Friday, December 18, 2009

Canada tagged as "Fossil of the Year" as climate summit "hangs in the balance" - CBC News

Canada is refusing to play its traditional key role as an honest international broker, keeping a low profile instead even though the Copenhagen Climate Summit "hangs in the balance". If the summit fails (in form and/or in substance), we will share part of the blame due to the Conservative Government's inaction. I fact,
"A coalition of environmental groups at the Copenhagen climate change conference gave its 'Fossil of the Year' award to Canada on Friday. "The citation called Canada 'the absolute worst country at the talks.'[...]

"Canada has been under pressure at the conference over its intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions by just 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020, when environmentalists had been calling for much steeper cuts. "The Conservative government has also not ruled out giving special breaks to oilsands companies when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions."

CBC News - World - Canada tagged as 'Fossil of the Year'
Shame! Shame!

Update: Link to Fossil of the Day Award web site explaining the reasons for the Fossil of the Year Award to Canada.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nature Journal: Climate Science is Sound, Paranoid Interpretation Would Be Laughable If It Were Not Dangerous

There is a great editorial in the leading scientific Journal Nature, busting the myth about the significance of the the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia (UAE) Climate Research Unit (CRU):
"Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.
  • "First, Earth's cryosphere is changing as one would expect in a warming climate. These changes include glacier retreat, thinning and areal reduction of Arctic sea ice, reductions in permafrost and accelerated loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
  • Second, the global sea level is rising. The rise is caused in part by water pouring in from melting glaciers and ice sheets, but also by thermal expansion as the oceans warm.
  • Third, decades of biological data on blooming dates and the like suggest that spring is arriving earlier each year.
"Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability. But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming. The strong implication is that increased greenhouse-gas emissions have played an important part in recent warming, meaning that curbing the world's voracious appetite for carbon is essential...." [bullet points added in second paragraph to improve readability].
(For more on the independent evidence supporting climate science, see my previous blog post.)

The editors of Nature also say that the
"...paranoid interpretation [of the stolen emails] would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country's much needed climate bill."
On an even more somber note, Nature's editors warn that
"...the pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science."
Indeed, the stakes are very high. Trillion-dollar fossil-fuel industries and their allies are trying to keep their profit margins in the face of the biggest global push-back that they have had to face. The evidence to date shows only disinformation campaigns, computer hacking -- plus possibly break and enter and attempted trespass (the latter two allegedly happened right here in Canada). I certainly hope that this is the worst of it.

I also hope that journalists stop blindly repeating sensationalized quotes from the stolen emails, and remember the need for critical thinking, as Jim Hogan argues eloquently Desmog Blog.

Prentice "Channels" U.S. Policies on Absolute Emissions Caps, "Intensity Targets" Gone At Last

Canadian Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice is on a roll. First, he confirmed his conviction that climate science is clear and we need to reduce emissions despite the "stolen emails". Then, he told a House of Commons committee that his government is giving up the roundly criticized and notoriously ineffectual "intensity targets" approach. They are finally moving toward imposing hard caps on total greenhouse gases emissions.

The reason? Desire to harmonize Canadian rules with U.S. policies. Despite arguing earlier in 2009 that "intensity targets" and hard caps are "not mutually exclusive'', Prentice has finally conceded what the experts had been saying all along. There is no way to make these apples into oranges.

Given that the leaders of our "51st State" government are so wishy-washy on this issue, aren't we in Canada lucky to have elected Obama and a Democratic Congress to lead us at the federal level? Oh, wait...

Friday, December 04, 2009

Even Prentice Gets It - Climate Science is Clear Despite Stolen Emails, We Must Cut Emissions

Canada's federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice got something right for once:

"[The stolen email controversy] does not change the position of Canada... The science overall is relatively clear on all of this and as a conservationist and as a responsible environmental steward, Canada wants to see carbon emissions reduced." (Sun Media, via Orilia Packet & Times)

The BBC provides a timeline of the controvercy in a sidebar to this story.

Here's why Prentice is right:

"'The emails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus ... that tells us the earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity,' said ... government scientist, Jane Lubchenco. A marine biologist and climate researcher, she heads the [US] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The emails do not negate or even deal with data from both NOAA and NASA, which keep independent climate records and show dramatic warming, Lubchenco told members of the House global warming committee."


"The chairman of the [US] Academy of Science panel, Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist Gerald North, confirmed... [that]

"'...even if Jones, Mann and others [whose emails had been stolen] had done no research at all, the world would still be warming and scientists would still be able to show it." (CP via Yahoo! Canada News)

Spencer Weart, former director of the American Institute of Physics' Center for the History of Physics who wrote The Discovery of Global Warming, said that surface temperature data (the subject of the emails) is notoriously hard to deal with. Weather stations are run by people who make mistakes -- or sometimes even move the stations, using instruments that may be off by a few degrees, in an environment that can change around the station over the years. But Weart agrees that surface climate data is not required to prove recent global warming. Studies of stalagmites in caves and temperature changes in near-surface rock layers have confirmed the trends independetly. (CBC Radio's The Current on December 3, 2009. You can listen using the player on the CBC site -- go to the player for Part 3 near the end of that page. The discussion noted above starts around 07:30).

I'll let David Suzuki have the last word for now:

"Sadly for the deniers and for all of us, the emails don't show that global warming is a grand hoax or conspiracy. They do nothing to diminish the decades of overwhelming scientific evidence that the Earth is not only warming largely because of emissions from burning fossil fuels but that it's worse than we thought. Recently, 26 scientists from Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, the U.S., and Australia released a report showing that the impacts of global warming are occurring faster and are more widespread than other reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected.

"The report, titled The Copenhagen Diagnosis, summarized the most recent research from around the world, which shows that Arctic sea ice is melting faster than we thought, that both Greenland and Antarctica are losing more ice than predicted, and that sea levels are rising more quickly than anticipated. The scientists conclude that the Earth could reach several 'tipping points' if we keep pumping emissions into the atmosphere at the same rate.

"The report also quashes the myth of 'global cooling' that has been 'promoted by lobby groups and picked up in some media.' The report's authors conclude that 'even the highly "cherry-picked" 11-year period starting with the warm 1998 and ending with the cold 2008 still shows a warming trend of 0.11 C per decade.'

"It's astounding that those who deny that climate change exists or that it is human-caused, either out of self-interest or ignorance, are willing to see some grand conspiracy in a handful of stolen emails but are unwilling to see the undeniably clear evidence of the impacts of climate change already occurring around the world.

"Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, world leaders are dragging their heels in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit this month. As University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver notes, in abandoning the idea of reaching a binding agreement in Copenhagen, world leaders are essentially saying that they don't believe they owe anything to our children and grandchildren.

"Unfortunately, Canada has a poor record on climate change and international negotiations to address the problem. Our government argues that the economy takes precedence over the environment. It's incredibly short-sighted to think that a healthy economy can be maintained when the health of the planet is failing. And it's absurd to pin our economic hopes on extracting limited supplies of dirty fossil fuels in a world that is increasingly switching to cleaner forms of energy."

[Important Notice]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Arctic Ice is Not Recovering -- And it Will Affect Your Backyard Too

Check out the story about Arctic Slush in the November 28, 2009 CBC Radio Quirks and Quarks show.

"[The researchers] were guided by satellite observations that suggested that solid ice was present throughout this part of the Arctic. What they saw instead was something Dr. Barber says he's never observed before - broken, slushy, decayed ice with a thin veneer of harder ice over it, which their ship pushed through as if it wasn't there. This new kind of ice had fooled the satellites, and suggests that the permanent Arctic ice cover is in even more trouble than had been previously thought."

To save you time, here's the link to the WWF video about the Arctic in Your Backyard:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Richard Leakey on Climate Change and the Future of Life on Earth - 2009 ROM Lecture - Free Online Video & MP3 Download

"Richard Leakey, professor of Anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York is best known for his paleontological work in Africa. His lecture, entitled Climate Change and the Future of Life on Earth deals with wildlife conservation and was recorded at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on May 30th, 2009."
Thanks to TVO's Big Ideas series, you can watch the video (embedded version below) or listen to an MP3 recording of the lecture.

Mp3 File (11.2 MB):

We went to this lecture on May 30, and it was very sobering. Leaky says that Climate change poses a dire threat to both human life and wildlife in the tropics and hot arid regions. Many animal species world-wide will go extinct, especially if we do not plan for ways to save them. Worse yet, Leaky now says that losing 50-60% of species could lead to a tipping point where more and more food chains are broken, and you have a "complete collapse of life". While he says that it is "unlikely" that humans would go extinct in the process, thanks to our technology, he does not rule it out explicitly. (Listen around 12:15 to 14:00 minutes:seconds.)

Surviving in a techno-bubble on a lifeless planet -- our children and grandchildren deserve much better. Yet this is what we risk leaving for them unless we act now.

(Episode page on TVO:
Originally aired October 24, 2009 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Global cooling? Statisticians reject climate claims

Oh, how I wish it were true and we could stop worrying -- but unfortunately there's no real global cooling:
In a blind test, the AP gave temperature data to four independent statisticians and asked them to look for trends, without telling them what the numbers represented. The experts found no true temperature declines over time.

“If you look at the data and sort of cherry-pick a micro-trend within a bigger trend, that technique is particularly suspect,” said John Grego, a professor of statistics at the University of South Carolina.


Grego produced three charts to show how choosing a starting date can alter perceptions. Using the skeptics’ satellite data beginning in 1998, there is a “mild downward trend,” he said. But doing that is “deceptive.”

The trend disappears if the analysis starts in 1997. And it trends upward if you begin in 1999, he said.
Details at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Global Cooling" Will Not Last Unless We Act

There's a great article in Real Climate, refuting the latest hype about "global warming being over" or "taking a pause" because of a short-term cooling trend. We've got to watch the real long-term average trend, using data without "holes" (e.g. not being blind to arctic warming). So enjoy the current reminder of what the climate used to be like. It will not last unless we take some serious action, and soon.

(h/t to BBC blog comment by PeterHN)

Doing Just Two Things Is Enough to Prevent Climate Change

For Blog Action Day 2009, wrote that "If We All Just Do Two Things We Can Prevent Climate Change" -- and what are those two amazing things?
"1) Sign Up For Green Power With Your Utility"

"2) Stop Eating Meat"
Sounds familiar to me.

- We're on green power from BullfrogPower since January 2007
- We've been vegetarian for the last 20 years.

Both changes have been easier than many people think. Among many other benefits, vegetarianism saves you money (beans and whole grains are cheap - meat is expensive). Green power may cost more per kWh -- but if you conserve electricity throughout your house, you could cut your consumption in half, and pay the same in the end as you did for conventional power, with no major impact on your lifestyle.

But why stop there? We've done lots of other things too:

Transportation - driving as little and as efficiently as possible by:
- Walking - healthy, community-friendly and cheap!
- Biking - folding bikes, child bike seats and bike trailers work great, too!
- Taking a train - GO Transit or VIA Rail - train schedule permitting
- W
orking from home (telecommuting) - one of us does it each working day
- Driving very fuel-efficient conventional and hybrid cars - we buy the most fuel-efficient used cars that we can find - they also tend to be the most reliable and therefore cheapest to maintain
Home Energy
- Insulating our basement and crawl space
- Upgrading to very energy-efficient basement windows
- Using a programmable thermostat to save natural gas
- Installing super-efficient, dual-flush toilet - less water used = less energy wasted on pumping and treating it!
- (We're also looking into installing a solar water heater - stay tuned!)

Reuse & Recycling
- Bringing our own mugs/plates/utensils or asking for reusable ones
- Packing litter-free lunches for school

Avoiding bottled water by filling up water bottles tap or fountain
- Using recycled paper in the office, kitchen, living room and bathroom
- Composting or using the municipal Green Bin program for kitchen scraps
- Recycling everything we can using the municipal Blue Bins
- Scrapping and recycling old cars (over 10-12 years old and not worth repairing) via Car Heaven
- Bringing old, unfixable electronic and computer equipment to a municipal recycling depot
Passing it On
- Educating our children on why we do all of this
- Writing this blog
And yes, we live a comfortable, happy life in a typical Canadian city. Self-preservation means moderation, not self-deprivation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day is Nice, Now We Need Government Action on Climate Change, in Copenhagen And Beyond

Blog Action Day this year takes place on October 15, 2009. It deals with the core topic of this blog, climate change. It's great that thousands of bloggers as well as some companies, NGOs and Governments are blogging and Twittering about climate change. But it would mean nothing without concrete, binding targets to reduce overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and fast. To their credit, the Blog Action Day folks have collected some great links to organizations and campaigns that are trying to prod the world in this direction. Check out the "Take Action" tab on their site.

The Copenhagen Conference (December 7-18, 2009) may be our last, best chance.
But a wise person (Aesop? Lou Holtz?) once quipped,
"When all is said and done, more will be said than done".
In fact, UN Climate Chief Yvo De Boer has recently warned against a "half-baked climate deal":
"'The time for speeches is over' before final negotiations in December, he said. 'Our planet is being plundered and pillaged on an unprecedented scale.'

"De Boer said the EU, China and Japan are taking needed steps to prevent climate change, but other countries must do better."
I bet he's looking at you, Canada!
"Canadian position prompts walk-out by developing countries at climate talks"
(Story: CP, via Buckdog)
Our country better smarten up, and quickly. There is too much at stake, and no time to lose.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Shorter Jim Prentice...

"Yeah, you suckers other G8 nations keep working on that 'target'!"

The Canadian Press story speaks for itself.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cyclists and Pedestrians Better for Business than Drivers

"The objective, unless you own a parking lot, is to attract the largest possible number of people – not the largest number of cars."

"A recent report by the Clean Air Partnership about Bloor St. in the Annex [in Toronto] found that only 10 per cent of patrons at local businesses arrive by car and that patrons arriving by foot and bicycle spend the most money each month. The report also noted that about 20 per cent of spaces in nearby parking lots were empty even during peak periods. Finally, the report's survey found that more merchants than not believed that wider sidewalks or bike lanes would increase business. (Patrons preferred the bike lane option by a ratio of four to one.)

"CAP's report suggests one rather obvious conclusion: bringing a single 70 kilogram shopper to a store in a 1,400 kilogram vehicle is a cumbersome route to success. By contrast, about half a dozen bikes can fit in the space of a single car. And since bikes can stop faster than cars, the amount of space between bikes can be small, which means far more shoppers on bikes can fit onto our roads than shoppers in cars.


"A study in Munster, Germany, found that cyclists buy fewer goods on each trip but spend more overall in the course of a greater number of trips."

File this article under "sudden outbreak of good sense".

More here: | Opinion | Shoppers on bikes good for business

(Alas, many of the comments below this article in the Star range from wilful ignorance, i.e. refusing to read TFA* - what else is new on the Internet - to blind hatred of cyclists, tarring them all with the same brush because some cyclists disobey traffic laws. Some Toronto drivers run red lights and/or speed and/or drive drunk, some kill pedestrians and/or cyclists and/or other people in cars, but you don't see people making hateful generalizations about all drivers. Double standard? You decide.)


* TFA = The Famous Article (substitute other words for the "F" one if you must :-)

[Important Notice]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Power alarm over home electronics

"All told, between 5 and 10 per cent of electricity used in the average Canadian home is consumed by appliances and home electronics while the devices are on standby, Natural Resources Canada estimates. In some cases, the gadget actually needs to be unplugged to cut the power use.

"Ottawa now plans to force the industry to reduce the standby power needs of a wide range of appliances and home electronics – first issuing regulations by 2010 to meet California standards which are the toughest in the United States, and then regulating a one-watt standby mode in 2013.

"Power usage of electronics on standby currently ranges from five watts to 25.

"In its report yesterday, the International Energy Agency said the boom in electronics threatens to undermine efforts to reduce residential power demand and cut greenhouse gas emissions."
More at Power alarm over home electronics

The sad saga of climate change inaction

This commentary by Peter Gorrie in the Star just about sums it up:

" early December, at the annual United Nations conference, this time in Copenhagen. The goal is to reach agreement on greenhouse-gas emission cuts beyond those promised in the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012 and has been a bust.

"About 99 per cent of the world's climate scientists say total global emissions must be reduced to at least 25 per cent below 1990 levels – and preferably lower – by 2020 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A regular stream of reports warns of disaster if we don't achieve the target.

"There was more evidence this week that we won't get close at the pace now being set.


"Canada is responsible for only 2 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, but we're with the Americans among the top sources per person. We need to act to bring China, India and others along. If we're unwilling, we might as well cancel the Copenhagen meeting and prepare for all that climate change has to offer."

The rest of the sorry tale is here: | Insight | The sad saga of climate-change inaction [bolding added]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Belgian city plans 'veggie' days to cut carbon emissions

"The Belgian city of Ghent is about to become the first in the world to go vegetarian at least once a week."
"The UN says livestock is responsible for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, hence Ghent's declaration of a weekly 'veggie day'."

BBC NEWS | Europe | Belgian city plans 'veggie' days
Not an entirely new idea -- various religions have had days of fasting or food restrictions (often, curiously enough, meaning no meat) for centuries. Still, nice to see the city of Ghent making an official connection between meat-eating and climate hazards.

But why stop at just one day a week? (Also not a new idea of course -- various religions and non-theistic philosophies had also advocated vegetarianism for centuries.) Anyway, climate change concerns provide a new, free-standing reason to go meatless, and this notion may be finally starting to go mainstream in Western countries.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Electric Cars? Cycling's Better and More Popular Than Ever

Great opinion piece by Leah McLaren in the Globe & Mail today:

Pedal power to the people - ride on!

The British government recently launched a £250-million strategy to introduce the electric car to mainstream London. The initiative, which includes citywide charging points, battery-swapping stations and hefty consumer incentives, is well-intentioned, but you won't see me signing up for an electromobile any time soon.

As it stands, there is only one convenient way of getting around the modern urban landscape, and that is the almighty bicycle.

Hopping on a bike is cheaper, faster, healthier, more pleasant and more environmentally sound than any other mode of transportation known to humankind. Old-fashioned as it might seem, cycling is the way of the future.

No need for initiatives or incentives here. People are way ahead of their governments on this one. The recent numbers are astonishing. Last year, the New York City department of transportation reported that, in 2007-08, bicycle commuting went up by 35 per cent. London is reporting a similar increase in the wake of the inner-city traffic congestion charge that was introduced a couple of years ago. Today, an estimated quarter of a million Londoners travel to and from work by bike.

Toronto - a city without the benefit of a year-round bike-friendly climate - is also on the upswing. Statistics Canada reported a 32-per-cent increase in pedal-pushers on the roads from 2001 to 2006 - and that was before the downturn.

As a committed lifelong cyclist, it's heartening to see so many people finally coming around to the same obvious conclusion. If you care about your health, the environment and your bank account and are physically able, biking just makes sense, full stop.

And yet in spite of its increased popularity, there are still a puzzling number of people who are resistant to cycling on the grounds that it's dangerous or impractical. In fact, though, London statistics show that the number of biking accidents actually goes down as the number of cyclists goes up.

In Germany, where bike riding is part of the normal culture, people are 10 times more likely to ride a bike than Americans and three times less likely to get hurt while doing so.
More here:

As Roger Gagne from Calgary, Canada has noted, though, pitting bikes against electric cars misses an important half-way technology. Electric-assisted bikes may be an excellent way forward for many people. (See )

Monday, April 06, 2009

Good summary of energy-saving incentives in Ontario

Tyler Hamilton nicely summarizes the available incentives for installing tankless water heaters, drain-water heat recovery systems (here are two examples), and solar hot water heaters.

Many of the rebates and incentives are time-limited, so it's worth considering for this year. (
If you are an Enbridge customer, here's a link to their rebate page.) However, he also notes that the Ontario government is musing about low- or no-interest loans for solar hot water. So, if you need to borrow to pay for your system you might want to keep that in mind.

I also received a flyer from Sears that says they now rent tankless water heaters, as well as drain-water heat recovery systems. We plan to call to get a quote, so when we get more info on that we'll pass it along.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Now is a good time to install solar hot water heaters! | Business | Ontario matching energy incentives: "The new EcoEnergy program offers a $1,250 rebate, up dramatically from $500 under the old program. A matching rebate from the province means the purchaser of a residential solar hot-water system can get back $2,500 on a purchase that ranges in cost from $6,000 to $9,000, including installation.

'It's meant to increase the market penetration of renewable technology, and specifically solar hot water,' explained Louise Roux at the ministry's office of energy efficiency.

On top of all rebates, Raitt reminded homeowners they can qualify next tax season for the Home Renovation Tax Credit, which amounts to getting 15 per cent back from the cost of a home renovation in 2009, up to a maximum of $1,350."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quick action urgently needed on renewables

Two great articles and discussion over at

Bill McKibben's piece (also available in the Toronto Star) urges Canadians to get past the green energy backlash and get to work building renewable energy projects:

In the ideal world, we’d do everything slowly and carefully - but this planet is rapidly becoming the worst of all possible worlds, a place that before my daughter dies may well see temperatures exceeding anything since before the dawn of primate evolution. A planet facing hundreds of millions of environmental refugees as a result of rising seas, with heat waves like the one that killed 35,000 in Europe becoming commonplace occurrences.

The evidence gets worse by the day: already whole nations are evacuating, the Arctic is melting and we have begun to release the massive storehouse of carbon trapped under the polar ice. Scientists figure the “safe” level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 350 parts per million. This is the most important number in the world. Go beyond it for very long and we will trigger “feedbacks” that will result in runaway warming spiraling out of any human control and resulting in a largely inhospitable planet.

We are already well beyond 350 and accelerating rapidly in the wrong direction.

So when local efforts to delay or stop low-carbon energy projects come into conflict with the imperative to act urgently on global warming, they have to take second place. Because even if we win every other battle, if we lose 350, it won’t make any difference at all. You can “keep” every river and bay and lake and mountain and wilderness, but if the temperature goes up 3 degrees globally, it won’t matter. The fish that live there won’t be able to survive, the trees that anchor the landscape will die, the coral reefs will bleach and crumble. Whatever the particular part of the world that we’re each working on, it’s still a part of the world. Global warming is the whole thing.

Dr. Andrew Weaver's piece is along the same lines:

The public debate has become a caricature. People complain about windmills blocking their view. Kayakers complain about seeing a transmission line on their weekend excursions. The public dialogue is riddled with outlandish and demonstrably false assertions such as windmills will devastate local bird populations or a hydro project will create more greenhouse emissions than it will displace by eliminating a coal-burning power plant. Some of the most insidious arguments attempt to slow things down: that we should do more planning, that we should do energy conservation first and build renewable energy later, that we shouldn’t do anything until China does.

These arguments are fundamentally not serious. They come from groups and spokespeople that have simply not grappled with the math — with the scale and speed at which we must eliminate fossil fuel emissions.


We need a global agreement and action. This means rich countries like Canada must take decisive action and demonstrate that we are willing to shoulder the responsibility for what our emissions have done to the rest of the world. To that end:

We need to build and transition to entirely emissions-free energy.

We need to tax carbon emissions and legislate their elimination.

We need aggressive efficiency policies.

These measures must happen extremely quickly and on an unprecedented scale. We desperately need all civil society organizations advocating as hard as possible for this effort and we cannot afford to have so-called environmentalists opposing what science shows to be necessary.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Earth Hour: Don't forget to sign up!

Earth Hour begins March 28, 8:30 pm! If you sign up at the WWF site, you can enter to win a trip to Churchill Manitoba. If you live in Toronto, you can enter the "How Low Can We Go" contest to win a cool prize pack!

Our daughter had such a great time last year, that she keeps asking when we'll do it again. Actually, she often enjoys an evening "rest time" with the lights turned off or down low, and listening to music.

Here's how we spent last year's Earth Hour. What are you doing for Earth Hour? Let us know!

Monday, March 02, 2009

On wild cards and delusions...

Another excellent piece from Tyler Hamilton in The Star:

Canada's oil and gas sector is a crucial engine of our economy and isn't going away, so any technologies that help reduce or capture emissions are both welcome and necessary.

But can these technologies help us right now, particularly to justify rapid expansion of oil-sands projects? And, taken alone, are they enough?

Don't bet on it. Climate expert James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, got it right earlier this month when he called the oil sands a climate-change "wild card" that shouldn't be played. "You just can't do it, that's what politicians and international leaders have got to understand."

Canada, however, is playing that card. It's gambling that technology will make sure the house wins.

But here's the rub: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is delusional if he believes that capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oil-sands operations and storing it underground is going to have a material impact on reducing greenhouse-gases over the next decade, let alone the next two decades.

Not because the technology doesn't work or isn't safe, which is still up for debate, but because it's too expensive and risky to deploy on the scale that's required.

The thing is, Harper isn't really delusional. He's just greenwashing, which according to Wikipedia occurs when "significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green."

Compare that to Chantal Hebert's piece in the same edition (Oil sands exposé deserves more energetic response). It's hard to tell from her column if she thinks that Harper should actually do something about the environmental problems of the oil sands, or if they just need better PR!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another story in the "foreign media" that Iggy probably won't read ...

Indigenous people to launch legal challenge against oil firms over Canada tar sand project | Environment |

"British oil firms are facing a legal battle over exploitation of the huge Canadian tar sand fields with indigenous people who claim the industry is ruining their traditional lands.

The Co-operative Bank will announce today that it is to fund a legal challenge by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, which claims the boom in tar sands extraction is destroying their hunting and fishing lands.

The court challenge calls for an injunction to stop more than 16,000 permits issued by the Alberta state government and, if successful, could dramatically reduce or even stop what has been described as a modern day 'gold rush' for the oil, spurred by the expectation of high long-term oil prices."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apparently, we have a coalition government after all...

just not the one that we wanted!

"National Geographic is not going to teach me any lessons about the oilsands," he said.

Iggy is not making many friends with this position! Except among oil executives, I suppose.

If he doesn't like Nat. Geo., Iggy should try reading DeSmog blog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's 2009 "Economy/Planet Balance" Notion - Already Debunked by Gore in 2006

Here's a Table comparing part of Barack Obama's CBC News interview in February 2009 with what Al Gore had said of such notions in An Inconvenient Truth in back 2006:

Barack Obama in CBC News interview, Canada, 2009

Al Gore in the movie An Inconvenient Truth, 2006

"When asked if the future of oil produced from the oilsands hinged on a cap and trade policy, Obama suggested that technology would be the ultimate solution to creating clean energy.

"'Canada, the United States, China, India, the European Union, all of us are going to have to work together in an effective way to figure out how do we balance the imperatives of economic growth with very real concerns about the effect we're having on our planet,' [Obama] said.

"'We're not going to be able to deal with any of these issues in isolation. The more that we can develop technologies that tap alternative sources of energy but also contain the environmental damage of fossil fuels, the better off we're going to be.'" (Obama touts technology as solution to oilsands footprint, CBC News, February 17, 2009 [bolding added)

"In one of the funnier moments, Al [Gore] shows a graphic used by the government to support the idea that profit must have equal value to concerns about the planet. It’s a scale with gold bricks on one side and the earth on the other. Both in balance. Al is hilarious as he acknowledges that gold is very nice, hmm… yesm we like gold. Then he turns to contemplate the earth and looks genuinely puzzled. Earth… or… gold? Hmmm… which to pick? We laugh as we understand that there are people who don’t hesitate to go for the gold, let alone bother contemplating which has more value. But then the real Al breaks through to remind us that without a healthy planet…there will be no one to worry about gold. He quickly dispatches the fallacy that being concerned about the planet means losing profits. We are made aware that being focused on the profits will mean losing the planet." (An Inconvenient Truth - Review by Dianne Lawrence, Film Monthly, May 24, 2006)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tar Sands Industry Promotes Bird Capture and Storage

EDMONTON, Alberta - Birds landing in the toxic tailing ponds of tar sands operations -- and needlessly causing the industry PR headaches -- will soon be just a bad memory. A consortium of oil companies has unveiled a technology to capture any birds who get too close to the toxic ponds, and store them safely in underground aviaries. Derived from work on carbon capture and storage (carbon sequestration), the new technology uses 10-ft. diameter air intakes scattered in and around the ponds, plus powerful vacuum pumps. Any birds in the vicinity are captured safely, and are piped down into underground aviaries.
"Nothing seems to keep migratory birds away from the ponds for long, not even air canons and animatronic falcons," said William Nilly, an industry spokesperson. "With bird capture and storage, the problem individuals are captured and taken out of the game permanently, before they can get into the ponds and onto web video sites. In the long run, bird populations who pass over the ponds do not produce offspring in the wild, which prevents new generations of birds from moving along the same route and landing in the ponds."
In response to howls of protest from Greenpeace and the Boreal Songbird Initiative over the announcement, Mr. Nilly later clarified that the capture and storage technology will be developed further:
"Next year, we will have more powerful vacuum pumps. Any bird-lovers or tree-huggers in the vicinity of our ponds will be transported into the new underground habitat together with the birds, so that they can continue to enjoy the birds in safety, away from our operations. We regret that cell phone do not work underground, and internet connections cannot be installed to protect the birds' privacy".

Friday, February 20, 2009

UPDATED - Obama, Harper Push Carbon Procrastination Tech

OTTAWA - U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today agreed to promote the latest carbon procrastination technology. The agreement on a “clean energy dialogue” would allow the two countries to safely postpone common decisions on climate change – at least until enough people get tired of waiting for real results from carbon sequestration (capture and storage).

In fact, Obama has apparently fallen hard for carbon sequestration vapourware. A highly-placed government source said that under the plan, the U.S. would continue to burn its own coal and import oil from Alberta's tar sands. Harper, Prentice, Stelmach as well as the oil and coal industries would cheer. Meanwhile, Canada and the U.S. would talk about how to create the impression that a technological panacea for the climate mess is just around the corner.

The government source refused to comment on recently-released

“...ministerial briefing notes, initially marked 'Secret,' [which] say that just a small percentage of the carbon dioxide released in mining the [tar] sands and producing fuel from them can be captured.”
UPDATE February 22, 2009: The Harper government has dismissed the briefing notes as being out of date, because they did not take into account the repeal of Murphy's Law. Environment Minister Jim Prentice said:

"Since we repealed that old Liberal legislation, nothing can go wrong with carbon procrastination technology anymore!"

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Will Canada Fall Behind U.S. in Wind Energy Jobs?

Check out the BBC video report about workers from a closed washing machine factory in Iowa who are finding jobs at a wind turbine plant. This is the type of green job creation that Obama is trying to encourage with his stimulus plan. But back in Canada, the Conservative budget -- supported by the Liberals -- did not renew support for wind energy. That's making it hard to sell Canadian-made wind turbines in Canada. How long will Canadian manufacturers continue to expand in Canada if all of their orders are from the U.S.?
(Source: CBC Radio's The House, Saturday, February 14, 2008 - listen to the MP3 file - 22 MB; fast forward to 27:10 of 48:09).

Sunday, February 01, 2009

World leaders say green thinking can help global economy

"'We must decide to put a price on carbon,' said Al Gore, the former US vice president, adding that President Barack Obama would play a positive role in combating climate change.

'He is pushing hard for dramatic and bold moves in the right direction,' said Gore, noting that the House of Representatives had passed a stimulus bill, 'the largest component of which is a green stimulus.'

'We must appreciate the magnitude of change in United State's leadership,' said Gore."

Source: World leaders say green thinking can help global economy

Wake up and smell the coffee, Harper and Ignatieff!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

One Blue Marble Blog -- Our winter of discontent: Harper and Ignatieff

One Blue Marble blog has an excellent, detailed post on where Iggy went wrong in supporting Harper -- especially on the environment and climate change. It's definitely worth reading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Iggy's Budget Amendment Ignores Climate Change

What a downer! All of Dion's idealism and coalition-building, all of Ignatieff's bluster, and it has come down to this: support for the Harper's budget, conditional on mere progress reports. The topics of the progress reports (see sidebar at the link above) would not even include the impact of the budget on the environment in general, or on Greenhouse Gas emissions in particular. In any event, this reporting "condition" was so easy that Harper & Co. agreed to accept Iggy's budget amendment within hours.

The whole thing was clearly just a face-saving move by a Liberal leader who wanted to avoid bringing down the Conservative government -- while appearing to be tough with empty talk of "Conservatives on probation". Instead of real progress toward a sustainable economy, we will have four more wasted years of Harpernomics HarperIggiocy.

Now that the Liberal-NDP coalition is sadly R.I.P., it is time to take the pro-coalition badge off the sidebar of this blog. The only federalist opposition in Parliament to the new Conservative-Liberal Coalition Alliance Mish-Mash is the NDP. The Greens have been busy keeping their eye on the ball at post-Kyoto negotiations and promoting a green economic recovery. But they are still being kept out of Parliament due to our antiquated voting system, despite getting the votes of almost 1 million Canadians.

For more on the missed environmental opportunities in this budget, see this Toronto Star article. (The CBC story on this topic has clearly missed the point.)

Alas for our children and their children.

Can't Afford a Hybrid?: Reduce Your Carbon Emissions with these Cheaper, Better Investments

A great article for those who wish they could afford a Prius: there are many things you can do that cost less, but have as much or more impact on reducing your Greenhouse Gas emissions, including eating Vegetarian and local food and buying green energy. Having implemented many of these actions, I can tell you that they work.

h/t to LNeumann for spotting this article.

Message to Ignatieff - Please Reject Harper Budget - Need Green Economic Recovery

Here is a copy of the message that I sent to Michael Ignatieff via his web site at :
"Please reject this budget because it does not meet the planet's -- and Canada's -- need for a Green Economic Recovery. Any stimulus package must focus on making our economy sustainable and reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions. Obama gets this -- Harper does not. Global climate talks on a post-Kyoto accord are under way. Four years from now may be too late for Canada to show leadership -- we need it today! Thanks for considering my views. (These are my personal opinions as an individual citizen.)"
(The web form on the above page does not allow for longer messages, so I had no room for more details. But then, I doubt that anybody would have the time to read long messages in the next few hours :-)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Financial Crisis Distracting Leaders from Dealing with Climate Crisis

There are headlines about weather extremes in Canada and around the world. There are signs of climate change happening faster than predicted, most dramatically in the Arctic. Additional warming is predicted for 2009 and even more for subsequent years, probably leading to a larger number of severe storms. Now is the time to start acting, before it's too late. But politicians may be too busy worrying about a recession that could last a few years to act on a bigger problem like climate change whose effects may last for millenia. Here's a recent example of political pessimism:
"The global financial crisis has made efforts to agree on a new global treaty on climate change more challenging, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in an interview published Sunday. 'A lot of the political energy that existed a few years ago has disappeared,' Reinfeldt told the Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet.

"The financial crisis means that 'there are fewer shoulders to push the process. Many use estimates that aim to make their own country do less,' Reinfeldt said."
And the departing Bush administration in the U.S. is still actively sabotaging positive change. This time, it is trying to tie the hands of the incoming Obama administration to prevent regulation of carbon emissions from power plants.


(Edited to enhance text and add more links.)

Friday, January 02, 2009

More Severe Storms in 2009 and Beyond?

What if we think about these two items together?

  • NASA Study Links Severe Storm Increases and Global Warming
  • UK Met Office Forecasts 2009 to be One of Top 5 Warmest Years on Record Despite Cool Pacific
  • "The 2009 forecast includes an updated decadal forecast using a Met Office climate model. This indicates a rapid return of global temperature to the long-term warming trend, with an increasing probability of record temperatures after 2009" [bolding added].
    Worried yet?

    h/t Green Car Congress

    (Edited to improve text and correct link issues.)

    2008 Natural Catastrophes Show That Climate Change Has Already Started - Munich Re

    "Munich Re, one of the world’s largest re-insurers, has released its annual figures on worldwide losses from natural catastrophes, and has termed 2008 'one of the most devastating years on record,' partly due to the large number of tropical cyclones..."
    More: Green Car Congress: Munich Re: 2008 Natural Catastrophes Show That Climate Change Has Already Started