Oh the timing. As negotiators in Durban, South Africa gather to wrangle over a new climate change agreement this week, Canada is rumoured soon to be formally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol and representatives of many rich nations are now privately admitting that there will be no new climate deal until at least 2020. Meanwhile the World Meteorological Organization is reporting that 2011 will be tied for the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850 (this follows 2010, which was tied for the hottest year ever recorded). Arctic sea ice, a barometer for the entire planet, has shrunk to a record low volume.
“2011 has been a year of extreme weather,” the WMO reported. “Drought in East Africa has left tens of thousands dead; lethal floods submerged large areas of Asia; the United States suffered 14 separate weather catastrophes with damage topping $1 billion each, including severe drought in Texas and the southwest, heavy floods in the northeast and the Mississippi valley, and the most active tornado season ever known.”
Is anyone in Durban paying attention?
More bad news on the climate change front. As the latest international climate change conference gets underway today in Durban, South Africa, this article appeared in the Canadian Press reminding us of what we already know: under the Conservative government of PM Stephen Harper, Canada has become one of the world’s most obstructionist countries in efforts to develop a new international climate change agreement. Here’s an excerpt:
Canada, Japan and Russia announced last year they would not take on new emission reduction commitments for a second period, and Canadian television reported Monday that Ottawa would formally withdraw from the Kyoto protocol next month.
Yet this is not the worst of it. Perhaps following Canada’s lead, representatives of many rich nations are now privately admitting that there will be no new deal until at least 2020, an outcome that could prove disastrous. In the meantime, climate change will not wait for us to get our collective act together.
The International Energy Agency, hardly a climate change advocacy group, warned policy makers on the eve of the Durban Summit that the “door is closing” to avert catastrophic climate change. The agency’s annual flagship publication, World Energy Outlook, presents the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.”Without a bold change of policy direction, the world will lock itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system,” the IEA said in a statement. “Rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change” if current trends continue. The Agency is “increasingly pessimistic” about the prospect for dealing with climate change, said deputy executive director Richard Jones.
The U.N.’s authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said changing weather patterns will make farming more unpredictable and make water supplies more unreliable. Global warming is increasing the frequency of droughts and floods, and could create a catastrophic rise of sea levels if mountain and Arctic glaciers continue to rapidly melt.
The international aid agency Oxfam also released a report Monday showing that extreme weather events are driving up food prices, and the world’s poorest peoples already spend 75 per cent of their income on food.
And so the talks in Durban begin. If no international agreement now, then what? We cannot negotiate with the climate.
Fin Donnelly (soon to be known as “Shark Fin” Donnelly I presume), the federal NDP’s fisheries and oceans critic and Member of Parliament for New Westminster-Coquitlam, has launched a petition seeking a ban on the importation of shark fins to Canada. “Shark populations are plummeting around the world,” Donnelly said in a news release. “An import ban would draw needed attention to this crisis and help protect them.”
This is an issue that Earthgauge has reported on in the past so it is great to see the NDP taking up the cause in Canada. In September of this year, California passed a ban on shark finning, following numerous other jurisdictions around the world. Could Canada be next to join the global movement to save sharks?
The Conservative government of Stephen Harper is not exactly known as an environmentally enlightened bunch, quite the opposite in fact. Still, this issue could actually have some traction. If there is anything that the Conservatives can be given credit for, it is their record on conservation initiatives. When there are no economic interests at stake, Harper sometimes seizes an opportunity to burnish his meager environmental credentials. Still, this will only happen if there is enough public awareness and demand for new legislation. The NDP petition is a good start. Next we will need a private member’s bill.
Here are some facts from the Huffington Post’s Francesca Koe explaining why shark finning is such a barbaric practice that must be outlawed:
Hammerhead sharks have declined by 89 percent since 1986. They are hunted for their fins, which are a delicacy in soups (for some). More than 1/3 of shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the international shark fin trade, with some populations declined by 99%. Although 26-73 million sharks are killed every year, just for their fins, many states and nations around the world are taking bold action to stop the wasteful “finning” of sharks: Chile, one of the biggest fin exporters, recently banned shark finning in their waters, joining the Bahamas, Honduras, the Maldives and Palau. In the U.S., Hawaii passed a first-of-its-kind law banning the sale, possession, and distribution of shark fins in the state) last year, and similar measures have passed just this summer in Washington State and Oregon.
Sharks are the oceans’ apex predators, which play a critical role in the health of the ecosystems that support and feed people across the globe… A shark’s value is squandered when sharks are killed for short-term gain from the sale of their fins. By stopping the fin trade, we can help put an end to this type of destruction in international waters.
For more info on sharks, check out this great website of the organization Oceana, which works to protect the world’s oceans.
Click the audio player above to hear the interview I did with Greg Herriott for the Alternatives Journal podcast. Greg is the owner and founder of Oilseed Works. His company was honoured with a 2011 Hometown Hero award by Earth Day Canada and, in the interview, he talks about some of the amazing products he has created from hemp over the years.
Given its many benefits, you have to wonder why hemp products are not more widespread. One can only suspect it may be due to outdated and misinformed notions of hemp’s association with a certain other plant. From healthy, nutritious foods to extremely strong hemp bale fibres to clothing to paper to renewable energy that can fuel vehicles and heat homes, hemp is truly a wonder plant. It is also one of the fastest growing plants we know of, producing up to 25 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year. Hemp also requires few pesticides and no herbicides.
So why don’t we see more hemp products in our stores? Well, hemp is currently experiencing an explosion in interest but, in our interview, Greg explains some of the challenges he has had to overcome in getting his products to market and in getting widespread public acceptance of hemp. Not surprisingly, this has been especially difficult in the U.S., where the government does not always distinguish between the marijuana plant and the non-psychoactive Cannabis used for industrial hemp.
Right click here to download the interview.
A new report from the European Environment Agency confirms what we already know: air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels brings enormous health and environmental costs. What is staggering, however, is the extent of these costs. In Europe alone, air pollution from the 10,000 largest polluting facilities in Europe cost citizens between € 102 and 169 billion in 2009. Half of the total damage cost (between € 51 and 85 billion) was caused by just 191 facilities.
When we hear about how clean energy cannot compete with the relatively low prices of oil, coal and gas without subsidies, remember that these health and environmental costs are not included in the prices that consumer pay. We simply pay for them later in health bills, premature deaths and environmental damages. If we paid the true cost of fossil fuels on society, there would be no contest. We would already be well on our way to a clean energy future.
You can read more about the report in this article from The Guardian.
Think of the Texas drought, floods in Thailand and Russia’s devastating heat waves as coming attractions in a warming world. That’s the warning from top international climate scientists and disaster experts after meeting in Africa.
The panel said the world needs to get ready for more dangerous and “unprecedented extreme weather” caused by global warming. These experts fear that without preparedness, crazy weather extremes may overwhelm some locations, making some places unlivable.
Click the audio player to listen to the latest edition of Earthgauge radio, which is a bi-weekly broadcast every other Thursday morning from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa. You can also right click here to download the show.
On today’s show, a CKCU exclusive – special programming on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. Interviews and speeches from Naomi Klein, NASA scientist James Hansen, author and activist Bill McKibben, Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians and the Hollyword actor and founder of Water Defense, Mark Ruffalo.
To hear individual speeches and interviews, scroll down to see my earlier posts.
Earthgauge radio will be bringing you a broad range of stories and interviews over the weeks and months to come. From climate change to economics, sustainability to science and ethics. Local stories to international. We’ll find the people and organizations who are not waiting for political and corporate leaders to do something about our increasingly serious environmental and economic problems. Many dedicated and inspiring individuals are already changing their lives, building a better world and having a damn good time in the process. We’ll find their stories and bring them to you.
Contact me at markdb1 ‘at’ gmail.com if you have any comments, suggestions for stories or if you live in Ottawa and want to get involved with the show. I welcome your input!
Click the audio players below to hear my interviews from the Keystone XL protest in Washington, D.C. last weekend with NASA scientist James Hansen; author and activist Bill McKibben and the Council of Canadians’ Maude Barlow.
It was a rare pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. James Hansen, renowned NASA scientist and one of the world’s leading climatologists. He heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. He is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.
Right click here to download the interview (3:18).
If there is one individual who can be credited with building the U.S. climate change movement to the level of influence it has reached today, it is Bill McKibben. In addition to being an author and journalist, McKibben has been a tireless environmental and climate activist. He is the author of several books and is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.
Right click here to download the interview (1:55).
I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with author, journalist and activist Naomi Klein when I attended the Keystone XL pipeline protest in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. Klein is the author of several books including The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s magazine and writes a regular column for the Nation and the Guardian newspaper. She has also written articles for Rolling Stone, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Globe and Mail, among many other publications.
Click the audio player above to to hear my interview (3:05) or right click here to download.
I had a quick chat last weekend in D.C. with actor and activist Mark Ruffalo about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and his organization Water Defense, which is trying to bridge the movements working to stop mountain top removal, hydro fracking, tar sands mining, and other destructive practices that threaten our dwindling global supply of clean water. Among other causes, Ruffalo has been a dedicated and passionate campaigner against the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas extraction in the U.S. He is also an acclaimed actor, having appeared in movies such as The Kids are Alright, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Shutter Island.
Click on the audio player above or right click here to download the interview (4:05).
Maude Barlow is another person I’ve been trying to interview for some time. In our discussion, she is refreshingly upbeat in her assessment of the prospects of stopping both Keystone XL and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines. Sure enough, mere days after the Keystone protest in D.C., President Obama announced that he would be delaying until 2013 his decision on whether or not to grant a permit to TransCanada to construct the pipeline.
Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chairs the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch. She is the recipient of 11 honorary doctorates as well as many awards, including the 2005 Right Livelihood Award, the Citation of Lifetime Achievement and the 2009 Earth Day Canada Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award. In 2008/2009, she served as Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly and was a leader in the campaign to have water recognized as a human right by the UN. She is also the author of dozens of reports, as well as 16 books, including the international bestseller Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and The Coming Battle for the Right to Water.
Right click here to download the interview (2:50).