reports on their credentials and their connections (or their lack of connections) to the oil or tobacco industries.

2. SourceWatch: This is my first stop whenever a new anti-global warming claim hits the press. SourceWatch is a wiki environment documenting the PR and propaganda activities of public relations firms and public relations professionals engaged in managing and manipulating public perception, opinion and policy. It also includes profiles on think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts that work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments and special interests.

As any reasoning person knows, understanding who is making a specific claim can be as important as the claim itself. DeSmogBlog and SourceWatch provide two excellent sources for the background of key deniers, and for discovering who writes their pay cheques. RealClimate is THE blog for global warming science.

Happy debating!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gore's "The Assault on Reason" Now on Shelves

The Assault on Reason, the new book from Vice President Al Gore, is now in stores. Though he departs from the firm environmental focus he's shown in recent years, the implications of this work for all US policy - including global warming - is vivid.

"Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.

The truth of the excerpt above is tangible whether discussing the ongoing war in Iraq, or the campaign of deceit being waged by climate change deniers.

You can order The Assault on Reason online from Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

CO2 Rising Faster Than Worst Case Predictions

Think that predictions of rising greenhouse gas levels are alarmist? Think again.

New research is showing that worldwide CO2 emissions rose at a faster rate between 2000-2004 than the worst-case scenario imagined in this year's UN reports on global warming.

The rise over the first four years of this century is also greater than in the 1990s - 3.1% a year between 2000-2004, up from an average of 1.1% a year during the 1990s.

This is faster than scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggesting even its most alarming predictions of the effects of climate change may not tell the whole story.

The group responsible for those UN reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), represents 2,500 scientific experts from around the world. However, they have been baselessly accused of taking an alarmist position by climate change 'skeptics'. Now it is turning out that the groups conservative predictions have not gone nearly far enough.

Britain Pushing Ahead With Nuclear

A paper to be published today will reassert the commitment of Britain's Labour government to nuclear power, despite legal challenges and continued public opposition.

An energy white paper published today will promise further consultation on the issue as demanded by the high court following a challenge by Greenpeace, but industry secretary Alistair Darling will make clear his belief that nuclear is essential if the UK is to meet growing energy demands and meet its Kyoto treaty commitments on C02.

The government insists that new nuclear capacity will be needed to reach their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but they have so far failed to convince voters. In the Guardian's most recent public poll, 48% of those surveyed continued to oppose nuclear power while 44% were in favour. Interestingly, 62% of men support it while the same can be said of just 27% of women.

Although nuclear power emits no greenhouse gases, the disposal and storage of nuclear waste remains the biggest concern of both citizens and governments. Put another way....

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Staples Announces US-Wide Computer Recycling

The United States generates almost 5 million tonnes of e-waste each year. Now the world's largest office products company has launched a US-wide recycling program that should begin to reduce that number.

Staples new nationwide computer recycling program will accept all brands of computers, regardless of where they were purchased. Small items such as keyboards and mice will be accepted at no charge, while larger items will be charged $10 to cover handling, transport, product disassembly and recycling. The move adds to an existing program that already accepts smaller devices like cell phones, pagers and digital cameras free of charge, and Staples is insisting that the recycling will be done both domestically and responsibly.

Staples said its program will ship the devices for domestic recycling by Vestal, N.Y.-based Amandi Services, which Staples calls "one of the country's most experienced and innovative electronics recyclers." Amandi complies with federal standards for electronics recycling and will take steps to ensure personal data stored on old computers aren't compromised, Staples says.

"We're not shipping products overseas, and we have a strict chain of custody to make sure we know where these materials are going," Buckley said.

Some critics are calling for them to drop the $10 charge and perform the service for free, but let's be realistic. Staples is a business not a charity, and the fact that they are offering this program free for most items is good news. Also, seeing as most computers are purchased as replacements for outdated models, it's fair to say that if you can afford to drop $1,000 on a new computer, you can also afford another $10 to ensure that the toxic waste from your old model does not end up in an Asian garbage dump.

Details of the program as follows:

- Customers drop off their old equipment at the customer service desk at any Staples store, 7 days a week during regular store hours; (TV’s and large, floor-model copiers are not accepted).

- Staples will recycle any manufacturers’ products, regardless of whether or not it was purchased from Staples, and there’s no limit on the quantity of equipment that can be recycled.

- A recycling fee of $10 per piece of large equipment is charged to cover handling, transport, product disassembly and recycling. Smaller computer peripherals, such as keyboards and mice, will be recycled for free.

- Staples Easy Techsm service is on site in all stores to transfer data from an old computer to a new one for a fee.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Vega4's Live Earth Video Contest

London music group Vega4 have joined the fight against global warming with a contest that will offer one lucky fan two tickets to the Live Earth concert in San Francisco later this summer.

Fans and concerned citizens are being asked to film their own earth conscious video or slideshow featuring the band's latest single "Life is Beautiful". The best video gets the tickets.

Conserving energy, using public transport, driving fuel efficient cars, petitioning local governments and demanding that they support bills and laws that hold companies accountable for their actions, and supporting those who are actively changing their corporate policies to make this rock under our feet a better, safer place for us now and in the future.

Completed videos can be uploaded to the Vega4 Youtube Group prior to the contest deadline of May 31st. Visit the group's MySpace page for more info, and click the player below to hear the contest single "Life is Beautiful". It's a great track.

About Live Earth: Live Earth will bring together more than 150 of the world's top musicians for 24-hours of music from 9 concerts across all 7 continents. Live Earth will bring together an audience of more than 2 billion at the concerts and through television, radio, film, and the Internet. That audience, and the proceeds from the event, will create the foundation for a new, multi-year global effort to combat the climate crisis led by Vice President Al Gore. Kevin Wall, Worldwide Executive Producer of Live 8, is producing Live Earth.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

BC to Capture Last Spotted Owls & Log Habitat

A leaked document reveals that the BC government intends to capture the last of Canada's spotted owls for a captive breeding program while it logs the habitat they need for survival.

Only 16 northern spotted owls remain in Canada, all of them in the old growth forests of BC. In the US Pacific Northwest, the owl is also listed as endangerd but still survives in greater numbers.

A full copy of the leaked document can be read here.

BC Told To Halt Salmon Farms

In a strong and bold move, the BC Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture (i.e. salmon farming) is calling for a permanent ban on fish farms on BC's north coast and a move to compulsory closed-pen farming within five years.

The industry would be given three years to develop the new systems, and another two years to phase them in. That would mean an end to open-net fish farms within five years.

Not surprisingly, the salmon farming industry has responded with predictable rage scare mongering while providing no real evidence to counter the committee's recommendations.

It's as if you were listening to a climate change denier talk about salmon farming.

For years the risks of open-net salmon farming have been well documented, particularly in Europe where the practice has been used for much longer than in BC. These range from the spreading of parasitic lice, the polluting of seabed floors with fish sewage, the irresponsible use of antibiotics, and thousands of documented cases of foreign Atlantic salmon escaping and surviving in Pacific waters.

The salmon farming industry's response has been typical of corporate propaganda. Scientific evidence is ignored and dismissed while no genuine evidence to the contrary is presented. Instead, industry touts the jobs created by their unsustainable business, and the so called "health benefits" of eating farmed salmon. This point is particularly misleading given that farmed salmon are so laden with cancer causing PCBs that they are the most PCB-contaminated protein source in the current U.S. food supply. Generally it is recommended that adults eat no more than one serving per month. There are no such concerns with wild species.

However, the industry's lobby group - the BC Association of Salmon Farmers - does offer a handy selection of recipes on their website. Substitute your favorite species of wild salmon and bon appetite!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Charities Issue Dire Warnings on Warming

A pair of dire warnings on climate change were issued today from two of the world's leading charities - Christian Aid and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The report from Christian Aid, titled Human Tide: The Real Migration Crisis, is predicting that forced migration due to global warming will result in more than a billion homeless people by 2050, while the WWF report, Climate Solutions, predicts that we have just 5 years to put in motion the actions and policies needed to avert catastrophic climate change.

The silver lining comes from the WWF report. According to their analysis, sustainable energy and technology can curb climate change and meet projected growth in demand for energy - but action is needed by 2012 to ensure success.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Organic Beehives Immune to CCD?

An email has been published from a prominent organic beekeeper stating that organic bee colonies are not suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is the mysterious mass die-off of commercial bee colonies seen in various countries around the globe.

The cause of CCD, or the reason why organic colonies seem immune, is still unclear. However, evidence is beginning to suggest that the problem may have to do with a powerful interaction between overbreeding, immune system failure and the potential role of genetically engineered crops.

Many people have speculated that the varroa mite is responsible for weakening the bees immune system and for transmitting disease. However, in a report issued three days ago, the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group reveals that high levels of mites were found in both healthy colonies and those suffering collapse. However, recent research involving genetically engineered crops add an interesting twist.

German researchers found that when healthy bees were fed pollen from a genetically modified corn species called Bt corn they remained healthy. However, when bees already infested with parasites (mites) were fed the same GE pollen their numbers were decimated.

The study concluded that there was no evidence of a "toxic effect of Bt corn on healthy honeybee populations." But when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a "significantly stronger decline in the number of bees" occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated Bt poison feed.

It would be interesting to have the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group cross reference bees exposure to GE corn versus high levels of mite infestation. If they correlate it may indicate a frightening link between this mysterious collapse and our increasing reliance on genetically engineered food. Currently, genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States.

Definition: Colony Collapse Disorder is the unexplained mass die-off of bee colonies currently being experienced in North America and Europe. To date, 30% - 90% of bee colonies have collapsed in the continental United States, and other significant losses have occurred in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the UK.

School Board Swindles Global Warming Education

As Conscious Earth visitors read last month, free copies of An Inconvenient Truth were made available to every high school in British Columbia thanks to the charitable contribution of the Tides Canada Foundation. Now, Surrey school trustee Heather Stilwell wants the widely discredited mockumentary The Great Global Warming Swindle to be shown alongside Al Gore's global warming documentary.

"I am not sure. I mean I see evidence. I think there is climate change, there's no question about that. Whether what Al Gore says about it is the truth, I have questions."

There are also a lot of people with questions about Heather Stilwell. For those unfamiliar with local BC politics, Ms. Stilwell was previously known for her involvement in the banning of books that depict same sex marriage from Surrey's public schools - a policy that was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Heather Stilwell is also a former leader of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada, and her political views are so far to the right that she was rejected by the federal Conservatives in her bid to run for office.

Trustees will vote on the motion to air The Great Global Warming Swindle in two weeks. You can contact Heather Stilwell directly here:

Heather Stilwell
18341 - 59 A Avenue
Surrey, BC V3S 6A4
(604) 576-4412
(604) 576-4429

Monday, May 14, 2007

Yahoo's Greenest City Competition

Today, Yahoo is launching a new green competition that will reward America's greenest city with a fleet of hybrid taxis. The launch is taking place today in Time Square by Yahoo cofounder David Filo, alongside actor Matt Dillon and Global Green USA CEO Matt Petersen.

Dubbed Be a Better Planet, the campaign is seeking to empower Americans make key changes to their lives and lifestyles that will fight global warming. To participate, individuals need to visit the Be a Better Planet website and take the actions listed below. The more green actions you sign up for, the more points go to your city and the closer it comes being America's greenest:

  1. Answer a question on Yahoo! Answers (and take your shot at answering Matt Dillon’s question while you’re at it about the most effective yet simple ways people can save energy
  2. Go to Yahoo! oneSearch on your mobile phone to type in green keywords like “organic food” and “public transport” plus your zip code to find relevant local resources
  3. Pledge to take up to about 30 different planet-protecting actions in order to reduce your personal carbon emissions and track them on an interactive U.S. map to see the collective impact of everyone else who takes part

Participants will also receive a free energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), while supplies last. For it's part, Yahoo has kicked off the contest by donating a fleet of hybrids to the city of New York and has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2007.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Zero Emissions Skyscrapers for the Middle East

A German company has targeted the oil rich deserts of the Middle East as the place to build a new 68 story office tower that would supply 100% of its own energy.

A handful of architects recently dreamt up a state-of-the-art tower, a giant 68-story building projected to rise to a lofty height of 322 meters (1,056 feet), which would make it number 22 on the list of the world's tallest buildings. What is even more impressive is that not only will the Burj al-Taqa ("Energy Tower") consume very little energy -- but it will also produce all its energy itself.

Eckhard Gerber, one of the head architects proposing the groundbreaking new design, is hopeful of reaching an agreement with the Bahrain based company Almoayed Holdings by year's end. He is also attracting interest from companies in Dubai and Riyadh.

The project would come with a $406 million price tag and specific innovations that include:

  • a giant solar shield covering nearly 2/3rds of the building surface
  • a new generation of vacuum glazed windows for insulation against 50 degree Celsius heat
  • a cooling system to utilizing seawater stored underground
  • a 17,000 square metre solar panel island floating on the ocean within view of the seaside tower
  • hydrogen acquired through the electrolysis of seawater that will power fuel cell generators in the evening

The only question that remains is, if these leading oil producers are willing to make this step why isn't Canada's emerging oil wealth doing the same?

Hat tip to Adult ADD Strengths

Friday, May 11, 2007

CFLs & Mercury: A Small Problem That's Getting Smaller

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have been getting some flak lately for their mercury content. In truth, the amount of mercury in individual bulbs is not only negligible, but is also about to be greatly reduced. Wal-Mart has announced that it will be cutting the mercury in CFL bulbs sold in its stores by 33%, thanks to a new agreement reached with manufacturers.

To reduce the amount of mercury in its CFLs, Wal-Mart worked closely with manufacturers GE, Royal Philips, Osram Sylvania and Lights of America. All four suppliers committed to achieving a greater reduction in mercury content than the 5 mg standard set by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) earlier this year. These suppliers will also adhere to clean production techniques that will minimize mercury pollution from factories manufacturing CFLs.

Even prior to this announcement, switching to CFLs is a good move for the environment. In addition to dramatically reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, CFLs actually reduce the amount of mercury that goes into the environment for many consumers because they eat up less electricity produced by coal fired power plants. Add to that Home Depot's upcoming CFL recycling program in Canada and the future of CFLs as an environmental solution is strong.

More Q & A on CFL's and mercury available at Green Options.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Canada's Food Gets More Poisonous

Canada is set to allow greater amounts of pesticide residue on fruit and vegetables because our stricter regulations pose a potential "trade irritant" to US producers. The change in policy will affect hundreds of products.

The move is part of an effort to harmonize Canadian pesticide rules with those of the United States, which allows higher residue levels for 40 per cent of the pesticides it regulates....

Canadian regulators and their U.S. counterparts have been working to harmonize their pesticide regulations since 1996, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

This at a time when municipalities throughout Canada are fighting for - and winning - the right to restrict the use of toxic pesticides in their communities, the most recent of which was the high profile court battle in Toronto. In 2005, Toronto finally received the legal go ahead to reduce the non-essential use of pesticides when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the pesticide industry's final court challenge. Now the government of Canada is set to loosen the reigns on pesticide control on the food we eat to accommodate American trade interests. Welcome to the world of free trade and blurred borders.

Brilliant....just bloody brilliant.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Why "Intensity" Based Targets are Useless

One of the biggest criticisms of the Conservatives' climate change plan is that it relies on "intensity based reductions" in greenhouse gases. In the real world, this means that industry has to use less energy for every unit (ex. one barrel of oil, one car, one tonne of steel etc) it produces. Emissions will go down, but only if production doesn't go up by too much.

As it turns out, we have already been lowering our emissions intensity for decades, and the result has been spiraling greenhouse gases and unchecked global warming.

The latest UN report on climate change was released today, and in the intro of the main report is this handy little factoid:

The effect....of the decrease in global energy intensity (-33%) during 1970 to 2004 has been smaller than the combined effect of global income growth (77 %) and global population growth (69%); both drivers of increasing energy-related CO2 emissions.

In a little over three decades, overall energy intensity has been reduced by 1/3rd. At the same time, greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed by 70% - thanks to more people, using a greater total amount of energy, to buy more stuff.

Next to wages, energy costs are one of the biggest liabilities facing many industries. Business people are smart leaders who understand this fact, and that each dollar saved in costs is another dollar in their pockets as profit. So the real reason why industry is so quick to say yes to intensity targets is because they are already using them.

What Environment Minister John Baird and his Conservatives have done is waste tax payers' dollars creating a climate change plan that tells Canada's oil sands industry to keep doing exactly what it is already doing. On top of that, if energy intensity has already decreased 33% in recent decades, what makes Baird think that making a "mandatory" decrease of 26% by 2015 is going to solve global warming, particularly when oil sands production is going to triple by that same year?

It's about the same as someone spending their way out of debt, or eating their way out of obesity.

Canada's oil producers will gladly accept the Conservative's emissions targets, pocket the efficiency gains as increased profits, and leave Canada saddled with more greenhouse gases.

IPCC Report: Solving Global Warming is Cheap

Which scenario would you prefer - a global economy with an annual growth rate of 4.9% that is plunging the world into catastrophic global warming? Or, a healthy world economy with an annual growth rate of 4.78% and averting a climate catastrophe?

Those are the two options that were delivered to world leaders today in Bangkok as the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the results of its third report of 2007. Their first report showed that global warming is occurring and that human's are the primary cause. The second demonstrated the catastrophic impacts of unchecked global warming on the world. Now, in their third report, the IPCC's panel of scientists and economists offers the solutions to this problem.

Keeping the global rise in average temperature to about 2C, the most radical and expensive scenario addressed here, would shave about 0.12% off the average annual GDP growth rate.

For comparison, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects annual global growth of 4.9% this year and next. So taking a small bite out for reducing emissions would leave the expanding cake virtually untouched.

That's cheap at twice the price.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Grandmother Censored by Oil Giant

A feisty 85 year old grandmother from Colorado is finding herself in the middle of a David vs. Goliath media battle with oil sands giant Syncrude regarding a website she built to demonstrate the environmental impacts of the company's operations.

Last summer, Liz Moore took a tour of Syncrude's operations during which she photographed various standard sights such as big trucks, oily sand and bison grazing on reclaimed land. However, after seeing the devastation caused by oil sands extraction first hand, she became convinced that Americans needed to see what their thirst for oil was doing to the Canadian environment. Syncrude disagreed, and in April they responded with legal action stating that they owned the photos that Ms. Moore took and that she must be immediately remove them from her website. Ms. Moore complied.

Syncrude was quick to defend its actions, stating that Ms. Moore had signed a waiver that gave the company ownership over any photos she took. That's nice and tidy from the legal standpoint, but like most legal technicalities it completely misses the point. First of all, Syncrude's "private operations" are one of the most destructive industrial processes in the world, and affect people well beyond the borders of their sights. Impacts of Alberta's oil sands include:

  • 359 million litres of water diversions authorized from the Athabasca River - twice the volume used by the city of Calgary in an single year.
  • the return of less than 10% of that volume to the river. The rest remains contaminated and is stored in vast tailing ponds which already total 50 square kilometers in area.
  • massive increases in rare cancers among the Fort Chipewyan First Nations near Syncrude's operations.
  • greenhouse gas emissions that are currently the second highest in Canada.
  • Syncrude is the 6th largest emitting company in Canada.
  • oil production is expected to triple by 2015.

The second point is that the folks at Syncrude are acting like a bunch of wankers by thinking that they are actually accomplishing anything by launching legal action against senior citizens. To prove it, here's my own photo montage showing what's going on in Alberta's oil patch and its affects on Canadians and the environment.

Globe and Mail link courtesy of DeSmogBlog

Canadians Don't Believe Baird

Do you agree with this guy's assessment of global warming? If so, you like the Conservative government, are a minority.

Angus Reid has conducted a new poll asking Canadians who they believe when it comes to the economic impact of global warming - Conservative Environment Minister John Baird or former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern.

Baird has recently been touring Canada scaring voters with doom and gloom predictions for the Canadian economy should we meet our Kyoto commitments (I thought environmentalists were supposed to be the doom sayers). His recently unveiled climate change plan has also been heavily criticized by David Suzuki and Al Gore.

By comparison, Sir Nicholas Stern wrote what is widely held as the world's most authoritative assessment of the economic impact of climate change, and places the cost of NOT stopping global warming at $7 trillion or 20% of the world's economy. Oh yeah, Stern also happens to be a knight.

The Angus Reid poll sums up the opinions of Canadians in two questions:

As you may know, environment minister John Baird released a report which claims that committing to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would drive Canada into a deep economic recession, lead to job losses, and increase gas prices. Do you agree or disagree with Baird’s assessment?





Not sure


Last year, a report written by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern warned that global warming could end up shrinking the world’s economy by up to 20 per cent, which would make it a more costly crisis than either of the 20th century’s world wars. Do you agree or disagree with Stern’s assessment?





Not sure


The margin of error for the total sample is + or -3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

In layman's terms this means that the number of Canadians who believe John Baird is about exactly the same as the number that plan on voting Conservative. Funny, that.

The margin of error for my opinions is a hell of a lot better than John Bairds, + or - 3.1%.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Friend for the World's Loneliest Bachelor

Scientists are optimistic that they may find a mate for the world's rarest living creature.

Lonesome George is the last known survivor of the giant tortoises of Pinta Island in the Galapagos. Discovered in 1972, and now 80 years old, George has been cared for at the Charles Darwin research station on Santa Cruz Island,while researchers have sought a female counterpart and mate that could help to save the species. They are now hopeful of locating one.

Scientists are reporting that genetic testing on nearby Isabella Island has revealed a 30 year old specimen that is a genetic cross between a native Isabella Island female and another male of George's Pinta species. The finding has boosted hope that a female may be found as well, or that selective breeding of mixed specimens could be used to restore the species.