Join the Global Climate Strike

Global Climate Strike, 20-27 Sept.

This week millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.

Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.

JOIN THE CLIMATE STRIKES THIS SEPTEMBER

Join young people in the streets for global climate strikes and a week of actions to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels and climate justice for everyone.

Friday, Sept. 27 on Main Street, Picton, across from KFC. Noon to 1 pm. Silent protest supporting the New Green Deal.

Friday, Sept. 27 outside Quinte West city hall, 7 Creswell Dr.

In this Climate Crisis Election, Who Dares Name Big Oil the Enemy?

CanadaOilSands.jpg
No party’s platform explicitly names the oil industry as the main barrier to lowering emissions. ‘Even saying that in Canada is impolite,’ says Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada. Photo of Alberta’s oil sands by Kris Krug, Creative Commons licensed.

What would a climate platform that actually rises to the emergency declared earlier this year by Canada look like? Perhaps something like the plans being put forward by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and other frontrunners for the U.S. Democratic Party nomination.

It’s not just massive spending commitments that potentially qualifies these plans as emergency-worthy — although the numbers are formidable. Sanders for example promises $16.3 trillion to help shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels and create 20 million jobs in the low-carbon economy that comes next.

Nor is it the mind-warping scale and ambition. Warren intends to eliminate carbon emissions from all new buildings by 2028, do the same for new vehicles by 2030 and completely shift America’s power grid to zero-emissions energy by 2035.

The thing that truly sets these plans apart from anything proposed before by a serious contender for U.S. president is their willingness to take on the entrenched political power of the fossil fuel industry. During CNN’s recent town hall on climate change, Harris, a former prosecutor, vowed to take legal action against oil and gas companies for their role in sowing doubt and uncertainty about climate science.

“This is what we did to the tobacco companies. We sued them, we took them to court,” she said. Harris dedicates an entire pillar of her five-pillar climate plan to “hold accountable those responsible for environmental degradation, the misinformation campaign against climate science, and creating harm to the health and wellbeing of current and future generations.”

Sanders similarly promises to go after “fossil fuel billionaires whose greed lies at the very heart of the climate crisis” while raising $3 trillion in funding for his plan by making companies “pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.”

Warren would ban leases for fossil fuel extraction on public lands. At the CNN town hall she accused fossil fuel companies and other industrial giants of “making the big bucks off polluting our Earth.”

Even former vice-president Joe Biden, not exactly the image of an anti-corporate radical, vows to “take action against fossil fuel companies.”

Canada is not even close to having that conversation politically. It may be edging there. On Saturday, the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies.

“Our problem is upstream oil and gas is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and the fastest rising source, so until we’re willing to tackle the oil industry, then we are not acting like this is an emergency or even a serious problem” — Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada

And last month the Greens’ May, noting full-page ads in newspapers urging citizens vote in support of the oil sands, tweeted, “This is what we’re up against,” declaring, “If humanity doesn’t transition off fossil fuels” by the 2023 election, “the earth will heat to unsafe levels and there will be climate catastrophe.” MORE

Tax the Rich Before the Rest

Candidates should pledge that the middle class won’t pay $1 more in new taxes until billionaires put up at least $1 trillion.

The biggest winners of the last decade, in terms of income and wealth growth, have not been even the richest 1 percent, but the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. (Phone: Shutterstock)The biggest winners of the last decade, in terms of income and wealth growth, have not been even the richest 1 percent, but the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. (Phone: Shutterstock)

Presidential candidates should take a pledge: The middle class should not pay one dollar more in new taxes until the super-rich pay their fair share.

Already candidates are outlining ambitious programs to improve health care, combat climate change, and address the opioid crisis — and trying to explain how they’ll pay for it.

President Trump, on the other hand, wants to give corporations and the richest 1 percent more tax breaks to keep goosing a lopsided economic boom — even as deficit hawks moan about the exploding national debt and annual deficits topping $1 trillion.

Eventually someone is going to have to pay the bills. If history is a guide, the first to pay will be the broad middle class, thanks to lobbyists pulling the strings for the wealthy and big corporations.

Here’s a different idea: Whatever spending plan is put forward, the first $1 trillion in new tax revenue should come exclusively from multi-millionaires and billionaires.

In an economy with staggering inequalities — the income and wealth gaps are at their widest level in a century — the middle class shouldn’t be hit up a penny more until the rich pay up.

Four decades of stagnant wages plus runaway housing and health care costs have clobbered the middle class. In an economy with staggering inequalities — the income and wealth gaps are at their widest level in a century — the middle class shouldn’t be hit up a penny more until the rich pay up.

The biggest winners of the last decade, in terms of income and wealth growth, have not been even the richest 1 percent, but the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. This 0.1 percent includes households with incomes over $2.4 million, and wealth starting at $32 million.

They own more wealth than the bottom 80 percent combined. Yet these multi-millionaires and billionaires have seen their taxes decline over the decades, in part because the tax code favors wealth over work. MORE

RELATED:

Canada’s incredible expanding wealth gap
OECD: Canada’s income gap is at a record high

What If We Stopped Pretending?

The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.

Image result for new yorker: What If We Stopped Pretending? The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.
Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria

…Our atmosphere and oceans can absorb only so much heat before climate change, intensified by various feedback loops, spins completely out of control. The consensus among scientists and policy-makers is that we’ll pass this point of no return if the global mean temperature rises by more than two degrees Celsius (maybe a little more, but also maybe a little less). The I.P.C.C.—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—tells us that, to limit the rise to less than two degrees, we not only need to reverse the trend of the past three decades. We need to approach zero net emissions, globally, in the next three decades.

This is, to say the least, a tall order. It also assumes that you trust the I.P.C.C.’s calculations. New research, described last month in Scientific American, demonstrates that climate scientists, far from exaggerating the threat of climate change, have underestimated its pace and severity. To project the rise in the global mean temperature, scientists rely on complicated atmospheric modelling. They take a host of variables and run them through supercomputers to generate, say, ten thousand different simulations for the coming century, in order to make a “best” prediction of the rise in temperature. When a scientist predicts a rise of two degrees Celsius, she’s merely naming a number about which she’s very confident: the rise will be at least two degrees. The rise might, in fact, be far higher.

As a non-scientist, I do my own kind of modelling. I run various future scenarios through my brain, apply the constraints of human psychology and political reality, take note of the relentless rise in global energy consumption (thus far, the carbon savings provided by renewable energy have been more than offset by consumer demand), and count the scenarios in which collective action averts catastrophe. The scenarios, which I draw from the prescriptions of policy-makers and activists, share certain necessary conditions.

The first condition is that every one of the world’s major polluting countries institute draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy. According to a recent paper in Nature, the carbon emissions from existing global infrastructure, if operated through its normal lifetime, will exceed our entire emissions “allowance”—the further gigatons of carbon that can be released without crossing the threshold of catastrophe. (This estimate does not include the thousands of new energy and transportation projects already planned or under construction.) To stay within that allowance, a top-down intervention needs to happen not only in every country but throughout every country. Making New York City a green utopia will not avail if Texans keep pumping oil and driving pickup trucks.

As Society Unravels, the Future Is Up for Grabs

As civilization faces an existential crisis, our leaders demonstrate their inability to respond. Theory of change shows that now is the time for radically new ideas to transform society before it’s too late.

Image result for resilience: As Society Unravels, the Future Is Up for Grabs

Of all the terrifying news bombarding us from the burning of the Amazon, perhaps the most disturbing was the offer of $22 million made by France’s President Emmanuel Macron and other G7 leaders to help Brazil put the fires out. Why is that? The answer can help to hone in on the true structural changes needed to avert civilizational collapse.

Scientists have publicly warned that, at the current rate of deforestation, the Amazon is getting dangerously close to a die-back scenario, after which it will be gone forever, turned into sparse savanna. Quite apart from the fact that this would be the greatest human-made ecological catastrophe in history, it would also further accelerate a climate cataclysm, as one of the world’s great carbon sinks would convert overnight to a major carbon emitter, with reinforcing feedback effects causing even more extreme global heating, ultimately threatening the continued existence of our current civilization.

Macron and the other leaders meeting in late August in Biarritz were well aware of these facts. And yet, in the face of this impending disaster, these supposed leaders of the free world, representing over half the economic wealth of all humanity, offered a paltry $22 million—less than Americans spend on popcorn in a single day. By way of context, global fossil fuel subsidies (much of it from G7 members) total roughly $5.2 trillion annually—over two hundred thousand times the amount offered to help Brazil fight the Amazon fires.

Brazil’s brutal president Bolsonaro is emerging as one of the worst perpetrators of ecocide in the modern world, but it’s difficult to criticize his immediate rejection of an amount that is, at best a pittance, at worst an insult. True to form, Donald Trump didn’t bother to turn up for the discussion on the Amazon fires, but it hardly made a difference. The ultimate message from the rest of the G7 nations was they were utterly unable, or unwilling, to lift a finger to help prevent the looming existential crisis facing our civilization.

Why Aren’t They Doing Anything?

This should not be news to anyone following the unfolding twin disasters of climate breakdown and ecological collapse. It’s easy enough to be horrified at Bolsonaro’s brazenness, encouraging lawless ranchers to burn down the Amazon rainforest to clear land for soybean plantations and cattle grazing, but the subtler, and far more powerful, forces driving us to the precipice come from the Global North. It’s the global appetite for beef consumption that lures Brazil’s farmers to devastate one of the world’s most precious treasure troves of biodiversity. It’s the global demand for fossil fuels that rewards oil companies for the wanton destruction of pristine forest.

There is no clearer evidence of the Global North’s hypocrisy in this regard than the sad story of Ecuador’s Yasuní initiative. In 2007, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa proposed an indefinite ban on oil exploration in the pristine Yasuní National Park—representing 20% of the nation’s oil deposits—as long as the developed world would contribute half the cost that Ecuador faced by foregoing oil revenues. Initially, wealthier countries announced their support for this visionary plan, and a UN-administered fund was established. However, after six years of strenuous effort, Ecuador had received just 0.37% of the fund’s target. With sorrow, the government announced it would allow oil drilling to begin.

The Yasuni National Park is now open to oil exploration, following the Global North’s inaction. (Audubon/Neil Ever Osborne)

The simple lesson is that our global leaders currently have no intention to make even the feeblest steps toward changing the underlying drivers of our society’s self-destruction. They are merely marching in lockstep to the true forces propelling our global civilization: the transnational corporations that control virtually every aspect of economic activity. These, in turn, are driven by the requirement to relentlessly increase shareholder value at all cost, which they do by turning the living Earth into a resource for reckless exploitation, and conditioning people everywhere to become zombie consumers.

This global system of unregulated neoliberal capitalism was unleashed in full fury by the free market credo of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, and has since become the underlying substrate of our politics, culture, and economics. The system’s true cruelty, destructiveness, and suicidal negligence are now showing themselves in the unraveling of our world order, as manifested in the most extreme inequality in history, the polarized intolerance of political discourse, the rise in desperate climate refugees, and a natural world that is burning upmelting down, and has already lost most of its nonhuman inhabitants.

How Change Happens

Studies of past civilizations show that all the major criteria that predictably lead to civilizational collapse are currently confronting us: climate change, environmental degradation, rising inequality, and escalation in societal complexity. As societies begin to unravel, they have to keep running faster and faster to remain in the same place, until finally an unexpected shock arrives and the whole edifice disintegrates.

It’s a terrifying scenario, but understanding its dynamics enables us to have greater impact on what actually happens than we may realize.  MORE

Naomi Klein: The Green New Deal: A Fight for Our Lives

Sunrise Movement protesters inside the office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Capitol, Washington, D.C., December 10, 2018.

One month before the young Sunrise Movement activists first occupied the office of then-soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in November 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that had a greater impact than any publication in the thirty-one-year history of the organization. The report examined the implications of keeping the increase in planetary warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7°F). Given the worsening disasters we are already seeing with about 1°C of warming, it found that keeping temperatures below the 1.5°C threshold is humanity’s best chance of avoiding truly catastrophic unraveling.

Doing that would be extremely difficult. According to the UN World Meteorological Organization, we are on a path to warming the world by 3–5°C by the end of the century. To keep the warming below 1.5°C would require, the IPCC authors found, cutting global emissions approximately in half in a mere twelve years and getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Not just in one country but in every major economy. And because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has already dramatically surpassed safe levels, it would also require drawing a great deal of that down, whether through unproven and expensive carbon-capture technologies or the old-fashioned ways: by planting billions of trees and other carbon-sequestering vegetation.

Pulling off this high-speed pollution phaseout, the report establishes, is not possible with singular technocratic approaches like carbon taxes, though those tools must play a part. Rather, it requires deliberately and immediately changing how our societies produce energy, how we grow our food, how we move around, and how our buildings are constructed. What is needed, the report’s summary states in its first sentence, is “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

It was against this backdrop that 2019’s cascade of large and militant climate mobilizations unfolded. Again and again at the strikes and protests, we heard the words “We have only twelve years.” Thanks to the IPCC’s unequivocal clarity, as well as direct and repeated experience with unprecedented weather, our conceptualization of this crisis is shifting. Many more people are beginning to grasp that the fight is not for some abstraction called “the Earth.” We are fighting for our lives. And we don’t have twelve years anymore; now we have only eleven. Soon, it will be just ten.

As powerful a motivator as the IPCC report is, perhaps even more important are the calls from many different quarters in the United States and around the world for governments to respond to the climate crisis with a sweeping Green New Deal. The idea is a simple one: in the process of transforming the infrastructure of our societies at the speed and scale that scientists have called for, humanity has a once-in-a-century chance to fix an economic model that is failing the majority of people on multiple fronts. In tackling the climate crisis, we can create hundreds of millions of good jobs around the world, invest in the most systematically excluded communities and nations, guarantee health care and child care, and much more: a Green New Deal could instill a sense of collective, higher purpose—a set of concrete goals that we are all working toward together. MORE

 

SQUAMISH NATION CELEBRATES BC COURT OF APPEAL DECISION ON TRANS MOUNTAIN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT CERTIFICATE

September 17th, 2019, North Vancouver, BC — Today, the Squamish Nation is celebrating the BC Court of Appeal’s decision on the Provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate for the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Project. The Court ruled in favour of the Squamish Nation, given that the BC Environmental Assessment Office relied on the fundamentally flawed National Energy Board Report as its own Environmental Assessment Report in issuing its Certificate.

The Courts have directed the Province to reconsider the Environmental Assessment decision “in light of the changes to the original report of the National Energy Board as set out in its reconsideration report.”

“The Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the original NEB report was so flawed that it doesn’t legally constitute a report, so it only makes sense that a Provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate issued based on that fatally flawed report would have to be revisited. Ideally, the BC Government would have come to that conclusion on its own, but we’re nonetheless pleased that the Court sided with the Squamish Nation in its decision to send this matter back to Cabinet,” said Khelsilem, Squamish Nation Councillor and Spokesperson.

The Provincial government must now heed the Court’s decision and start the review process over again before a Provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate can be issued. The Province of British Columbia needs to conduct a comprehensive environmental review of the TMX Project with the revised Environmental Assessment Act. MORE

 

National Poll on Proportional Representation Conducted by Angus Reid

Angus Reid Global, in partnership with Fair Vote Canada, conducted a poll of 1510 Canadians in September, 2019, to ask their opinions about proportional representation and Trudeau’s broken promise on electoral reform. Results are below.

“In order for a political party to form a majority government, it should have the support of over 50% of Canadians”

Net agree: 82%
Net disagree: 18%

Strongly agree: 51%
Somewhat agree: 32%
Somewhat disagree: 13%
Strongly disagree: 5%

“Our electoral system should encourage parties to cooperate and compromise so that the important policies that are passed in parliament reflect the support of over 50% of Canadians.”

Net agree: 90%
Net disagree: 10%

Strongly agree: 53%
Somewhat agree: 37%
Somewhat disagree: 7%
Strongly disagree: 3%

“Do you feel that the overall composition of Parliament should be an accurate reflection of how people voted?”

Yes: 80%
No: 9%
Not sure: 10%

“Do you support or oppose moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections?”

Net support: 77%
Net oppose: 23%

Strongly support: 33%
Somewhat support: 44%
Somewhat oppose: 14%
Strongly oppose: 9%

Note: Supporters included 80% of those who voted Liberal, 65% of those who voted Conservative, 88% of those who voted NDP, 79% of those who voted Bloc and 94% of those who voted Green/other in 2015. 

“Which of the following statements best reflects your opinion on electoral reform and the Liberal government’s handling of it?”

70%: The Liberal government was wrong not to pursue electoral reform — it should have kept its promise.
30%: The Liberal government was right not to pursue electoral reform, even though it broke a promise.

Note: Of the 70% who said the government was wrong not to pursue electoral reform, this included 61% of Liberal voters, 66% of Conservative voters and 83 to 85 % of NDP, Bloc or Green voters.