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Earthgauge Radio November 22, 2012: 24 hours of Climate Reality and the International Year of Cooperatives

This week on Earthgauge Radio: we’re talking about the U.N. International Year of Cooperatives and featuring highlights from last week’s online 24 Hours of Climate Reality international media event.

To kick off today’s program, I speak with Donna Balkan. She’s the Communications Manager for the Canadian Co-operative Association and, as 2012 was designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Cooperatives, Donna joins me to talk about the cooperative business model; how it is different from privately owned, profit driven enterprises; the environmental benefits of co-ops and how they could be a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable form of business over the long-term.

Also on the show today, we discuss an important global event that took place last week. It was called 24 Hours of Climate Reality and was organized by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. On November 14-15, millions of people around the world tuned in online to hear and watch 24 Hours of Reality. Every hour for a full day, a Dirty Weather Report was broadcast from locations around the globe with the objective to send the following simple message to the world’s leaders: Dirty Energy has created a world of Dirty Weather.

We’ll also have our usual update this week from Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and www.earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio.

Part 1: International Year of Coo-operatives

Did you know that 2012 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Co-operatives? This was done to highlight the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. Now Earthgauge Radio is an environment show of course but if we are to have any hope of solving some of our very serious environmental problems, it seems clear to me that we’re going to have to look at moving towards business models that do not place the profit motive of shareholders as the primary force driving our economies today at the expense of social and environmental concerns. Co-operatives operate very differently. Although they are still businesses and need to make profits to survive, co-ops are guided by other values and the objective to meet the common needs of their members. It may be for these reasons that the popularity of the co-op business model is exploding across Canada and around the world. Co-ops simply seem to be a much more sustainable, and frankly less destructive business model and we can only hope that they continue to grow in importance here in Canada and abroad.

In my interview with Donna Balkan of the Canadian Co-operative Association, she explains some of the benefits of co-ops and their potential as an alternative business model.

Part 2: 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report

As you likely know, many countries and regions around the world have been experiencing extreme and highly unusual weather in recent years but many political and business leaders have been reluctant or unable to make the connection to greenhouse gas emissions and human-caused climate change. So today we hear excerpts of Dirty Weather reports from British Columbia, Australia and Pakistan. This all comes at a time when the World Bank, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) and the International Energy Agency have all issued new and sobering reports on energy and climate change reminding the world of the desperate need to reduce global carbon emissions immediately. These reports were released in the lead up to next week’s international climate change conference in Doha.

The IEA report states that no more than one-third of already proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burned by 2050 if the world is to prevent global warming exceeding the danger point of 2 degrees C. This means nothing less than leaving most of the world’s coal, oil and gas in the ground or facing a destabilized climate, more heatwaves, floods and storms. This is something to keep in mind when we consider the bitter debate over tar sands pipelines here in Canada  – people out in BC have been raising very legitimate concerns about environmental impacts and the potential for a devastating oil spill but one thing that is rarely mentioned is the fact that these new pipelines will help to get tar sands oil out of the ground at an even faster rate just as reports such as this one from the IEA are telling us that most of the world’s fossil fuels must remain in the ground if we are to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change.

Next we have a report this week from UNEP stating that greenhouse gas emissions levels are currently around 14 percent above where they need to be by the end of the decade and they are continuing to rise. In fact, global CO2 levels hit a new record in 2011.

Finally, on Sunday, the World Bank issued a report suggesting that the climate could warm a full 4 degrees by the end of the century — less than 90 years from now — even if countries fulfill the modest emissions-reduction pledges they’ve already made. Now we’ve seen the weather disasters of recent years, the droughts, heatwaves, flooding, hurricanes, Arctic sea ice melt and so on. Well it’s important to remember that this has all happened with only .8 degrees Celsius of warming so far. Imagine what the world will be like with 4 degrees of warming. This is all in the lifetime of kids being born today.

Finally, it seems even global investors are now getting very nervous about climate change. A global network of institutional investor organizations responsible for roughly $22.5 trillion in assets has released a letter recognizing the need to divert from our current path and begin to radically decarbonize energy systems. To accomplish this, the letter calls for an overhaul of policies and economies that encourage high-carbon investments. Why do investment firms care about climate change? Simply put, gobal warming and its potentially disastrous impacts are throwing a monkey wrench into their investment plans.

As mentioned, all of this comes in the lead up to the Doha Climate Change Conference, which starts next week. Will it make any difference? We can only hope but the time is now to keep up the pressure, particularly on own Canadian government, which has been nothing short of an international pariah when it comes to pushing for strong emissions reductions and global efforts to confront this crisis. You can be assured that we at Earthgauge Radio will be following this story in the weeks and months to come, and we plan to bring you up to speed on what happens at the Doha Conference during our show on December 6 in two weeks time so be sure to keep tuning in to Ottawa’s only radio show dedicated to environmental news and commentary from here in Ottawa and around the world.

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