This is a guest post by Gus Van Harten, professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Sold Down the Yangtze: Canada's Lopsided Investment Deal with China. This post originally...
At a June 19 speaking event at London's Chatham House, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed the Russian government is covertly working to discredit hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the west from afar.
“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” said Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark.
Rasmussen's comments were relayed to the press by someone in attendance who apparently broke the “Chatham House Rule” by telling outsiders about the content of a Chatham House meeting.
Anders Fog Rasmussen; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
But Rasmussen left out some key context from his presentation, which he said “is my interpretation” and did not further elaborate on his “disinformation operations” comments.
That is, while powerful actors have claimed on multiple occasions that western-based anti-fracking activists are funded by the Kremlin, no one has ever documented such a relationship in the form of a money paper trail.
Aggressively tackling global warming through better public transportation and increased energy efficiencies could increase global GDP by between $1.8 trillion and $2.6 trillion annually, a new report has found.
Released on Monday, the report by the World Bank and the ClimateWorks Foundation said tackling global warming now would also save as many as 94,000 lives a year from pollution-related diseases and reduce crop losses.
The report — Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change — shows the potential gains from scaling up pro-climate policies.
“The report’s findings show clearly that the right policy choices can deliver significant benefits to lives, jobs, crops, energy, and GDP — as well as emissions reductions to combat climate change,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said.
Written in advance of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit in New York in September, the report looks at benefits that ambitious climate mitigation policies can generate across the transportation, industry and building sectors, as well as in waste and cooking fuels. It focuses on Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the United States and the European Union.
This is a guest post by David Suzuki.
There was little doubt the federal government would approve the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, regardless of public opposition or evidence presented against it. The prime minister indicated he wanted the pipeline built before the Joint Review Panel hearings even began. Ad campaigns, opponents demonized as foreign-funded radicals, gutted environmental laws and new pipeline and tanker regulations designed in part to mollify the B.C. government made the federal position even more clear.
Canadian resource policy is becoming increasingly divorced from democracy. Two infamous omnibus bills eviscerated hard-won legislation protecting Canada's water and waterways and eased obstacles for the joint review process, which recommended approval of the $7.9-billion project, subject to 209 conditions. The government has now agreed to that recommendation.
The time-consuming hearings and numerous stipulations surely influenced the government's decision to restrict public participation in future reviews, making it difficult for people to voice concerns about projects such as Kinder Morgan's plan to twin and increase capacity of its Trans Mountain heavy oil pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby from 300,000 to 900,000 barrels a day, with a corresponding increase in tanker traffic in and out of Vancouver.
And to keep democracy out of fossil fuel industry expansion, the government switched decision-making from the independent National Energy Board to the prime minister’s cabinet.
Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s most influential economists, has come out with a new report showing that the future costs of climate change have been incredibly underestimated.
The report, Endogenous growth, convexity of damages and climate risk, indicates it is even more important than previously thought that politicians quickly and aggressively stop unchecked climate change caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
Stern, a professor at the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics, and his co-author Simon Dietz found that the current economic models used to calculate the cost of climate change are vastly inadequate and need to be updated so that proper decisions can be made about risks associated with global warming.
They said that even the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has cited the existing economic models and, as a result, has arrived at severely limited assumptions about the costs of global warming.
“It is extremely important to understand the severe limitations of standard economic models, such as those cited in the IPCC report, which have made assumptions that simply do not reflect current knowledge about climate change and its potential impacts on the economy,” Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, said in a media release.
This is a guest post by David Suzuki.
Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”
It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels — as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.
Scientists, politicians, environmentalists and journalists have long been stymied by the difficult task of engaging people so that they will agree to begin curbing toxic greenhouse gas emissions.
Some people deny — out of fear or vested interests — that there are increased levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, some say if there is a problem it isn’t caused by humans and some just don’t seem to care.
A U.S. study, What’s in a name: Global warming versus climate change (PDF), released last week has found, however, that confusion over language is another reason for a lack of concerted action to deal with what United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says is the greatest threat to humankind.
There is a huge difference in how Americans regard the terms “global warming” and “climate change,” according to a 31-page report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Centre for Climate Change Communications.
The report states that “global warming” and “climate change” also “activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond.”
This is a guest post by David Suzuki.
Because we enjoy relatively pure air, clean water and healthy food systems, Canadians sometimes take the environment for granted. Many scarcely blink if oil from a pipeline spills into a river, a forest is cleared for tar sands operations or agricultural land is fracked for gas. If Arctic ice melts and part of the Antarctic ice sheet collapses, well… they’re far away.
Some see climate change as a distant threat, if they see it as a threat at all. But the scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is here, and unless we curb behaviours that contribute to it, it will get worse, putting our food, air, water and security at risk. A recent White House report confirms the findings of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report, and concludes global warming is a clear and present danger to the U.S.
“Climate change is not a distant threat, but is affecting the American people already,” says White House science adviser John Holdren in a video about the report. “Summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.”
Recognizing the problem’s severity is a start, but whether the U.S. will actually do anything is another question. Action to curb climate change is constantly stalled — thanks to the powerful fossil fuel industry, political and media denial, extensive fossil fuel-based infrastructure and citizen complacency.
At a talk in Vermont last week, the nation's top energy official offered up his thoughts on a problem the White House has said calls for “urgent action”: climate change.
“We need to mitigate the effects of climate change and need to adapt at the same time,” said Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, as he described the findings of a White House report issued earlier this month outlining the dangers of global warming and the impacts already felt nationwide.
But Moniz's talk also highlighted a fundamental flaw in the approach that President Obama has taken to energy and the environment.
The president has begun sounding alarm bells about the hazards and costs of worsening climate disruption. At the same time, he has aggressively promoted the nation's ongoing shale gas rush. And yet, experts warn this drilling frenzy may have wiped out most of the gains made by slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal.
It's a paradox that the Washington Post labeled “a jarring juxtapostion” and “the contradiction at the heart of President Obama's climate change policy.”
California, widely considered the U.S. state that most promoted the American Dream, may turn into a nightmare this summer as a result of the worst drought in at least 15 years.
And a new academic study suggests there may be a direct connection between the persistent drought and climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.
The study shows that, beginning with unusually cold waters off Southeast Asia, a persistent high-pressure ridge, or dipole, built up late last year and anchored over the Gulf of Alaska, preventing usual levels of moisture from reaching the West Coast of North America.
Reviewing weather data and sea surface temperatures, the study also determined that the dipole generated a low-pressure ridge built up north of the Great Lakes, eventually resulting in so-called freezing Polar Vortex events in central Canada and the U.S.