We aren’t terrified enough about losing the Amazon


Scientists aren’t sure if there’s a tipping point, or how close we are to it – but it would be “absolutely catastrophic” if we cross it, reports James Temple.

The context: With fires raging in the Brazilian Amazon, media reports have resurfaced a scary scenario where a certain level of deforestation will push the world’s largest rainforest to a tipping point where spiraling feedback effects convert much of the forest into savannah.

A scary prospect: In this scenario, rather than holding 17% of the world’s carbon trapped in vegetation on land, the Amazon would become a major source of it. Scientists can’t say exactly where the tipping point would be, but like other climate tipping points, which are unpredictable and essentially irreversible once reached, we should err on the side of caution.

Are we nearing it? So far, at least 17% of the Amazon has already been lost. As little as 20% deforestation could begin to trigger the irreversible “savannafication” process. Read the full story here.


Andrew Weaver to Jason Kenney: ‘Every day you keep opening your mouth, more people come to the B.C. Greens’

B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver (Image: David J. Climenhaga)
Image: David J. Climenhaga

When it comes to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is not a fan.

This will not come as a complete surprise to anyone who follows either Alberta or British Columbia politics. Weaver, after all, is the leader of the B.C. Greens. He is also a PhD climate scientist. In some circles, either of those factoids might be enough to make folks conclude they are natural enemies.

Just the same, when it comes to Premier Kenney, Weaver is scathing. “He’s just a bully,” he said dismissively in his office in the provincial legislative building in Victoria last week. “He’s a bombastic bully that I think is looking out for his own interests and not for the interests of Albertans or, frankly, broader Canadians.”

“I find him very confrontational. He’s not somebody that I personally think I can trust. Those are my views.”

Weaver compares Kenney’s vision unfavourably to that of Peter Lougheed — “an esteemed statesperson who … recognized that the wise approach to policy development would be to ensure that you put something aside in the good times.” Or Rachel Notley’s — “she was trying to navigate a very difficult situation whereby there are still a large number of Albertans who believe, and I would say foolishly, that their prosperity lies in extracting bitumen from the tar sands.”

A more apt comparison might be the leadership provided by Ralph Klein, Weaver suggests. “We start giving out Klein Bucks, frittering this away, and we now have a situation where there’s nothing left of the Alberta Heritage Fund.”

Anyway, Weaver continued, Kenney “wants to be prime minister of our country, and this is his pathway there. I think he’s actually taking Albertans back in time, which ultimately will not help them economically.”

The Green leader’s assessment of the future of a petroleum-dependent Alberta is bleak: “Kinder Morgan Canada’s now divested itself. … Statoil’s gone. Total’s gone. Shell’s out. Where do I end?

“We know that the Alberta oil sands (require) some of the most expensive ways of getting oil out of the ground. We know that you must mix it with diluent to make it flow in pipes. We know that everybody in the world has discovered horizontal drilling technology, and we know, for example, that the Trans Mountain pipeline was going to be approved to create a means to get Alberta diluted bitumen to the California refineries, but with the onset of horizontal fracking and the huge reserves in the Bakken shale, that market’s dried up.

“So we have no market left for the Alberta diluted bitumen. And for (Kenney) to suggest that we have to somehow get it to tidewater for economic growth …” Uncharacteristically, Weaver momentarily runs out of words. He shakes his head.

“The fact that Kenney continues to think that there is prosperity in this direction is fiscally foolish. I would think a good Conservative government would recognize that conservative fiscal policy plans ahead. It doesn’t try to continue down this path of race-for-the-bottom economics where we essentially eliminate royalties for our Crown resource, where we basically give subsidies and tax credits to these multinationals — who are looking out for their shareholders, not necessarily for the people here.” MORE

How Our Lifestyle Is Driving the Climate Crisis and How We Can Change It

A Q&A with Tatiana Schlossberg, author of ‘Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have.’

Do you know how much water is polluted to make a pair of jeans? A new book aims to surface the ‘inconspicuous’ consequences of our consumption. Photo via Shutterstock.

Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have
By Tatiana Schlossberg, Grand Central Publishing (2019)

Tatiana Schlossberg is an environmental journalist based in New York. Her book, Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have, is an investigation into systems we interact with all the time and how they relate to the climate crisis.

From athleisure to electronics to our innocent binging habits, it becomes clear that everything is interrelated. She argues that we need to understand the map if we’re going to make any changes.

The Tyee talked with Schlossberg over the phone to learn more. Here’s our conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.

The Tyee: Inconspicuous Consumption tells us we’re emitting carbon even when we think we’re not. Are you trying to drive us all into caves of despair?

Tatiana Schlossberg: My goal first and foremost is, you know, caves of despair, but after that I wanted to help people understand the scale of the problem of climate change. So often we hear about opposite ends of the spectrum: a plastic water bottle on one end, and then how we need to be 100 per cent renewable energy in 10 years. I think that doesn’t make a lot of sense to people. It’s this huge global problem, and those are sort of the only two things that we’re told are needed to fix it?

As I learned more, I felt like there was a lot of stuff that had been left out of the conversation that could help people see themselves in the larger story and understand the scope and the shape of the problem. I want to broaden the conversation as well as bring the surprising or hidden things into the light.

Speaking of surprising, before I read the book the internet felt so ethereal, so environmentally innocent, but it’s not.

I was definitely the same way before I wrote the book. And terminology about the Internet encourages that assumption, like “the cloud” and “wireless.” But the Internet is a physical system: the routers and modems in your house, but also fibre optic cables, internet exchange points and data centres all over the world. And all of those things require electricity. So maybe we think of the Internet as just our own computer or our cellphone, but to send and receive data all the time and to be able to look at any website at any moment requires the servers to be on to receive the signal that you want it, and then send it back to you. It’s a very physical, energy-intensive system.

Most of what you cover is stuff most of us don’t know, even though it affects us and we’re part of the systems. Like online shopping — the most we might complain about is the seemingly excessive packaging (which as you report hasn’t really changed since pre-Amazon) — but there’s more to it than just cardboard. Is it the fact that we never see most of the supply chain that lets it all get so out of hand?

I think it’s just that it seems so normal, and the things that encourage more consumption are so convenient. If it weren’t really easy to order things online, I don’t think people would. Or if we had to pay for all of the costs associated, we might think twice. When things are easy, they tend to grow really, really fast. Lots of times the problem is the ways a system is set up in the first place, but it’s also a question of scale. We’re buying and returning more things than we would if we had to go to a store. I think we’re just consuming a little bit more carelessly.

And because we never talk about the impacts — like for example the incredible amounts of water that are polluted to make a pair of jeans, we’re not concerned buying another pair. So, unawareness plus convenience, and the problem gets worse.

One of the goals of this book is that once you know the consequences of your consumption, it makes you think about things a little bit more. I don’t know that it’s possible to solve a problem until you understand it. I’m hoping to give people the information to understand the scope of the problem, and the sorts of things that need to happen to make a difference. I think when we understand how we’re implicated in these systems, and what the consequences are of the behaviours we’re not thinking about, maybe we’ll be a little bit more careful.


‘We’re going to court’: B.C. First Nation to proceed with Site C dam ‘megatrial’

Image result for the narwhal: ‘We’re going to court’: B.C. First Nation to proceed with Site C dam ‘megatrial’
Clearing along the Peace River in preparation for Site C dam construction, July 12, 2018. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

West Moberly First Nations will proceed with a Site C dam “megatrial” following six months of confidential talks with the B.C. government and BC Hydro aimed at avoiding litigation, chief Roland Willson announced on Tuesday.

“They’re not going anywhere,” Willson told The Narwhal. “It’s essentially kicking a dead horse. … They wanted to have discussions and now we’re not talking anymore. We’re going to court.”

In January 2018, West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation filed civil claims alleging that the Site C project and two previous dams on the Peace River unjustifiably infringe on their treaty rights.

West Moberly First Nations subsequently lost an application for an injunction to protect 13 areas of cultural importance for the Dunne-Za nations — including prime moose habitat, a rare old-growth white spruce and trembling aspen forest and two wetlands called Sucker Lake and Trappers Lake — from clear-cut logging for the dam.

But the judge ruled their treaty rights case must be heard by 2023, prior to scheduled flooding of the Peace River Valley the following year.

Tim Thielmann, West Moberly First Nations legal counsel, said the ruling leaves the door open for the court “to impose an eleventh-hour cancellation or injunction onto the project and to prevent the flooding of the Peace River if the First Nations are successful in their treaty infringement claim.”

Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations. Photo: David Moskowitz

NDP government’s position a ‘profound conflict’ 

The Site C dam would flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, about the equivalent distance of driving from Vancouver to Whistler.

It would destroy First Nations burial grounds and culturally significant areas, some of Canada’s best farmland, habitat for more than 100 species at risk of extinction and the last intact section of the Peace River Valley still available for Treaty 8 members to engage in traditional practices.

At trial, B.C. Premier John Horgan is expected to defend the 2014 decision made by former Liberal Premier Christy Clark to proceed with the Site C project, a decision West Moberly First Nations says infringed Treaty 8, according to a news release the nation issued on Tuesday.

“You have this surprising situation where the provincial government is finding itself on a path to a large trial in which they will be defending the position that they have been fighting,” Thielmann told The Narwhal.


Trudeau has delivered on half of his 2015 promises, says new book

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses while addressing supporters during a Liberal Party fundraiser in Surrey, B.C., on Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

A new book arriving on the eve of the federal election campaign is offering policy geeks a comprehensive take on whether Justin Trudeau lived up to his 2015 vows.

At the heart of the 237-page publication — the product of work from two dozen Canadian academics — is an analysis of 353 Liberal pre-election promises and an evaluation of how many have actually been fulfilled since Trudeau’s team took office.

In short, the experts found that by March of this year Trudeau’s government had entirely followed through on about 50 per cent of its pledges, partially delivered on about 40 per cent and had broken roughly 10 per cent.

The authors say the book — which also features a deep plunge into the weeds of about a dozen key policy areas — will not only interest wonks, like scholars and journalists, but can serve as a primer for all voters ahead of October’s election.

“In an era of ‘fake news,’ negative advertising campaigns and conventional and social media overload, voters face a daunting challenge in providing a neutral and objective assessment of the past four years under the Liberal government,” they write in the book, published by les Presses de l’Universite Laval.

“This book provides them with tools based on real facts to enlighten their evaluation of Justin Trudeau’s government’s record.”

The English edition, titled “Assessing Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government,” is scheduled for release Monday. The authors say their mission was to create a non-partisan, transparent source of information about pledge fulfillment. MORE

East of Toronto, a land dispute tests Trudeau’s commitment to sustainability

Left, federal transport minister Marc Garneau; centre, a map of the Pickering Airport Lands; right, Peter Bethlenfalvy, the Progressive Conservative MPP for nearby Pickering-Uxbrige.

Pressure is building on the federal government to decide the fate of a parcel of land east of Toronto long earmarked for an airport that critics say is unnecessary.

The plan for an airport on rural land north of Pickering was first hatched more than four decades ago, when Pierre Trudeau’s government expropriated 18,600 acres of farmland, including two villages, to create a site to supplement Pearson on the city’s western flank.

It hit various snags over the years, and almost half of the land has since been given over to the Rouge National Urban Park, but some 9,600 acres of mostly prime farmland remain in the possession of Transport Canada.

In the intervening years, scientific consensus has developed around the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (such as those emitted by aviation) to avoid the effects of a warming planet, including crop failures, droughts and floods. Food security has become an important consideration, since produce grown elsewhere could, as a result, fluctuate wildly in price or even become unavailable.

That’s why Land Over Landings, a volunteer group that opposes an airport, says the site should instead be used as an urban farming and agri-tourism destination.

“There’s so much fear about what is happening environmentally,” said Sandra Campbell, a longtime supporter and adviser to Land Over Landings and a founder of Abundance GTA, which celebrates urban farming. “The people that flock to farmers markets are there because of a sense that it is one thing they can do.”

An illustration of how the remaining federal lands could be used, created for Land Over Landings by Heather Rigby.

“No government has had the intestinal fortitude, courage, vision and wisdom to create something truly wonderful that would be the envy of the world.”

But others, including a new crop of local representatives elected late last year, would prefer to see the prime farmland near Canada’s biggest city turned to more typical economic development, testing the commitment of Pierre’s son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to balance the environment and the economy.

Trudeau and his transport minister, Marc Garneau, could technically scrap the airport plan and endorse the urban-farming alternative before an election due in October, but it would be an aggressive bet that choosing food over flying is an electoral-vote winner.

“No government has had the intestinal fortitude, courage, vision and wisdom to create something truly wonderful that would be the envy of the world,” Land Over Landings chairwoman Mary Delaneysaid.

An overly optimistic promotional document produced by Lands Over Landings for a future North Pickering Farms. Photo from Lands Over Landings website.

In any case, the result of the federal election might further shift the political landscape, following municipal votes last October which brought in several representatives supportive of an airport or other development, including Dave Ryan as Pickering mayor, Shaun Collier as Ajax mayor and John Henry as Oshawa regional chairman.

The Progressive Conservative provincial government of Doug Ford has also broadly supported urban development over environmental concerns. MORE

Oilpatch fires ‘warning shot’ at Trudeau Liberals in Ontario with ‘unprecedented’ ground campaign

Conservative Party of Canada staffers are seen holding banners for a picture at a rally organized by partly organized by Canada’s Energy Citizens, in support of the Transmountain Expansion Pipeline, on May 23rd, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group ran a political ground war that targeted voters in 13 Ontario “Liberal swing ridings” with billboards in “high visibility locations” in the Toronto area and 400,000 pieces of pro-pipeline literature sent via Canada Post, an ongoing National Observer Toronto Star Global Newsinvestigation has found.

The details of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ campaign appear in a flyer distributed at a government-sponsored summit in Vaughan, near Toronto, where the association had a booth. The flyer explained how the lobby group had engaged in a “ground campaign in Ontario targeting 13 Liberal swing ridings” between April 8 to May 29 — the period in which the federal government was deciding on the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

CAPP’s campaign included 13 rallies across the country, billboards, a huge social media push and mailing hundreds of thousands of letters warning the public about their struggle to compete and gain access to new oil and gas markets, the flyer said. The Calgary-based group also sent 24,000 letters to “key decision makers” including B.C. Premier John Horgan, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and federal National Resources Minister Jim Carr, according to the leaked CAPP document.

The oilpatch lobby group declined to identify where the rallies took place and which ridings it targeted, but its branding and logos appeared at multiple rallies across the country last spring, including at least one rally featuring Conservative MPs in Ottawa. CAPP said that it promoted this Ottawa rally, held on May 23, but didn’t organize it.

The political implications of the campaign has prompted at least one political insider to call it “a warning shot” from one of Canada’s largest and most powerful lobby groups for the upcoming federal election.

An example of the messaging in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer’s campaign in Ontario in April and May 2018. Image courtesy of CAPP

‘I’ve never seen the oil industry lobby like this before’

Critics also say CAPP’s conspicuously-timed advertising – launched amid Ontario’s provincial election campaign and targeting 13 ridings in Ontario alone – is unprecedented and merits further review from the provincial elections watchdog.

The advertising material urges Canadians to “tell your federal MP to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline” alongside the message, “Is Canada closed for business?” MORE


Why are Koch-funded activists trying to derail a US city’s public transit?

Phoenix will vote Tuesday on a light rail system expansion. It faces opposition from business owners backed by activists affiliated with the Koch network

Light rail systems like Phoenix’s offer public transportation options that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Photograph: Courtesy of Valley Metro

For years, Phoenix’s public transportation plans have included a network of light rail lines connecting downtown to the suburbs, cutting air pollution and carbon emissions in a city dubbed the least sustainable in the US.

But as the city prepares to vote Tuesday on an expansion of its light rail system into a poorer, and more black and Hispanic, part of the city, the train is facing opposition from a group of business owners who fear they will lose customers. And they are receiving help from some eye-catching backers: activists affiliated with the Koch conservative network.

According to the language of the referendum, which the director of a Koch-funded political organization helped draft, not only will a vote against the expansion result in the cancellation of this particular line. It will also prohibit all future light rail construction in the city.

“Obviously we’re concerned with the impacts of the construction, but I’ve never seen this kind of outside group come in and write an initiative,” said Kate Gallego, the Phoenix mayor.

Koch brother groups have tried to derail public transit plans in other cities around the country, from Little Rock, Arkansas and central Utah, to Nashville, Tennessee and south-east Michigan. They have frequently called such projects “wasteful spending”. The Koch organization is also heavily invested in fossil fuels.

Phoenix is the nation’s fastest-growing city, according to the most recent US Census figures, but it’s also been named the least sustainable, because of drought, the heat island effect caused by sprawling concrete infrastructure, and continued growth. And a 2018 study found the city is one of the five worst metropolitan areas in the country for air quality, with “degraded” air quality for nearly one-third of the year.

Light rail systems like Phoenix’s offer public transportation options that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The first 20-mile stretch of light rail began operating in 2010, coinciding with a revitalization of the downtown area.

Gallego said she has been a champion of light rail since her time as a city council member: “I really want a city that invests in sustainable transportation.” MORE


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Move Away From Coastal Areas While You Still Can, Scientists Sound Warning On Climate Change

Several areas in Prince Edward County will be affected by rising waters and climate extreme weather.

Historic Midwest flooding, Illinois
Cars sit in floodwater from the Pecatonica River in Freeport, Illinois, on March 18, 2019. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A team of scientists has urged people to retreat from the coastal areas while they still can in order to move out of harm’s way, rather than being forced to move after disasters triggered by climate change strike.

The trio of scientists wrote in a paper published in the journal Science, that an estimated 1 billion people will be forced to migrate away from their homes due to disasters associated with climatic change in the next 30 years. The only way to avoid that scenario, according to them, would be to start a planned retreat from the low-lying coastal cities now, rather than waiting for harm that is sure to come.

“Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat — moving people and assets out of harm’s way — but why, where, when, and how they will retreat,” the environmental scientists wrote in the paper.

Live Science


We’d Better Retreat from the Coasts While We Still Can, Scientists Urge Amid Climate Crisis http://dlvr.it/RBjKpn 

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