united states

Why Wait For The US? Report Recommends Unilateral Canadian Action On Climate Change

Canada’s National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), a panel composed mainly of government appointees from industry and former Conservative politicians, has released a new report assessing whether Canada should “lead, lag, or harmonize” climate policies with the US, and the consequences of doing so.

In recent years, the Canadian federal government has opposed unilaterally acting on climate change, instead committing to harmonize greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions with the US in a continental approach. This has been a favourite position for Canadian Environmental Ministers wishing to postpone acting on climate change for fear of locking Canada into GHG emissions reductions, and notably for Jim Prentice who quit as Environment Minister late last year:

“Our determination to harmonize our climate change policy with that of the United States also extends beyond greenhouse gas emission targets: we need to proceed even further in aligning our regulations.”

“We will only adopt a cap-and-trade regime if the United States signals that it wants to do the same. Our position on harmonization applies equally to regulation…Canada can go down either road — cap-and-trade or regulation — but we will go down neither road alone.”

Industry Groups Fight Dirty Against Oscar-Nominated Hydraulic Fracturing Documentary "Gasland"

In the United States and beyond, governments are praising the “clean, plentiful fuel” that is natural gas, and tout it as a viable alternative to oil and coal.  According to Abrahm Lustgarten at ProPublica, its advocates are calling natural gas a step toward a greener energy future due to the fact, they assert, that natural gas produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal. 

Josh Fox’s critically-acclaimed documentary Gasland tells quite a different story about the natural gas industry and its extraction process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  As he journeys across the United States, he discovers the devastating environmental and health impacts of humans and animals in close proximity to gas wells, and realizes that the so-called “Saudi Arabia of natural gas” is causing more pain than it is worth.

After the release of Fox’s documentary, an oil and gas lobby group calling itself “Energy In-Depth” launched a public relations offensive against the film (apparently they didn’t like the footage of people lighting their tap water on fire).  As it turns out, the website of the lobby group was registered to a Washington, DC public relations firm called FD Americas Public Affairs (formerly FD Dittus Communications) whose clients included oil and gas lobby groups including the American Energy Alliance, run by former Republican staffers Eric Creighton, Kevin Kennedy and Laura Henderson.

Today, when Fox’s documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature, a major energy trade association weighed in on Gasland’s nomination.  The industry group, the America’s Natural Gas Alliance argues on its website that “for our nation’s economy” we must make greater use of the “Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas” for the sake of the environment and economy.

Cancun Showdown: Results at the UN Climate Talks More Important Than Ever

The United Nations Climate Change talks kicked off yesterday in Cancun.  For many, the mood began much more sombrely than last year.  Copenhagen attracted celebrity clout, world leader buzz, and a sense of optimism for a binding agreement.  For all Copenhagen promised, however, those who hoped for a fair and binding global deal left empty handed.  

Along with analysts, pundits and the blogosphere, the U.S., UK and EU are already downplaying the chances of a deal being reached in the next fortnight.  And as Desmogblog reported today, those fears may not be in vain with threats that the U.S. may pull out of the talks early

The talks during the next two weeks are going to focus largely on forests and finance, but also on questions about the legal status of a future agreement and emissions targets, which are expected to be tackled beginning next week when ministers arrive.

The sense of general pessimism around the talks has led some to question the viability of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to deliver, and has led others to manufacture doubt over the scientific basis for action.  A new report released by Oxfam argues that despite the disconsolate atmosphere, a year of extreme weather conditions demonstrate more than ever that a binding climate agreement under the UN auspices is imperative.  The report, More than ever: climate talks that work for those that need them most, presents the weather events that have devastated much of the planet in the last year, and the even more harrowing costs of climate inaction.  

According to the report, at least 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of this year – more than twice the number for the whole of 2009.  “This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the 10-year average of 770. It is one of the hottest years ever recorded,” wrote Tim Gore, Oxfam’s EU climate change policy adviser and report’s author.

The Climate Change Hangover

Let’s assume that the Obama administration and Congress get their act together this year and make good on their pledge of enacting meaningful climate legislation by establishing the nation’s first cap-and-trade system.

Let’s further assume, for the sake of argument, that the administration, working with its international partners, succeeds in drafting a robust successor to the Kyoto Protocol at the climate talks in Copenhagen later this year.

If we accept that the U.S. climate bill, known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), will accomplish its goal of bringing down emission levels 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050—which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider that a substantial fraction of policymakers (including some Democrats) vehemently oppose the measure—then the question becomes: Will it be enough to prevent the worst of climate change?

Landmark Settlement Makes U.S. Agencies Acknowledge Climate Change

Under the terms of a landmark settlement reached last Friday, U.S. financing agencies will no longer be able to ignore the climate change repercussions of their actions.

Close to seven years and several bruising court battles later, a coalition of environmental groups and eco-minded cities have succeeded in forcing the Export-Import Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to do the unthinkable: acknowledge the reality of climate change and obey the law.

You Say You Want a (Green) Revolution

While the jury is still out on whether President-elect Barack Obama will prove able to usher in meaningful “change” during his time in office, his campaign seems to have sparked a shift in voter sentiment toward clean energy and greater climate change awareness.

An issue that received little attention during the early days of the campaign – energy independence – became, along with “green jobs,” one of the election’s hottest buzzwords in the latter stages.

(It didn’t hurt that the economy started tanking right around the time the presidential debates began.)

You Say You Want a (Green) Revolution

While the jury is still out on whether President-elect Barack Obama will prove able to usher in meaningful “change” during his time in office, his campaign seems to have sparked a shift in voter sentiment toward clean energy and greater climate change awareness.

An issue that received little attention during the early days of the campaign – energy independence – became, along with “green jobs,” one of the election’s hottest buzzwords in the latter stages.

(It didn’t hurt that the economy started tanking right around the time the presidential debates began.)

How to Get Rich By Scamming the Climate

A cartoon in The New York Times brilliantly captured the mentality behind the latest green trend. It showed a man kneeling at the confessional praying, “Forgive me, but I have SUV'd.”

The minister takes the proffered bag of money and replies:

Go thy way, thy sins are offset. You too can be forgiven of your carbon emitting sins and achieve the exalted status of being 'carbon neutral' without trading in your SUV or cancelling that overseas vacation.”

Carbon Prohibition Hurts PM Harper's Backyard Distillery

If you owned a distillery, you would probably not be in favor of prohibition.
 
So it is little wonder why Harper is apposed to binding emission targets at the UN climate negotiations in Bali.
 
Harper’s adopted province of Alberta is home to the second largest oil reserves in the world, and the good times are just starting to roll…

Poll: half of Americans say global warming human caused

Despite the massive media coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this Spring, only 50 per cent of respondents to a recent national poll say global warming is caused primarily by human activity, up four points since December.

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