Re: The Green New Deal: First, Shoot the Economists

Photograph Source Senate Democrats

Soon to be released research from the United Nations is expected to place species loss, a/k/a mass extinction, as an environmental threat equal to or greater than climate change. Industrial agriculture— vast expanses of monoculture crops managed with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, will feature prominently as a cause. This plant agriculture supplies people with increasingly toxic and processed food and antibiotic and hormone dependent factory farms with animal feed.  Together, these link the model of capitalist efficiency economists have been selling for the last two centuries to environmental crisis.

Understanding the theoretical precepts of Western economics is crucial to understanding these crises. Capitalism is scientific economic production, a method in search of applications. Its object is to maximize profits, not to growth nutritious food sustainably. As industrial agriculture has demonstrated, these objectives are antithetical. Crop yields have increased as the nutritional value of the food produced has declined. But far more troublingly, the narrow focus on profits has led to a form of environmental imperialism where interrelated ecosystems are viewed atomistically.

Mass extinction is largely attributable to the drive for economic control— the expansion of industrial agriculture to feed factory farm animals has been both geographic and intensive. The annihilation of insects through pesticide use on crops has led in turn to the annihilation of the species that feed on them. Interrelated ecosystems are systematically destroyed through a logic that does not ‘work’ otherwise. Leaving ecosystems intact upends it. When value is granted to what is destroyed, industrial agriculture ceases to earn a profit. In a broader sense, this means that it never earned a profit in the first place.

Unlike the narrow technocratic fixes being put forward to resolve global warming, mass extinction points to the systemic problems within capitalist logic. Within it, reconfiguring pieces of the world has a limited impact— so small in fact that the impact is considered ‘external’ to production processes. In an interrelated world, reconfiguring pieces— including annihilating or favoring them, impacts the broader relationships within the system. Were capitalist production not rapidly killing the planet, such esoterica could have remained within the purview of academia.

But it is killing the planet, suggesting that the organizing logic of capitalism is fundamentally flawed. MORE


The Green New Deal and the case against incremental climate policy

Canada’s LNG sector vulnerable on GHG perception without better methane tracking

Shell’s operations in the Groundbirch region of the Montney play. Image: Shell

One of the biggest bites ever taken out of GHG emissions in any developed country is something that environmentalists and renewable energy advocates never seem to mention.  Since 2005, energy-related GHG emissions in the U.S. have fallen by 14%.

While some of those lower emissions can be attributed to renewable energy investments, the emissions decrease was “mainly” due to natural gas displacing coal power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). When burned for power, natural gas produces 50% to 60% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than coal does.

Proponents of B.C.’s nascent LNG sector, including the BC NDP government, have therefore promoted the environmental advantage of LNG, since the biggest market is Asia, where LNG would presumably replace coal power and backstop intermittent renewable energy.

But environmentalists opposed to fossil fuels claim that “fracked gas” is as bad as coal or even worse, in terms of its global warming potential, due to fugitive methane emissions.

David Suzuki recently made the claim, accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of hypocrisy in committing to climate change targets while supporting the $40 billion LNG Canada project.

“He proudly announced approval of a $40 billion facility to liquefy fracked gas, calling it a transition fuel to help China reduce coal dependence, even though fracked gas has a carbon footprint at least as bad as coal (because of fugitive methane release),” Suzuki recently wrote.



Children are fighting for their future. We must support them

Swedish student Greta Thunberg, 16, has galvanized a movement, inspiring students worldwide to tell adults their future is at stake. (Photo: Anders Hellberg via Wikimedia Commons)

“And a little child shall lead them.” – Isaiah 11:6

At 16, Greta Thunberg may not be a little child, but she’s showing tremendous leadership. The Swedish student has galvanized a world movement, pressing adults to remove the blinkers of corporate and political self-interest and recognize that their refusal to respond appropriately to climatologists’ urgent warnings is leading to the destruction of a future for all generations to come.

Children don’t have a large stake in the status quo so they aren’t bound by the constraints of business and politics. They aren’t yet part of it, except as budding consumers and victims of political machinations. Children speak from their hearts with an innocence, naiveté and idealism only they possess.

Children don’t have a large stake in the status quo so they aren’t bound by the constraints of business and politics.

For decades, environmentalists calling for government action to transform our energy sources from fossil fuels to cleaner renewables have been marginalized as unrealistic, extremists or anti-business. Even activists have imposed self-restraint in our calls for political action lest we be seen as a threat to jobs, corporate interests or the economy.

Thunberg’s laser focus is on what politicians are doing (or not doing) rather than saying. And what they’re doing is refusing to take the necessary actions outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report in October. It warns that failing to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next 11 years will put humanity — and numerous other species — on the road to catastrophe.

The United Nations established the IPCC in 1988 to be the most authoritative source of scientific information on climate change, compiling research from scientists and experts worldwide to inform governments and the public of the current state of scientific knowledge. Because it’s intergovernmental, its reports are vetted by countries like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Russia, which have their own agendas. This makes the reports invariably cautious. Every IPCC prediction (temperature, sea level rise, weather events) over five-year periods has fallen short of what actually occurred.


SNC-Lavalin warned of U.S. move, slashing workforce if no plea deal, documents show

SNC-Lavalin warned federal prosecutors in the fall of 2018 about a possible plan to split the company in two, move its offices to the United States and eliminate its Canadian workforce. File photo by The Canadian Press

SNC-Lavalin warned federal prosecutors last fall about a possible plan to split the company in two, move its offices to the United States and eliminate its Canadian workforce if it didn’t get a deal to avoid criminal prosecution, newly obtained documents show.

The documents, part of a PowerPoint presentation obtained by The Canadian Press, describe something called “Plan B” — what Montreal-based SNC might have to do if it can’t convince the government to grant a so-called remediation agreement to avoid criminal proceedings in a fraud and corruption case related to projects in Libya.

Under that plan, SNC would move its Montreal headquarters and corporate offices in Ontario and Quebec to the U.S. within a year, cutting its workforce to just 3,500 from 8,717, before eventually winding up its Canadian operations.

The company’s board and senior management were prepared to quickly bundle parts of the business that had no role in the Libya case into a new entity, putting the “trio of possibly convicted entities” into another organization that would operate “on a reduced business level in Canada or heading into eventual wind-up,” they read.

The presentation, which was delivered by mail to The Canadian Press anonymously and without a return address, also suggests the end of seven-figure donations and sponsorships for various community causes, hundreds of millions more in lost tax revenues, and the loss of spending on research positions at universities. MORE

Doug Ford government appoints a Tory climate denier to board overseeing Ontario’s electricity system

Joe Oliver responds to a question in the House of Commons in Ottawa on May 11, 2015. File photo by Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The right-leaning government of Canada’s most populous province has created a new job for a former Conservative cabinet minister who dismisses scientific evidence showing how much humans are changing the planet’s climate.

Joe Oliver, 76, previously a natural resources and finance minister in the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper, is now a board member of Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a Crown corporation that oversees and manages the province’s electricity operations.

Energy Minister Greg Rickford, who also sat with Oliver in Harper’s cabinet and replaced the former as federal natural resources minister, announced the nomination through a news release on Thursday afternoon.

The move comes as Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is under fire for slashing policies to address climate change and criticizing the federal government for requiring polluters to pay a tax for contributing to the problem. Peer-reviewed scientific research shows that climate change threatens to cause irreversible damage to the Earth’s ecosystems and its economy. MORE


A new study finds that more greenhouse gases are emitted producing the typical diet of a white American than that of a Hispanic or African American.

hamburger cheeseburger american food meal

It’s very clear that whites are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of their food choices,” researchers write. (Photo: Edward Franklin/Unsplash)

Would you like to limit your carbon footprint? Environmentally conscious people often try to do so through measures like recycling, avoiding driving, and turning down the thermostat. But doing everything you can also mean changing your diet—and that goes especially for white people.

just-published study finds that more greenhouse gases are emitted producing the typical diet of a white American than that of a Hispanic or African American.

A research team led by Joe F. Bozeman III of the University of Illinois–Chicago reports that whites produced an average of 680 kilograms of carbon dioxide each year that can be directly linked to their diet. That compares to 640 kilograms for Latinos, and only 600 for black Americans.

“While the differences may not be enormous, these numbers are per individual,” Bozeman noted in announcing the findings. “When you add up all of those individuals, it’s very clear that whites are responsible for the majority of greenhouse gases emitted as a result of their food choices.” MORE


The trouble with staking Alberta’s future on oil

There’s more to the province’s energy woes than carbon taxes, pipelines and protests

Alberta oil pumpjack

an interview on CBC’s The National, United Conservative Party (UCP) leader Jason Kenney last month espoused a view that is persistent in Alberta politics — that the province can once again make a fortune in the oil industry.

“We’re talking about trillions of dollars of potential wealth,” Kenney said, perched on a chair in a coffee shop across from CBC host Rosemary Barton. “There’s a growing global demand, whether people like it or not, for oil and gas through at least the year 2040.”

But with changes in the world’s appetite for oil — and global goals to reduce carbon emissions — Albertans are left to wonder if this is still a safe assumption.

“It’s a pipe dream,” Gordon Laxer, a political economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, told The Narwhal. “We are in the twilight of oil.”

Kenney was citing a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that projects increasing oil demand through 2040. Other organizations, such as Carbon Tracker, project worldwide demand for oil could peak as soon as 2023.

When global oil demand will decline — and how it will affect Alberta’s economy — remains up for debate.

“It’s a really tough question for anyone to answer with any degree of precision,” Trevor Tombe, associate professor of economics at the University of Calgary, told The Narwhal, pointing toward an enormous number of macroeconomic factors that influence global oil demand.

“Even in a world of unrestricted carbon emissions, the oilsands still face huge, huge economic challenges,” Jeff Rubin, former chief economist with CIBC World Markets and a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, told The Narwhal. MORE