A very interesting post today by Joe Romm at ThinkProgress.org. Based on the recent comments of the new U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, Romm is speculating that Kerry “shows no sign whatsoever of backing down from the moral urgency that has made him a true climate champion.” Click the video link above to see Kerry’s first big foreign policy speech in which he says the following:
We as a nation must have the foresight and courage to make the investments necessary to safeguard the most sacred trust we keep for our children and grandchildren: an environment not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts, and the other hallmarks of a dramatically changing climate.
As Romm writes, “Does this sound like a man who is going to launch his term as Secretary of State approving the expansion of one of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuels in the world? His repetition of the word “courage” makes it sound like he is talking directly to the President.”
Remember that the U.S. State Department, under Kerry’s leadership, must give its approval to Keystone XL (because it crosses an international border) before the project can proceed.
This article is not new but I felt it was important to mention it given the shocking length to which our federal government is willing to go to lobby on behalf of the tar sands. As you likely know, the European Union has proposed classifying crude produced from Alberta’s tar sands as much dirtier than other fuels. The Canadian government is well known to be fighting this move but now an examination of hundreds of pages of documents obtained under access to information legislation in both Brussels and Ottawa show just how extensive the government’s lobbying efforts have been.
Remember, lobbying efforts by corporations are nothing new. What’s important to keep in mind here is that this is a sovereign state fighting on behalf of some of the largest corporations in the world. Here is an excerpt from the article:
The governments of Canada and Alberta, along with Canadian companies, have wooed dozens of European parliamentarians, offered trips to Alberta and sponsored conferences in an effort that Chris Davies, a British Liberal Member of the European Parliament and a backer of the EU proposal, said “has been stunning in its intensity.”
Satu Hassi, a Finnish MEP for the Greens and another backer of the EU proposal, said the thing that sets Canada’s campaign apart is not its size but its official backing. “There have been massive lobbying campaigns by the car industry, by the chemicals industry, banks, food giants, etc. But so far I have not seen such a lobbying campaign by any state.”
Emails from Canadian diplomats and other documents show Canada feared negative publicity could hit tens of billions of dollars of investment in its industry by such European majors as Royal Dutch Shell, BP, France’s Total and Norway’s Statoil.
“The oil sands are posing a growing reputational problem, with the oil sands defining the Canadian brand,” London-based Canadian diplomat Sushma Gera wrote in a confidential e-mail on August 20, 2010, which like many of the documents acquired through Freedom of Information legislation has been redacted. “With (a) recent increase in the NGO campaigns targeting (the European) public, we anticipate increased risk to Canadian interests much beyond the oil sands.”
Last year, Natural Resources Minister Joe Olive sent a letter to European officials implying that if Europe pressed ahead with tagging tar sands dirtier, Canada would take its case to the World Trade Organisation.
“A new study from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research suggests that a transformation of the world’s economies or a limit to economic growth may be needed to curb the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.”
This comes from a recent article about the fundamental incompatibility of an economic system based on endless growth and the problem of climate change. And therein lies the fundamental paradox of our times. Our modern, industrial, capitalist economy depends upon endless growth to function. We celebrate every uptick in the growth rate and fret when growth is “sluggish”. Yet as this study demonstrates, more growth leads to more greenhouse gas emissions and consequently an accelerated rate of climate change. So we can have one or the other, it seems, but not both. What will it be? More growth or less climate change?
“The researchers found that for each trillion in U.S. dollars that global GDP deviates from the trend, there is an accompanying deviation in CO2 levels of about half a part per million (ppm), reported LiveScience.
Noting that the study “more or less” echoes 1972′s “The Limits to Growth,” author and environmental activist Bill McKibben told HuffPost in an email, “We should change the meaning of ‘business-as-usual’ to focus on building more resilient, localized, community-focused economies, instead of the sprawling ones that for the last few decades have been awarding their bounty to the 1%.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the coal industry would try to exert pressure on the federal Conservatives but the fact that their efforts were so successful speaks volumes about who has the ear of this government (hint: it’s not environmentalists).
Briefing notes prepared by Environment Canada in September show that proposed regulations to crack down on pollution from coal-fired power plants offered an 18-month deferral on enforcement of the regulations “because of the interventions made by ATCO,” an Alberta-based energy company.
Here’s an excerpt from the Postmedia article:
The regulations, if finalized, are slated to come into force by July 1, 2015, but ATCO was seeking the deferral “to the end of 2016,” to protect its existing “Battle River 3″ generating unit.
“ATCO’s views had an influence on the proposed regulations as published,” said the briefing note, produced a few weeks after Environment Minister Peter Kent unveiled his plan.
Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency at the Pembina Institute, said any further efforts to weaken the regulations would be favouring profits over public health.
When I talked with Mark Ruffalo last November – whose organization organization Water Defense is trying to bridge the movements working to stop mountain top removal, hydro fracking and tar sands mining – he said that we had entered the era of “extreme energy”. As supplies of conventional fossil fuels dwindle, we are employing increasingly extreme methods to extract energy resources from the earth.
I was reminded of Ruffalo’s comments today when I read this article, which discusses two separate studies confirming a link between the practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and earthquake activity. Here is an excerpt:
Energy companies are increasingly using the technique across Canada, where there is already regular seismic activity and an ever looming threat of various sized tremors. The process involves blasting water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture rock to obtain oil and natural gas.
The U.S. Geological Survey is set to release its findings Wednesday that a “remarkable” increase of quakes in the U.S. midcontinent since 2001 is “almost certainly” the result of oil and gas production.
Opposition to fracking has ramped up since the release of the 2010 documentary “Gasland,” which shows residents of small town Colorado setting alight tap water they charge was soured by nearby oil industry activity.
On Earthgauge Radio this week, it’s our federal budget 2012 special program. Click the audio player above to hear the whole show. We have 2 interviews on today’s show:
- Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
- Raul Alvarez, director of the new film Land Awakening
It’s been a big week in politics and for environmental issues here in Ottawa with the federal budget being released last Thurs. In addition to the well-publicized thousands upon thousands of public service job cuts, the budget was described by Chantale Hébert of the Toronto Star and CBC as the most anti-environmental budget she has seen in her 20 years on Parliament Hill. So we talked with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May this week about the Budget and what it means for environmental protection in Canada. Click the audio players below to hear this interview as well as her full speech at the University of Ottawa last week.
Elizabeth May interview. Right click here to download:
Elizabeth May speech at the University of Ottawa (April 2, 2012). Right click here to download:
Also on today’s show, Rosanna has an interview for us with Raul Alvarez, director of the film Land Awakening, which screened in Ottawa last week. A wonderfully inspiring film that challenges us to rethink our relationship with food production, the film is the director’s personal journey to experience hands-on organic sustainable agriculture. This experience becomes a spiritual reflection into our deep and sacred relationship with the land. Click the audio player below to hear this interview. Right click here to download.
Raul Alvarez interview:
We’ll also have our usual segment with Ecology Ottawa who will be updating us on local environmental events and campaigns. We’ve listed some of the upcoming events below or you can click here to see a complete list with full details.
Finally, we hear a clip from our friends at Deutsche Welle Living Planet on their coverage of the recent Planet Under Pressure conference, which took place in London, England last week. As we’re talking about the environmental assaults in the federal budget this week, we thought it was worth listening to what scientists rather than politicians have to say about the current state of our global environment.
I’m pleased to be announcing that as of today we will be moving from a bi-weekly to a weekly show. You can now hear Earthgauge when you tune in every week on Thursday morning from 7-8AM and streamed online at ckcufm.com. We’re also excited to be introducing a new partnership with the Climate Action Network who, starting next week, will be bringing us monthly features on a variety of themes.
Remember that Earthgauge Radio is podcast on iTunes if you type earthgauge into the search bar, you’ll find us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook address is www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio and Twitter handle @earthgaugeCA. Please do get in touch if you have story ideas, a comment on something you’ve heard or want to get involved or contribute to the show.
Upcoming local environmental events (courtesy of Ecology Ottawa)
Wednesday April 11th – the second in a series of Organic Gardening Workshops will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at the Sandy Hill Community Centre. These workshops are a presentation of Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa in collaboration with Just Food and the City of Ottawa. Workshop number 2 will be divided into 2 parts; part 1 will focus on seeding and transplanting, including such topics as organic seed sources, seed starting requirements and transplanting to the garden. Part 2 will focus on winter storage of fruits and vegetables, including temperature & humidity requirements, drying, canning, freezing and more. Call 613-564-1062 to register or for more information.
Thursday, April 12th – the City of Ottawa will be holding a Public Open House at Ben Franklin Place to discuss plans to address the emerald ash borer problem in Ottawa. The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that poses a serious threat to the survival of ash trees across the city. Councillor Peter Hume and the City Forestry Staff will be leading the meeting. More information will be confirmed closer to the actual date.
Thursday, April 12th – there will be an Ecology Ottawa presentation on investing in solar power at the Ashbury College Chapel, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Come learn what 49,000 Ontarians have already figured out: how investing in solar power providesa stable, long term financial return. Solar power generated by panels on rooftops can be sold to the province’s electrical grid at a price that is guaranteed for 20 years. This payment is known as a “feed-in tariff,” made possible by Ontario’s Green Energy Act. Come learn a step-by-step plan for installing solar power on your home. If you don’t have a good rooftop, opportunities to invest in renewable energy through the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative will also be discussed.
An Environmental Film Festival is taking place at the Museum of Nature starting on April 18 and running to the 20th. Tickets are available online.
I’ve discussed this at some length in my previous posts (below) but for those interested in reading more about how the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is adopting McCarthy-era tactics to crack down on environmental groups that dare criticize them, I recommend reading this overview from the Hill Times of new Budget 2012 measures.
Wonder why they’re doing it? Perhaps Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie put it best:
“The over-arching theme here is this is a budget for the great pipeline to China,” Ms. Leslie said. “This is about pipelines, pipelines, pipelines, and at any cost.”
“Whether it is going after charities, who might have a different opinion, cutting the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy and cutting Environment Canada and not relying on science and evidence, or whether it’s going after the Environmental Assessment Act and weakening it, that’s what this budget says to me, it’s all about pipelines,” Ms. Leslie said.
Dark age ahead?
Scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have concluded that the incidence of extreme and unprecedented weather around the world over the past decade has not been accidental. For extreme rainfall and heat waves the link with human-caused global warming is clear, the scientists show in a new analysis of scientific evidence in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Check out this article to find out more about their research. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
In 2011 alone, the US was hit by 14 extreme weather events which caused damages exceeding one billion dollars each — in several states the months of January to October were the wettest ever recorded. Japan also registered record rainfalls, while the Yangtze river basin in China suffered a record drought.
Similar record-breaking events occurred also in previous years. In 2010, Western Russia experienced the hottest summer in centuries, while in Pakistan and Australia record-breaking amounts of rain fell. 2003 saw Europe´s hottest summer in at least half a millennium. And in 2002, the weather station of Zinnwald-Georgenfeld measured more rain in one day than ever before recorded anywhere in Germany — what followed was the worst flooding of the Elbe river for centuries.
“The question is whether these weather extremes are coincidental or a result of climate change,” says Dim Coumou, lead author of the article. “Global warming can generally not be proven to cause individual extreme events — but in the sum of events the link to climate change becomes clear.” The recent high incidence of weather records is no longer normal, he says.
Among the shocking anti-environment revelations of yesterday’s federal Budget comes the government decision to eliminate the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, which was a panel of business and environmental leaders who made policy recommendations to the government on a variety of sustainability issues.
A widely respected, non-partisan agency, the NRTEE was founded by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1988. Its reports of late, however, had irked the government as they were mildly critical of government plans to achieve its stated objective of reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The NRTEE had offered policy road maps on how to achieve this objective that did not square with official government policy (or lack thereof) on climate change.
The result? The Harper government axed them – not just cut their funding mind you – but eliminated the agency completely. They’re gone along with all the policy and support staff who worked there. And according to reporter Mike De Souza of Canadian Press, the Conservatives seemed to take quite a delight in doing so. De Souza tweeted today that in Question Period, the Environment Minister Peter Kent and others on the front bench “grinned and chuckled when asked a question about the demise of the NRTEE.” Meanwhile, wrote De Souza in another tweet, “Former enviro min Baird applauded when Ndp’s dennis bevington said gov’t had killed NRTEE”.
I will have more comment to come shortly on the astonishingly retrograde assaults of Budget 2012 on the environment. For now, I suppose I will consider myself lucky that I didn’t accept that job offer a couple years ago as a policy analyst at NRTEE.
Click the link below to read more about the demise of NRTEE.
It’s official: Scientists say the Holocene is over and the age of human planetary domination is here
We humans have officially conquered the world! Hurrah! But wait, is this any cause for celebration?
This from Deutsche Welle Living Planet:
Scientists are calling for the official designation of a new earth epoch: the Anthropocene. Addressing the ‘Planet under Pressure’ gathering in London, they say one species has left an indelible mark.
Scientists are pushing to officially change the name of the current geological epoch, as the world prepares to take stock of its 20-year record of addressing global environmental problems.
Experts say designating the arrival of the ‘Anthropocene,’ or age of man, would capture the nature and extent of changes on the planet, and could spark a shift in how humanity thinks of its presence on Earth.
Pointing to climate change, dwindling fish stocks, continued deforestation, rapid species decline, and human population growth, Erle Ellis, an ecologist at the University of Maryland, said the vast majority of ecosystems on the planet now reflect the presence of people.
Anthony Giddens, the British political scientist known for his holistic view of societies, described the Anthopocene as a “runaway world” in which we have unleashed processes more powerful than our attempts to control them.