House of Commons declares a climate emergency ahead of pipeline decision

Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs all voted in favour of the motion


Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna arrives at a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The House of Commons has passed a non-binding motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada, kicking off a week that will test the Liberals’ promise to balance environmental protection with economic development.

The motion, put forward by Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, calls on the House to recognize that “climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity” and to “declare that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement and to making deeper reductions in line with the Agreement’s objective of holding global warming below two degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

It passed Monday night with 186 votes to 63. According to the House of Commons Procedure and Practice guide, a resolution of the House “is a declaration of opinion or purpose; it does not require that any action be taken, nor is it binding.”

Liberal, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green MPs all voted in favour of the motion, pitting themselves against the Conservatives and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.

“If it is such an emergency, why is the prime minister jetting back and forth today from the Raptors parade, creating a big carbon footprint?” asked Conservative MP Michelle Rempel during debate.

Despite voting in favour of the motion, NDP MP Peter Julian rose in the House to call it “meaningless.”

“The Liberals are slapping each other on the back because they passed a motion that is meaningless. [On Tuesday] they are going to rubber-stamp the Trans Mountain pipeline, which will dramatically increase greenhouse gas production in the country. The hypocrisy is beyond belief,” he said. MORE

Dear Journalists of Canada: Start Reporting Climate Change as an Emergency

A five-point plan for mainstream media to cover fewer royal babies and more of our unfolding catastrophe.

Gustafson-Fire.jpg
Few media stories mentioned the demonstrable connection between the climate crisis and increasing wildfire activity in BC last summer, even though it was one of the major reasons why that season was the worst on record. Photo via the BC Wildfire Service.

On May 6, the United Nations released a scientific report warning that around a million species are threatened with extinction due to human activity, including climate change. But, according to an analysis by Media Matters for America, on the day of that release, the nightly newscasts of ABC and NBC felt it was more important that their audiences learned about the birth of the newest royal baby — someone who will likely never have any say over their day-to-day lives. And I’ve found most of Canada’s 15 most-read English language daily broadsheets felt the same way.

Between May 6 and 7, 13 of those newspapers failed to front stories about the United Nations’ devastating finding. Instead, the National Post ran a story about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son, with 10 others teasing that birth on their front pages. Eight of the teasers were placed above-the-fold, next to a photograph, or both — drawing reader attention to pictures of Harry, Meghan and their beaming well-wishers.

By comparison, six of the 13 newspapers ran front page teasers about the extinction report. Just one of those teasers was placed above the fold and none were accompanied by photographs. Only the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star did more than that, fronting stories about that report. It turns out that most of the country’s other major broadsheets concluded that proof of a dying planet was less newsworthy than puffery about a newborn baby.

In reaching that conclusion, they provided yet another example of the mainstream Canadian news media’s repeated failure to apply basic journalism principles to the climate change crisis confronting us. The consequences of that failure could be catastrophic for our world, as well as our country, which is the fourth largest global producer of oil and one of the planet’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. And that’s why I’m calling on you, as a leader of an association representing Canadian journalists or news organizations, to support a five-point plan for covering that disaster and encourage your members to do the same.

In doing so, I want to be clear that I am not recommending journalists become activists. That isn’t our role, except when promoting and defending the rights and freedoms necessary for a functioning free press. However, we are responsible for ensuring Canadians have the information needed to make the rational and empathetic decisions that are supposed to underpin our political and economic systems, whether that’s at the ballot box or the checkout line. And we are further responsible for exposing public and private institutions when they are harming Canadians with their actions or inactions.

By that standard, the climate crisis should be the biggest story of our time. Due to government and corporate actions and inactions, we can expect a multitude of tribulations to be visited upon us. For example, by 2050, decreases in food availability caused by global warming could cause 529,000 additional deaths in that year alone. That warming could also cause as many as one billion people to flee their homes. And, in the United States, the cost of climate change could be US$35 billion per year.

However, in searching Canadian Newsstream — a database of 569 different English language Canadian news sources that includes a majority of the country’s newspapers, as well as CBC and CTV’s televised national evening newscasts — I have found our mainstream media too often does not reflect the scope and severity of that crisis in five important ways. In addition to failing to prominently place news about this story it has: MORE

The Three Most Important Graphs in Climate Change

There’s a lot of confusion about climate change out there, especially when it comes to finding viable solutions. How can we determine what solutions make the most sense, and where to focus our efforts? It turns out that starting with these three little graphs helps a lot.

he confusion about climate change gets even messier when it comes to solutions. The discussions usually don’t start with facts or basic science; instead we can hear from numerous “experts” who want to tell you how they will solve climate change — usually with their favorite pet theory or business idea. Often with little data or scientific understanding to back it up.

Before debating the merits of different climate solutions, it’s best to start with the basic science, and learn a little about how greenhouse gases actually work. Then we can have more informed debates and discussions about which solutions to climate change are the most viable.

Here’s where a couple of simple graphs may help.


First, here’s a chart of the anthropogenic (a fancy word which means “human generated”) greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gas emissions by major gas. Each of these gases is emitted by human activities, contributing to a warming planet. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important greenhouse, stemming from fossil fuel combustion, land use, and industrial processes. Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases (f-gasses) are also important. Here we compare each gas on an “apples to apples” basis by averaging their “global warming potential” over a 100 year period. Data from the EPA, with adjustments to separate chemical and cement emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion based on data from the World Resources Institute.

This graphs shows us a few basic things.

First of all, there are several key greenhouse gases to consider — carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and so-called f-gases (mainly hydrofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, and other fluorinated gases). It’s not just CO2.

Each gas behaves a little differently in the atmosphere, and we need to take that into account. For example, some gases trap heat much more effectively than others, because their molecular structure absorbs infrared radiation better, and they each last a different amount of time in the atmosphere. So to compare them in a consistent, “apples to apples” way, we often convert them into equivalent units by averaging their “global warming potential” over 100 years. (This is a standard tool to compare different greenhouse gases and their impact on climate change. But it does bury a few important points. For example, methane is far more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but it doesn’t last in the atmosphere very long. So, in the short term, say 10–30 years, methane is extremely important to climate change. But in the longer term, like a century or two, it’s much less so.)

Of our greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide gets most of the attention, and for good reason. It represents about 76% of our greenhouse gas emissions each year. And the lion’s share of it (about 62% of total emissions) comes from burning fossil fuels, including our use of oil, coal, and natural gas. That’s why a lot of the focus on climate change solutions is centered on replacing fossil fuels — it causes about 62% of the problem.

But a lot of carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, aren’t generated from fossil fuel combustion, and we need to look at those too.

In fact, it’s a big mistake to equate greenhouse gas emissions with burning fossil fuels alone; you’d be missing about 38% of the emissions, and 38% of the opportunities to address climate change.

For example, about eleven percent of our greenhouse gas emissions stem from carbon dioxide released from land use, especially deforestation. Remember, burning trees, which are also largely made up of carbon, is like burning coal. They both release CO2.

And some carbon dioxide is released from chemical processing and curing cement. Those are significant sources too.

Then we have methane (CH4), which can be released from leaks from fracking and natural gas pipelines, landfills, and biomass burning. Another major source of methane comes from agriculture, especially from rice fields and cattle. (Funny fact: cattle mainly burp methane, not fart it.)

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is another greenhouse gas, mainly produced from overusing fertilizer in agricultural soils.

Finally, we have fluorinated gases (f-gases) such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These chemicals are typically used as refrigerants or in industrial processes.

There are other minor greenhouse gases, and something called “black carbon”, that we humans emit into the atmosphere as well, but for the sake of simplicity, this is a good starting point.

The bottom line is that the greenhouse gases that warm our planet include more than CO2, and come from more than just burning fossil fuels. We need to widen our perspective to understand, and address, climate change. MORE


Climate Fast: Kitchen Table Climate Conversations – Training, June 22

Time to have a conversation! What does it mean to be in a ‘climate emergency’? and how do we respond, as individuals, as a community? what do we expect of our politicians? Scientists tell us we have 11 years to cut 45% of our fossil fuel emissions. How can we do this? We are encouraging everyone to host a discussion at their kitchen table, or other community location, inviting family, friends and neighbours to participate. On June 22nd ClimateFast and the GTHA Climate Hub will provide a training day for potential hosts and facilitators at Friends House in Toronto. Please register if you can join us! Our goal is to see dozens, hundreds, even thousands of conversations spread across the province this summer and fall. Working together we can make this happen!

Registration $20 requested donation which will cover all expenses for the day including handouts, refreshments and a vegan lunch. If you can afford an additional donation we will add it to our travel fund to enable volunteers from other parts of Ontario to come to Toronto.

Please note: pay what you can tickets are available. If cost is a barrier please email lyn@climatefast.ca To register please register here and also email lyn@climatefast.ca so we can send you a registration form and can provide you with more information about the day.

NOTE: As of Tuesday we are getting close to maximum numbers, so if you cannot purchase your ticket please contact me directly regarding waiting list for the event -and we will try to get you in. SOURCE

10 Inspiring Canadian Women Who Are Saving The Environment

Courtney Howard in red parka against snow covered background — Courtney Howard climate change mental health
Photo, Pat Kane.

This Yellowknife ER doctor is raising the alarm about the mental health impact of climate change

While large parts of southern Canada are feeling the effects of climate change—unchecked forest fires, once-in-a-century storms that now happen once a year—people living in the North have been on the front lines for a long time. There, rising temperatures have meant, among other things, thawing permafrost, dramatically unstable weather and dwindling caribou populations.

But for Courtney Howard, an indefatigable emergency room doctor in Yellowknife and the president of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the physical changes wrought by a warming planet are just, well, the tip of the iceberg. She argues that climate change is also, not surprisingly, very bad for your health; it’s the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.

Some of the illnesses caused or exacerbated by climate change are obvious (heatstroke induced by longer, more severe heatwaves, for example), but Howard highlights less apparent psychological conditions: post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by forest fire survivors or the increasingly common anxiety and depression felt by people freaked out by the imminent apocalypse.

Howard is one of the lead authors of the Canadian policy makers’ brief, produced in conjunction with the 2018 Lancet Countdown—the medical journal’s comprehensive analysis of the health issues associated with climate change—and she and her co-authors have several policy recommendations. It’s an ambitious list, including phasing out coal, introducing global carbon pricing and rapidly integrating climate change and health in all medical and health sciences facilities. With the International Federation of Medical Students, she’s trying to introduce climate change and health in the curriculum of every medical school in the world by next year. Howard currently spends 30 to 40 hours a week on her climate health work, most of it as a volunteer, while still working eight shifts a month in the ER. That balance may have to change soon, though, she says: “The timelines of climate change are just so urgent.”

Headshot of Catherine Gauthier of ENJEU, who is suing the federal government
Photo, Julie Durocher
This millennial is suing the federal government for environmental negligence

Last November, the Montreal-based environmental non-profit Environnement Jeunesse(ENJEU) sued the federal government for failing to do enough for climate change. Their legal argument was devastatingly simple: By not reducing carbon emissions enough to avoid dangerous climate change, the government was violating the charter rights of Quebeckers, who are guaranteed the right to live in a “healthful environment.” MORE

Council of Canadians’ Invitation to Hear Dr. Gordon Laxer on his report Billion Dollar Buyout

The Council of Canadians invites you to a webinar by Dr. Gordon Laxer on his report Billion Dollar Buyout.

Tomorrow [Monday], the Liberal cabinet is supposed to make a decision on whether it approves the pipeline, but Reuters is reporting that it will approve it..  This will be a major election issue in the fall, and we need to be able to make it so. My fellow campaigner Dylan Penner is working on a week of action which he has told you about.

In our report, Billion Dollar buyout, Dr. Gordon Laxer says that the pipeline is not only environmentally dangerous but an economic disaster. Yesterday, a former Liberal environment minister agreed that there was no business case for the pipeline.  The pipeline would be the equivalent of putting 13 to 15 megatonnes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere, which would be like adding almost 3.8 million cars on the road. This will make it impossible for us to meet our climate targets at a time when the world’s leading scientists say we have to act urgently and immediately to avert global disaster.

 In a Toronto Star editorial, Laxer asks, “Why would a government so publicly committed to climate action throw more good money at a dodgy pipeline expansion, especially when Alberta has torn up its side of the climate understanding? Better to cut your losses now.” He will also be on Bloomberg BNN tomorrow to respond to the decision.

Want to hear more about it? On June 26 at 5:30 p.m. EST, Laxer will reveal more about his hard-hitting report. Registration is open: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_tAu9AXqkQ2S1lfkXJJ4owQ

Here is a link to his report and an accompanying video which explains the report.

 

https://canadians.org/billion-dollar-buyout

Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs

A clean economy that works better for people

Image result for NDP: Power to Change A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs

  • Creating good jobs across the country. Creating at least 300,000 new jobs building the clean energy future that will support families and bring local work to communities across the country – and providing the training and supports that workers need.

  • Kickstarting clean energy by stopping fossil fuel subsidies. Canadians are paying the price while big polluters profit. Ending oil and gas company subsidies means we can invest in renewable energy, and get Canada powered by net carbon-free electricity by 2030.

  • Saving you money while building for the future.By making all new buildings in Canada energy efficient by 2030, and retrofitting existing buildings by 2050, we can make a big dent in climate change and save families $900 or more every year.

  • Setting targets and meeting them. Revising Canada’s pollution targets so they’re in line with what scientists say is needed to stop dangerous climate change – and then holding ourselves to hitting them.

  • Cheaper, cleaner, more convenient transit.Changing the way we get around by moving to 100% electric transit and free public transit, investing in high speed rail, and bringing back critical rural and northern transit routes.

  • Zero-emission vehicles. We’ll make it easier to get and use Canadian-made zero-emission vehicles by making them more affordable, and build a network of charging stations across the country so nothing will slow you down.

  • Protecting our communities by investing in our communities. Extreme weather conditions like floods and forest fires are threatening people’s homes and jobs. From farming to forestry, supporting community climate action and energy projects will protect families and boost local economies.

  • No more single-use plastic. Plastic pollution threatens our oceans, our wildlife, and our health. It’s time to make plastic bags, cutlery, and other one-use items a thing of the past.

  • Supporting Indigenous leadership in climate action. Working together with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis as full and equal partners is critical to the fight against climate change. Indigenous communities are on the front lines, dealing with the impacts of climate change every day, and are best placed to protect cultural and biological diversity through control over their territory. MORE

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