Killing Gaia

“The Seventh Fire prophecy presents a prophesy for the vision that is before us. It tells that all the people of the earth will see that the path ahead is divided. They must make a choice in their path for the future. One of the roads is soft and green with new grass. You could walk barefooted there. The other path is scorched black, hard, the cinders would cut your feet. If the people choose the grassy path, then life will be sustained.  But if they choose the cinder path, the damage they have wrought upon the earth will turn against them and bring suffering and death to earth’s people.” — Braiding Sweetgrass.

Carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has just reached 415 parts per million, the highest in human recorded history.


Forest Fire. Photo credit: pxhere.com

Individual measurements of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, started to pass the 410 parts per million (ppm) line back in 2017. By May 2019 we have had a full five months where the monthly average has been well above 410 ppm. This week we started to see reports that the 415 ppm mark had already been breached. Before we started to burn fossil fuels, CO2 in the atmosphere was about 280 ppm. We passed the 400 ppm mark in 2013, and the graph is rising as steeply now as it ever has.

The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high, sea levels were 20 metres (65 feet) higher than they are now, and trees were growing in Antarctica. That was three million years ago.

I used to work as a control system design engineer, and temperature control was our biggest market area. With any oven or kiln, when you switch on full heat and look at the temperature graph, the first thing you see is… absolutely nothing happening. This is what makes controlling a kiln interesting. With a car on the road, you put down the accelerator or the brake, and immediately see a change in speed. Temperature time delays are due to heat ‘hiding’ in places like the heating elements and the oven walls.

The other interesting feature is that, after you have been heating an oven at full power for a while and you switch off the heater, the next thing you see on the graph, again, is that absolutely nothing changes: the temperature continues to rise just as steeply as before. In a large, powerful oven, this can continue for quite a while before eventually levelling off and beginning to fall. These large overshoots are normal for any complex system.

The Earth is far bigger and more complex than any industrial furnace. There are many more places for heat to ‘hide,’ such as the oceans, the poles and so on. There are also complex feedback mechanisms including changes in surface colour as ice melts, and gases being released by seawater, soil and permafrost.

Due to subtle interactions between forests, sea-life, ocean currents and weather patterns, there are also tipping points beyond which temperatures may never recover.

Our global carbon dioxide ‘blanket’ is certainly trapping heat in, warming the Earth, but as yet we have seen only a fraction of the full effects that our disturbances have caused.  MORE

Every single piece of these sneakers is made from plants

Instead of tossing these in the trash when you wear them through, drop them in your compost bin, where they’ll naturally decompose (yes, the soles too).

Look down at your feet. Your shoes might seem an innocuous, but they contain lots of forms of plastic, and often leather, giving them their own sizeable carbon footprint. As all companies try to limit their plastic use, shoe manufacturers are trying to design new shoes with lower embedded emissions. Canadian shoe company Native Shoes is doing it by making a shoe that’s entirely biodegradable, because every component is made from plant material.

Their new, appropriately named Plant Shoe is made entirely from durable and natural fibers, including pineapple husk for the toe and tread made from the fibrous vegetable jute, soaked in olive oil. “That was the puzzle–how could we get an entire shoe to be biodegradable?” says Mike Belgue, Native’s creative director.

With this new development, Native wants to push the conversation around what’s possible in creating sustainable footwear. Numerous other brands, like Allbirds and Everlane, have pioneered sneaker-manufacturing tactics that are more sustainable than the traditional leather and rubber combination that’s known to be environmentally intensive. Everlane, for instance, sources recycled plastic bottles to make its sneakers, and Allbirds uses innovative eucalyptus fibers and sugarcane to form its classic runners. A new Adidas concept shoe can be shredded and fully recycled into a whole new shoe.

Native, which is based in Vancouver, has used focused, unique shoe manufacturing techniques since its founding in 2009. It crafts sneakers from ethylene vinyl acetate (or EVA, the same material used in crocs) that can formed into a mold, and last year, the brand launched an initiative to recycle those shoes by grinding them up and creating a fresh stream of material that can be repurposed as flooring or insulation. So far, they’ve recycled around 40,000 pairs, and will start to use the ground-up material to make new shoes in the near future. MORE

Cities can be climate champions

The C 40 Cities are taking bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future. Prince Edward Council should adopt their best practices.


(Kazuhiro Nogi/Getty Images)

When it comes to spewing carbon into the air, urban areas are among the biggest offenders.

But cities also lead the way when it comes to taking significant action to get those emissions down, according to David Miller, director of international diplomacy for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

“With a few exceptions, it’s been the leadership of the cities that’s really been pushing the envelope and moving towards what’s necessary, not just what’s easy,” said Miller, a former mayor of Toronto.

Research by C40, a network of 94 global cities committed to addressing climate change, shows about 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from urban areas.

It’s predominantly from four sources:

    • How we generate electricity.
    • Transportation.
    • How we heat and cool buildings.
    • How we manage our waste.

In a recent interview, Miller laid out which cities he believes are leading the way with innovative ideas — and results.

Oslo, for example, has a climate budget, which is managed by the city’s finance department and runs alongside the normal budgeting process. According to C40, Oslo city council can only approve spending plans that have a realistic chance of hitting their emission-reduction targets.

So if you want to build, say, a new curling rink, Miller said, you have to consider how much carbon that rink will use. “And if there isn’t a carbon budget, the same way if there isn’t a financial budget, you can’t do it.”

In 2010, Tokyo (above photo) became the first city in the world to implement an urbancap-and-trade system for its large buildings. That required industrial and commercial facilities to achieve an absolute reduction of emissions from 2009 levels. The goal was six to eight per cent in the first four years of the program. But research by Cornell University and the Tokyo government found that in the first five years, the program resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in emissions.

And they barely even needed the “trade” part to do it. City records showed only a handful of facilities bought credits to hit their target. MORE

More Than 100 Cities Worldwide Now Powered Primarily by Renewable Energy

 

These cities get more than 70 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewables. That’s up since the Paris climate agreement.

Burlington, Vermont, gets 100 percent of its power from renewable energy, including from solar farms like this one, built on locally made systems that track the sun. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Burlington, Vermont, gets 100 percent of its power from renewable energy, including from solar farms like this one, built on locally made systems that track the sun. Credit: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

As the price of renewable energy drops, more cities are cutting the cord with fossil fuel-based electricity.

A new report released Tuesday by the environmental group CDP finds that more than 100 cities worldwide now get the majority of their power—70 percent or more—from renewables. That’s up from 42 in 2015, when countries pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the Paris climate agreement.

CDP notes that more than 40 of those cities are now powered entirely by renewables, including Burlington, Vermont, which gets its electricity from a combination of wind, solar, hydro and biomass. Burlington will have more company within the next 20 years—58 U.S. cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, having announced plans to do the same.

London-based CDP, which tracks climate-related commitments by corporations and governments, looked at 570 cities across the globe for the report. The group defines renewables as solar, wind, hydro, wave power, biomass, geothermal—or all non-nuclear and non-fossil fuel sources—and includes cities where electricity from clean energy sources is citywide, not just in municipal buildings.

Four U.S. cities made the list of those getting at least 70 percent of their electricity from renewable sources: Seattle; Eugene, Oregon; and Aspen, Colorado, along with Burlington. Five Canadian cities are also on the list: Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, North Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia. MORE

The County’s Missing Climate Action Plan

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The central aim of the Paris Agreement is to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change  and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The recently released UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says there are urgent and unprecedented actions required by the world’s governments to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C. This is the point where humanity would have the best chance of avoiding extreme, unpredictable climate variations. Scientists say we have just 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe–extreme heat,drought, floods, and poverty. At present, the Canadian government’s climate policy is not nearly robust enough to meet the 1.5 C emissions target. In fact, the current ‘rate of emissions’ suggest we are headed for 3 degree C.

Canadians’ emissions per capita are greater than any other country, including the United States.Emissions from the tar sands are the elephant in the room. The proposed tar sands expansion–a policy actually being considered at the moment–if approved, will increase our emissions substantially.

As politicians dither, Canada’s energy policy needs to quickly make a 180 degree turn. In Canada the federal and provincial governments are squabbling over how best to respond. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking.

80% of Canadians live in cities. Cities are the linchpins in driving down global emissions. Some cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto have taken serious steps to build greener, healthier cities. These cities realize that reducing green emissions has huge benefits for city life.

But it all starts with a serious detailed action plan. At the moment, in contrast with Peterborough’s detailed action plan, the City of Prince Edward County, although declaring a climate emergency, doesn’t have anything resembling a coordinated action plan.

If Council is searching for ‘best practices’, the Peterborough Sustainable plan could serve as a template on how to proceed to develop one.The Sustainable Peterborough plan states:

“The overall objective is to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reduce the use of fossil fuels, lower our energy consumption, and adapt to our changing climate. The plan has identified goals, actions, and emissions reduction targets.” Eight Community task forces were created focusing on Agriculture and Food, Community Energy, Community Waste, Economic and Business, Land Use Planning, People and Health, and Transportation.

Peterborough started by developing a greenhouse gas inventory that: “provides community and municipal sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for the 2011 baseline year. The associated forecast projects future emissions based on assumptions about population, economic growth and fuel mix.” They issue detailed annual report cards that demonstrate their progress, year over year [https://bit.ly/2Ud1zMu]

Part of the reason Prince Edward hasn’t produced anything remotely resembling Peterborough’s plan, is because there hasn’t been anyone specifically designated to take charge of developing one. An appropriate action plan would identify opportunities, regulations, promotion of climate initiatives,
encouraging community engagement, with measurement, reports, and issuing annual recommendations to Council, complete with timelines.

That is why the County Sustainability Group has repeatedly suggested the appointment of an Environmental Commissioner or, at the very least, a special Committee of Council and Citizens’ Committee to identify opportunities to reduce our climate footprint. Time is of the essence. There are so
many opportunities that are being missed. There are many citizens in the County, many with special expertise, who would be willing to serve on a community task force.

Ron Hart is a member of the County Sustainability Group


 

UN says Canada’s plan to rescue Wood Buffalo National Park not enough

Massive northern park at risk of landing on ‘World Heritage in Danger’ list


Wood Buffalo, which straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories boundary, is one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas. (Parks Canada)

The status of Canada’s largest park as a world heritage site remains wobbly after a United Nations body expressed grave doubts about a federal plan to rescue it.

“Considerably more effort will be needed to reverse the negative trends at a time when climate change combined with upstream industrial developments and resource extraction are intensifying,” says a draft decision on Wood Buffalo National Park from UNESCO, which manages the UN’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Further deterioration, it says, “could eventually lead to the inscription of the property on the list of World Heritage in Danger.”

Wood Buffalo, which straddles the Alberta-Northwest Territories boundary, is one of the world’s largest freshwater deltas and breeding grounds for millions of migratory birds from four continental flyways.

With almost 45,000 square kilometres of grasslands, wetlands and waterways, it is the world’s only breeding ground for endangered whooping cranes and home to the world’s largest herd of free-ranging wood buffalo. First Nations depend on the area.

But it has been deteriorating for decades. In 2014, the Mikisew Cree asked UNESCO to examine the park and see if it still merited designation as a World Heritage Site.

The UNESCO report prompted Ottawa to commission a 561-page study that concluded 15 out of 17 measures of ecological health were declining. The effects — everything from low water flows to curtailed Indigenous use — stem largely from changes to area rivers caused by climate change, dams in British Columbia and industry in Alberta.

Canada proposed solutions such as artificially induced spring floods and other water flows. Ottawa also promised more careful environmental reviews of nearby development and better consultation with local Indigenous people.

…But Canada failed to answer concerns about B.C. Hydro’s Site C dam, UNESCO says. It also points out that ongoing oilsands development upstream from the park is of “serious concern.” MORE

PLASTIC POLLUTION: Does Recycling Matter? The Revolutionary Lab That’s Changing Science

‘Recycling Is Like a Band-Aid on Gangrene’

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 “Recycling doesn’t do much to mitigate the problem of plastic pollution.”

View the Video (12:51)

The documentary filmmaker Noah Hutton was at a scientific symposium when he first encountered Max Liboiron. “I kept hearing some of the sharpest, smartest critiques of [scientific] status-quo assumptions I’ve ever heard,” Hutton told me. “She engaged with other’s viewpoints totally empathetically, but would then forcefully challenge their assumptions in a way that wasn’t personal. It was completely intoxicating and invigorating, like a voice from the future.”

What was most compelling to Hutton, however, was that Liboiron wasn’t just pondering changes to the scientific method on a theoretical level—she was living them. Her Newfoundland lab, the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), interrogates what Liboiron believes to be systemic problems in science. CLEAR conducts its research on microplastics from a feminist and anti-colonial perspective. This epistemic approach informs the lab’s scientific protocols, ethics, and research designs. Taylor Hess and Hutton’s short documentary Guts is an inside look at the lab, the research it conducts on plastic pollution and sustainability, and the way Liboiron empowers citizens to engage in science at the community level.

“Every time you decide what question to ask or not ask others, which counting style you use, which statistics you use, how you frame things, where you publish them, who you work with, where you get funding from … all of that is political,” Liboiron says in the film. “Reproducing the status quo is deeply political because the status quo is crappy.”

Hutton said that while science—and environmental science in particular—is often viewed as a monolithic force for good, sometimes the scientific status quo “lends itself to universalizing, extractive, and colonial tendencies, even if it starts with good intentions.”

Liboiron’s critiques aren’t limited to methodology. In the documentary, she asks a group of well-intentioned recyclers to look closely at their individual consumer behaviors. The data on waste management, she says, suggest that recycling doesn’t do much to mitigate the problem of plastic pollution.

“The only mode of attack is to deal with a heavy decrease in the production of plastics, as opposed to dealing with them after they’ve already been created,” she tells the group. “Your consumer behaviors do not matter. Not on the scale of the problem … It’s the cessation of production that will make the big-scale changes.” She also advocates for removing subsidies from oil.

“When most people think of plastic pollution, they think of plastic bottles floating around in the ocean,” Hess told me. “They don’t think of the hidden world of toxin-bearing microplastics that also float around in the ocean. These microplastics are ingested by ocean-dwelling animals and then passed up the food chain and ‘biomagnified’ to the humans who eat them.” The plastics then become a part of our biome and may pose various health risks, the extent of which researchers are only beginning to understand. MORE

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McKenna says no plan to increase carbon tax after 2022, despite PBO saying hike needed to meet Paris targets


Ottawa is offering a tax rebate for provinces where it has employed a federal backstop carbon pricing system. Toronto Star/Rene Johnston

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Ottawa does not plan to increase the price on carbon after 2022, despite a report released today by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) saying the tax would have to double by 2030 on top of existing policies to meet Canada’s Paris targets.

For the first time, McKenna said the Liberals don’t intend to raise the federal carbon tax after it goes up to $50 per tonne in 2022, pointing to the existing climate plan created in 2016.

“The plan is not to increase the price post-2022,” she said. “We are doing exactly what we said we’d do, what we negotiated with provinces and territories in 2016.”

While McKenna said the Liberals remain committed to meeting its 2030 targets, today’s PBO report highlighted that her department’s own figures show Ottawa’s plan would not be enough to reduce emissions to 513 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2) by that year, as it pledged when signing the Paris climate agreement in 2016.

The fiscal watchdog’s analysis concluded that a carbon price of $102 per tonne — across Canada — could close the gap of 79 megatonnes of CO2 between what Ottawa anticipates Canada will achieve under current policies by 2030, compared to the Paris target.

The PBO found that Canada can close the gap by gradually increasing the federal fuel charge, adding on $6 per tonne in 2023, and an additional $52 per tonne compared to the 2022 $50 price by 2030.

Currently, the federal benchmark carbon pricing system applies to two territories and four provinces, with Alberta to be the fifth province starting next year. The other provinces either have their own pricing systems or have reached an agreement with Ottawa to stave off the imposition of the federal charge.

The federal backstop fuel charge is currently at $20 per tonne but will rise to $50 per tonne in less than four years.

The PBO’s report also found that carbon emissions would be reduced across all applied industries with additional carbon pricing. For example, Canada’s oil and gas sector would see a 16 megatonne reduction between 2016 levels and 2030.

Under current policies, emissions in the oil and gas sector was set to increase by 12 megatonnes by 2030 from 183 megatonnes in 2016. MORE

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