Monday, October 15, 2007

Green Party of Canada Support Grows, Conservatives Stagnant Despite Liberal Woes: CTV Poll

"Stephen Harper has fraudulently played down the dangers of climate change and should be removed as prime minister as soon as possible, says the head of the Green party [of Canada, Elizabeth May]" (CP News via While the Earth Burns).
According to the latest CTV News poll, a growing number of Canadians seem to agree. The Liberals have lost 4% in popular support due to troubles since August 10-12, 2007, but the Conservatives have gained only 1%. The Green Party of Canada, on the other hand, has gained 4%. Are Liberals disaffected by Dion's ineffectual leadership and party infighting moving over to the Greens? The longer-term trends, since the last elections, show that the Greens must be gaining supporters at the expense of other parties as well:
"The Green Party has more than doubled its support since the 2006 election, suggesting the party is benefiting from voter discontent with the traditional parties: (percentage-point change from 2006 results in brackets):

* Conservatives: 34 per cent (-2)
* Liberals: 29 per cent (-1)
* NDP: 15 per cent (-3)
* Bloc Quebecois: 10 per cent (-1)
* Green Party: 12 per cent (+7)

"On Monday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said her party is ready if Prime Minister Stephen Harper triggers an election over the throne speech.

"So far, she's the only party leader who has publicly said she wants a fall election.

"'This may be naive, but I have faith in democracy,' she told reporters in Ottawa.

"'Most Canadians do not like Mr. Harper's policies. Most Canadians are desperate for leadership that really speaks to issues and is respectful about them. Most Canadians want a politician who keeps his word, or her word. They don't see that in the Harper government.'"

"May's press conference coincided with the release of her party's 160-page Vision Green, the official six-part policy document."
For more on her party's platform: see Green Party Press Release and the Green Vision document.

I have not had the time to read the entire document. From what I've read so far, the federal party 's "tax shift" strategy also aims to reduce poverty and make income taxes more progressive. May's federal proposal seems to be more balanced than the Green Party of Ontario's platform during the recent provincial election. This could help the federal Greens to gain broader appeal.

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There Goes a Rocky Mountain Glacier

Here's another part of our heritage that the Harper Conservative Government is willing to sacrifice by resisting meaningful and binding GHG emissions targets: the Athabasca Glacier.

Image Source: Ben W. Bell, Wikipedia (click for copyright info)
"Since 1843, its toe has retreated 1.5 kilometres and more than half of its volume has vanished. In winter, the mass is now exhaling at a rate of about 15 metres a year and gasping back in summer at a pace of at least 25 metres. Scientists have detected car exhaust, DDT and other pollutants in its layers of compressed snow dating to 1932.

"Over all, less snow has been falling each winter to maintain the glacier's mass, while meltwater bleeds along blue-tinged streams earlier each summer. But there is increasingly less of it to feed the appetites of people, agriculture and industry who depend on it in Alberta, across the Prairies and the western United States.

'The Athabasca Glacier is the single best accessible example in what we are seeing happening in the world because of climate change today,' says Bob Sandford, author of The Columbia Icefield. 'The scale is monumental.'

"The signs erected by Parks Canada leading to the toe of the glacier explain that there is strong evidence that greenhouse-gas emissions caused by human activity is to blame for the incredible shrinking ice.

"'If the glacier continues to recede at its current rate, there will be very little left in 100 years,' a placard notes. 'Within the next three generations the Athabasca Glacier and the water it provides to communities across western North America may almost disappear'
"Sandford, who is Canada's chair with the United Nations International Decade for Action, Water for Life program, says every Canadian needs to visit this place. Once there, he says, they will see that if we simply carry on, there's more at stake than just the magic disappearing" (Globe & Mail story).
Ron Stevenson commented on the Globe & Mail site:
"The most ironic thing about the article... recommending to drive a car to see the very thing that we are losing faster because of green house gases" [ellipses in the original].
That's a good point, but you can get to the Athabasca Glacier by VIA RAIL from most major cities in Canada. Train travel would reduce per-visitor carbon emissions significantly. Unfortunately, the Globe & Mail neglected to mention this option.

This has been a Blog Action Day post, honouring this year's theme, Environment. Of course, this entire blog is about a major environmental issue, but it's nice to see so many other bloggers participating in this year's event, many of them taking time out of their main themes to write about environmental issues and solutions.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Climate Worsening Faster Than Predicted - But Canada "Voting for Apocalypse" at UN Talks

Sounds nice -- until you think about it:

"... Enjoy it while it lasts, because you 'know what's ahead.'" --Environment Canada's David Phillips

Sure, there's some cold weather ahead this winter -- but what about a few years from now? Could we have more of this:
"'We've got an invisible disaster going on [in Toronto and area],' Mr. Phillips said, adding that the ground in some parts of the region has become so dry that it isn't able to absorb water any more, and that young trees may not make it to spring.'"

Source: Gandhi, U. (Sept 26, 2007). Weather continues to set records. Globe & Mail, p. A15, via Gale Group or Globe & Mail (subscription/payment required for either one - public library may provide free access to Gale).
The global headlines are grim:
"OSLO, Sept 28 (Reuters) - A record melt of Arctic summer sea ice this month may be a sign that global warming is reaching a critical trigger point that could accelerate the northern thaw, some scientists say.

"'The reason so much (of the Arctic ice) went suddenly is that it is hitting a tipping point that we have been warning about for the past few years,' James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told Reuters.

The Arctic summer sea ice shrank by more than 20 percent below the previous 2005 record low in mid-September to 4.13 million sq km (1.6 million sq miles), according to a 30-year satellite record. It has now frozen out to 4.2 million sq km."
'"...the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is already above the threshold that can potentially cause dangerous climate change,' Flannery told the broadcaster yesterday. 'We are already at great risk of dangerous climate change, that's what these figures say. It's not next year or next decade, it's now.'

"Flannery, whose recent book The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth made best-seller lists, said the data showed the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions had reached about 455 parts per million by mid-2005, well ahead of scientists' previous calculations.

"'We thought we'd be at that threshold within about a decade, that we had that much time,' Flannery said. 'I mean, that's beyond the limits of projection, beyond the worst-case scenario as we thought of it in 2001,' when the last major IPCC report was issued."

"Global warming will slow briefly in the next year or two, but then charge ahead, making at least half of the years after 2009 warmer than at any other time in recorded history, British scientists claim [...] [in a study published] in Science, a major journal scientists rely on to judge and announce top discoveries."
Apparently, it's the heat -- and the humidity!

"The European Union and many developing nations such as China and India want industrial states to use the stringent 25-40 percent range to guide future talks to force a shift away from fossil fuels, blamed by U.N. reports for stoking global warming.

"But Russia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland objected to setting the stringent range in negotiations about extending the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the main plan for fighting global warming that runs to 2012, delegates said.

"'The lower the stabilization level (of greenhouse gases) achieved, the lower the consequent damages,' the draft said. It mentions the option of 25-40 percent cuts but drops a previous reference to them as an indicative guide for future work.

"'This is voting for the apocalypse,' said Stephanie Tunmore of environmental group Greenpeace. 'The 25-40 percent range is needed to help avert dangerous climate change' such as more powerful storms, rising seas and melting glaciers, she said.

"'Japan is willing to let the typhoons roll in and the water flow onto its coastal land. Switzerland is committed to melt all its remaining glaciers,' environmentalists said in a newsletter" [bolding added].
Apparently, "Canada's New Government" is willing to let much of the Maritime Provinces be washed away, Arctic ice to melt even faster, and the rest of us to suffer from drought!

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Congratulations, Al Gore & IPCC...

... for winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize,
"for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
Now, if people would only listen to them!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ontario: MMP R.I.P., Climate Change Ignored During Election

As you probably know by now, the Mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral reform proposal has been soundly defeated in Ontario. At the time of this writing, the interim referendum results stand at First-past-the-post (the current electoral system) 63.3%, MMP 36.7%. Prof. Dennis Pilon, an MMP supporter, told the Globe & Mail that Elections Ontario's pre-referendum education campaign had been "an unmitigated disaster". The sad part is that election results like the ones below will continue to happen. And not coincidentally, issues like climate change will continue to be ignored.

As of this writing, the 2007 Ontario Election results look like this:

Liberals: 42% of votes = 70 seats

P.C.: 31% of votes = 26 seats

N.D.P.: 17% of votes = 11 seats

Green: 8% of votes = 0 seats

Others: 1% of votes = 0 seats

I want all those hours in Math class back: my teachers were obviously wrong about how numbers work!

Anyway, now we get to watch the usual charade: the Liberals will form a so-called "strong majority government" -- despite having a minority of the votes. The P.C. and N.D.P. will be weak opposition parties despite having more votes between them than the Liberals.

I know, there would have been no chance of a coalition between the N.D.P. and P.C. -- but what if the positions of the P.C. and Liberals had been reversed? A Liberal-N.D.P. coalition could have happened under MMP. Under the current system, though, the P.C. would have formed a "strong majority government" and shut them out. Yes, with only 42% of the vote vs. a combined 48% for the other parties. Oh, wait, this sort of thing has already happened! In 1995, we got the notorious anti-environment Harris P.C. government -- despite the Liberals and N.D.P. getting many more combined popular votes than the P.C. (Citizen's Assembly chart).

The Greens' 8% vote in 2007 gave them the same number of seats as the Others got with only 1% -- a big, fat zero! Despite the Greens' recent momentum, pundits like Prof. Nelson Wiseman are already predicting that with the MMP's defeat, the Greens would sink back to being a marginal party.

In other news, the Toronto Star's Tyler Hamilton notes that "Climate [change] went AWOL during this election". Despite the fact that many voters were interested, the major parties decided to skirt the issue. The Greens were the only ones who raised it consistently.

While I still disagree with the Greens on one plank of their climate change platform (carbon taxes), I agree with most of their other policies on climate change and other issues. Unfortunately, even if the Greens get some people elected under the current system, they would have no more influence than today's N.D.P. So long as the larger parties get fake "majorities" most of the time, smaller parties are shut out of policy-making even if they make it to the Legislature.

Alas for real democracy. And alas for issues like climate change.

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