It’s hard to believe that a study like this was even necessary. But that goes to show the extent to which climate change deniers have perverted climate science to make it appear as though there is a legitimate “debate” taking place among scientists about the reality of human-induced climate change.
In any case, this study from the University of California (Berkeley) confirms, yet again, that global warming is real and it takes specific aim at some of the charges that have been leveled by so-called “climate change skeptics” in their well-funded and relentless campaign to discredit climate science. What makes this particular study even more noteworthy is that it was funded by the right-wing billionaire oil barons and notorious climate change deniers, the Koch brothers, and it was carried out by a famous former skeptic Richard Muller who wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal that there are no longer any good reasons to be a skeptic of the basic fact that the world is warming.
In my experience, I have found that the arguments made by skeptics generally boil to one of three positions: that climate change is (a) a myth and the world is not warming; (b) real but not caused by humans; or (c) real and possibly or partially caused by humans but not to be overly concerned about (see just about everything written by Bjorn Lomborg for perhaps the most clever incarnation of this “what-me-worry” attitude).
While the Berkeley study does not consider points (b) and (c), it does conclude that the “new results agreed closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and the U.K….This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”
Well, surprise surprise. At least we can all agree on that point. Or can we? Elizabeth Muller, co-founder and Executive Director of Berkeley Earth, said she hopes the Berkeley Earth findings will help “cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid concerns of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way.”
I share Ms. Muller’s hopes that this will once and for all put an end to the fabricated “debate” over whether the world is in fact warming. But even if this issue is resolved, I fear that no amount of science will convince the true deniers that humans are responsible for the warming or that we should actually do anything serious about it. This issue is not, and never was, about science after all. If taken seriously, the quandary of climate change presents an affront to the way many people view the human project – as a continuing arc of moral, economic and scientific progress. Suddenly, we are forced to confront the idea that human society and our economic systems need to change – dramatically. For some, this represents a threat to their financial security (i.e. oil companies). For others, coming to terms with the very idea of human-caused climate change and all its subsequent implications may be simply too much to bear.
This is a shocking story out of B.C. Wild sockeye salmon from B.C.’s Rivers Inlet have tested positive for a potentially devastating virus that has never been found before in the North Pacific.
Infectious Salmon Anemia virus has been found in two young sockeye salmon. Sheer reckless, negligent behaviour has let loose a highly infectious fish farm influenza virus into the North Pacific. I have been told over and over by industry and government that this could not happen, but they were wrong. No one has any idea what Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAV) will do in the North Pacific. We were told that it could not infect Pacific salmon, that enough tests had been done to assure us that it was not here and would not get here. Well here it is in two young sockeye. Are they the only 2 salmon in the North Pacific with ISA virus, or are they among 100s, or millions? No one knows yet. Government and the salmon farming industry are at best dangerously incompetent. Humanity is well aware that moving viruses around has caused enormous misery and death. We make horror movies about this, and yet there is no sign of a learning curve here. We have put a highly infectious marine influenza virus into the ocean we depend on. So incredibly foolish.
The Canadian government under Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly stated its aspirations to see Canada become an energy superpower. But beyond the government’s unbridled enthusiasm for Alberta’s tar sands, it is not clear what the government envisions for the country in terms of other forms of energy production. As recently as yesterday, Harper went further by stating that Canada will in fact be a “clean energy superpower” in the future.
If this is the case, we would do well to look to the example of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a state in Germany where a renewable energy gold rush is underway, giving the region good jobs and great promise. Germany has become a world leader in renewable energy and wants an even larger share of the $211 billion global market. A fifth of its electricity comes from renewables, up from 6 percent in 2000, and it aims to increase that to 35 percent in 2020.
What are Canada’s renewable energy goals? Will clean energy be a significant part of Canada’s energy plans in the future? Or will we continue to place all our eggs in the tar sands basket, becoming ever more dependent economically on a dirty and polluting energy of the past?
It seems that cutting 700 jobs from the payroll of Environment Canada back in August was not enough for the anti-environment ideologues of the Canada’s Conservative government. Today, the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN), one of Canada’s oldest, largest, and most well-respected democratic institutions serving the environmental concerns of all Canadians, was forced to lay off its staff and is on the verge of closing its doors and those of its 11 regional offices.
Why you ask? Well, because the Conservative government under Stephen Harper, with one day prior notice, apparently decided to cancel funding that had been promised the organization.
In its letter to the Canadian Environmental Network, made public yesterday, the federal Department of the Environment said it was not renewing financial support for the Network because of a broader shift away from “core organizational funding.”
In true Orwellian fashion, the letter went on to say that Environment Canada is seeking, “to allocate its resources in the most efficient and cost effective manner to ensure a safe, clean and sustainable environment for Canadians.” I see. Eliminating funding to environmental organizations helps to ensure better environmental protection. Makes perfect sense to me.
According to Larry McDermott, Aboriginal Representative and Director of the RCEN, the organization consists of “over 640 highly diverse large and small, rural and urban organizations from coast to coast to coast.” The Network is now demanding to know why it is being shut out of communications with Environment Canada regarding the promised funding for fiscal year 2011-2012.
“The Canadian Environmental Network received a letter from Environment Canada in May this year stating their intent to continue core funding in the amount of $547,000 for the current fiscal year. In keeping with our over three decades-long partnership, we ask that EC honour this letter,” said Olivier Kolmel, Chair of the RCEN.
Meanwhile, the government also announced that the “Canada School of Energy and Environment,” based in Calgary, will receive $15 million from the federal government. Sounds good at first glance; however, according to Postmedia News, one of this organization’s primary goals is “to clean up the dirty oil image of Canada’s oil sands and provide the public with a more balanced view of its environmental performance.”
What is going on here? Well, it seems to be yet another clear indication of this government’s priorities. According to journalist Karl Nerenberg, Canada’s government (elected to a majority rule with just 39.6% of the popular vote) “believes that the very profitable oil and gas industry needs taxpayer money to help it promote its own interests, while scientists and advocates for the environment can look after themselves.”
Nerenberg also points out that “The argument of those ideologues of the political right was pretty simple. If we stop funding groups that disagree with us, they said, those groups will, for the most part, disappear, and our side will have greater control over national debates. That is why the government de-funded the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the Canadian Council on Social Development and the Canadian Policy Research Networks, just to name three.
“The message is: if you want to advocate, criticize, share information at variance with government policy (even if scientifically based), or establish grass roots networks, that’s up to you. Just don’t expect government money to do so.”
We are only 6 months into a 4-year Conservative mandate and evidence of what their priorities will be continues to mount on an almost daily basis. As a bumper sticker I read recently stated quite aptly, “at least the war on the environment is going well.”
Some great news on the conservation front. Check out this article from HuffPo. Here’s an excerpt below. For more info on sharks and the California bill, have a look at this great website of the organization Oceana, which works to protect the world’s oceans.
With a stroke of California Governor Jerry Brown’s pen, the entire U.S. West Coast has now banned the trade of shark fins.
California has joined the ranks of a growing number of governments rallying to protect the top predators in the oceans. Washington State, Oregon and Hawaii have all passed similar bans. And the movement here in the U.S. reflects a global trend. The Pacific nation of Palau created a shark sanctuary two years ago, and other countries have followed suit in shark conservation efforts. As a result of Oceana’s efforts, this summer Chile passed a national ban on shark finning. And most recently, Mexico and the Marshall Islands have announced plans for new shark protections.
My interviews with Laure Waridel and Jonathan Glencross in the current issue of Alternatives Journal
The current issue of Alternatives Journal includes my interviews with Laure Waridel, winner of the 2011 Earth Day Canada’s Outstanding Commitment to the Environment Award, and Jonathan Glencross, one of the 2011 Earth Day Canada Hometown Heroes. Both are impressive individuals with inspiring stories about how one person working with a only small group of committed people can bring about significant positive changes at the local level. Here are the articles reprinted below.