Greta Thunberg: ‘The People in Power Refuse to Listen… We Will Make Them Hear Us’

A dispatch from New York, where young climate strikers are planning a revolution they say world leaders can’t ignore.

Greta Thunberg at the NYC climate strike
Greta Thunberg speaks to climate strikers in New York City: ‘We will hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and will make the world leaders act. We can and we will.’ Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AP Photo.

The millions of young people who skipped school on Friday to protest the failure of world leaders to fix the climate emergency had a message for politicians like Justin Trudeau — prove that you actually care about an entire generation’s future or else suffer the consequences.

“What’s the point in educating ourselves and learning the facts when the people in power refuse to listen, to be educated, and pay attention to the facts,” I heard Greta Thunberg tell a crowd in New York’s Battery Park that organizers of the Global Climate Strikes at one point estimated at 250,000 people. “Everywhere I have been the situation is more or less the same, the people in power who write beautiful words are the same, the number of politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies are the same, and the promises are the same and the lies are the same.”

Thunberg earlier this month travelled to New York on a zero-emissions boat. Several days earlier she told U.S. congressmembers that “this is the time to wake-up.” The 16-year-old climate change icon from Sweden said the leaders gathering next Monday for a UN emergency meeting on climate change ignore young people at their peril.

“Do you think they will hear us?” she asked the crowd of schoolchildren, teens and their adult allies. “We will make them hear us.”

Trudeau could easily fit the cynical description of politicians offered by Thunberg. In June, the Liberal government passed a motion declaring that we are in a climate emergency, deeming the warming that’s affecting Canada two times as fast as the rest of the world a “real and urgent crisis.” It then approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline the very next day.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer would likely also qualify for putting forward a climate plan that includes no actual commitments or targets for reducing emissions. Then again, so might NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green party leader Elizabeth May, some observers argue, for failing to call out the fossil fuel industry with the forcefulness required.

The hundreds of thousands of youth who marched in New York, as well as the millions more in 150 cities around the world (including hundreds of people in Vancouver), are sick of politicians lying to them.

The homemade signs in New York offered a glimpse into the anxiety young people feel about the climate emergency, as well as their desire for radical change to avert it: “Don’t let Gen Z be the end”, “The Earth is on fucking fire”, “Will there be a happy ending?”, “Stop the burning”, “We have every reason to worry.”

At one point I saw a young girl carrying a sign that said, “What if we held billionaires accountable for the massive amount of pollution they cause.” Climate strikers are fed up with those in power publicly telling them soothing tales about innovation and progress while making deals with corporations behind closed doors to maintain the status quo. “Stop sugar-coating global warming,” read one teenager’s sign. Nearby, a girl who couldn’t have been older than 10 marched solemnly with a sign that read: “We are all literally going to fucking die.”

851px version of Climate strikers in NYC
Hundreds of thousands of youth marched in New York on Sept. 20. Photo by Geoff Dembicki. 

Varshini Prakash told an earlier gathering in Manhattan’s Foley Square it’s no coincidence that young people around the world are feeling panic-stricken and isolated about an emergency that threatens the natural systems upon which human civilization depends.

“We’ve grown up seeing the political establishment fail us, and for twice as long as I have been alive on this planet we have known about the crisis,” said the co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, which has worked with Canadian author Naomi Klein, progressive superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others to push for an economy-transforming Green New Deal. “The wealthy and the powerful have profited off of pollution, have lied to millions of people about the science, have choked our democracy with their big oil dollars and stolen our futures.”

Prakash’s voice became angrier and more intense. She clenched the mic. “Today, this generation is taking over,” she declared. “Our days of waiting for action, our days of waiting to be heard are over.”

She acknowledged that though the climate strikes were a good start, there is a long road ahead: “We’ve got to be honest with each-other, if we want to survive, if we want to win, there are not enough of us here yet… we have to bring society and our economy to a standstill, politicians are going to have to know that they are going to win or lose based on where they stand on this issue.”

“We will rise to the challenge. We will hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and will make the world leaders act. We can and we will.”

MORE

Three Takeaways for Canada from the UN Climate Emergency Meeting

Here’s what The Tyee learned from inside the General Assembly in New York.

UN-Meeting.jpg
Even though the UN Summit didn’t deliver commitments of a scale necessary to stave off global catastrophe, there were plenty of significant announcements. Photo via the UN.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was nowhere to be seen among the dozens of world leaders and executives who on Monday made speeches to the United Nations about solving the climate emergency.

Technically that’s because Canada is in the midst of a federal election. But it’s unclear if the Trudeau government, which is a long way from meeting the climate targets it agreed to at the 2015 Paris talks, would have otherwise met the UN’s criteria. More than 50 countries were reportedly rejected from addressing the Climate Action Summit because the plans they presented weren’t ambitious enough.

Even with this criteria, however, the consensus among experts and observers was that world leaders failed to make commitments strong enough to achieve the 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists calculate is necessary to give us a fighting chance of stabilizing the climate at 1.5 degrees Celsius….

Yet the event contained important lessons for Canada — and for whoever is elected to lead it after the October election. Here are three of the biggest takeaways.

1. Young people are extremely pissed at political leaders

Early in the day, 16-year-old Swedish climate change leader Greta Thunberg made one of the most fiery and emotional speeches of her life. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?” she told the room with her voice on the edge of tears. “If you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this.”…

2. The excuses for delaying climate progress are shrinking

Even though the UN Summit didn’t deliver commitments of a scale necessary to stave off global catastrophe, there were plenty of significant announcements. Sixty-five countries — including Switzerland, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and others across the development spectrum — are pledging to get bolder and stronger in their official greenhouse gas-fighting plans. Nearly 90 companies, which together have a market capitalization of over US $2.3 trillion, committed to actions that could align their carbon footprints with a pathway to 1.5 C. …

3. The era of Big Oil’s dominance isn’t over — but it could be soon

Though oil and gas producers were not visible at the Summit, their influence is all over the UN climate negotiations process, whether in the failure of the Paris treaty to once mention fossil fuels or the overtures made to companies by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his representatives.

Yet the rapid growth of electric vehicles and other alternatives to fossil fuels poses a growing economic threat to Big Oil. So far investors aren’t fleeing. But serious commitments from world leaders — such as a coordinated global effort to phase-out combustion engine vehicles — could rapidly change the financial calculus for investors in oil and gas, particularly in Canada’s high-cost oil sands. MORE

Canada Does Not Have ‘The God-Given Right To Exhaust Nature’: Naomi Klein

Canada’s federal election is putting climate change front and centre, the author says.

Naomi Klein, author of On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New
NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS Naomi Klein, author of On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal.

Naomi Klein’s new book about how to combat the climate crisis is well-timed. Not only are Canadians increasingly concerned about the global temperature, but the country is also currently in the midst of a federal election campaign, which according to Klein is unprecedented in terms of how the climate crisis is being addressed.

“I think politicians in Canada have finally gotten the message,” the Canadian journalist, activist and author told HuffPost Canada. “A lot of Canadian voters feel a tremendous sense of urgency about the climate crisis, which is really different from [the previous] sort of ’casual caring.”

In the past, she said, “the message that was sent to political parties who were running as climate champions was that there wasn’t going to be a political cost if they didn’t follow through.” Now, though, “I think political leaders understand that there is a price to be paid.”

This sense of urgency has not been an overnight process. According to Klein, Canadians have long had trouble talking about climate change resolutions, due to the deep-rooted ideologies about Canada and its vastness in natural resources.

“This ideology of limitless splendour on which our nations are built is, I think, really the reason why it’s so seemingly impossible for elites, who have grown up immersed in these national narratives that equate Canada with the god-given right to exhaust nature, just cannot accept where we are at,” she said.

“And that’s how you end up with Justin Trudeau positioning himself as a super progressive climate leader, and then buying the tar sands pipeline and marketing its massive expansion as a project of ‘nation building.’”

So given that climate change continues to be a prevalent concern for Canadians, what are some of the policies that voters should look for when deciding who to elect?

Klein believes policies that cater to socioeconomic issues in addition to green technology are key.

Elites, who have grown up immersed in these national narratives that equate Canada with the god-given right to exhaust nature, just cannot accept where we are at. — Naomi Klein

“We are in a moment of multiple overlapping and intersecting crises. It makes no sense to try to pit them against each other or try to rank them,” she said. “Seeing as we [already] have to have huge changes in how our economy works and how we live, why wouldn’t we battle systemic injustices and exclusions at the same time?”

Those injustices play in to the way people will be affected by climate change, she said. MORE

 

Climate Strike To Take Over Canada With Greta Thunberg In Montreal

Hundreds of thousands are expected, including Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May.

OTTAWA — Thousands of Canadians are hitting the streets Friday demanding “widespread, systemic change” to halt the scary impact of a warming planet

The massive protests will see students, climate activists and everyday Canadians who want a swifter government response to climate change marching on legislatures and municipal buildings, schools and parks, from St. John’s to Tofino, B.C., and as far north as Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.

Things started off in St. John’s, where a crowd gathered at Memorial University’s clock tower shortly before 11 a.m. local time, some people holding signs protesting the province’s oil extraction industry. The group plans to make its way to the provincial legislature on Confederation Hill….

Thunberg was also seen meeting with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in Montreal on Friday. She revealed the meeting while speaking with reporters.

“I try not to focus so much on individuals. He’s, of course, obviously not doing enough … this is such a huge problem, this is a system that is wrong. So my message to all the politicians is the same: to just listen to the science and act on the science.”

RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Climate Strike Canada, one of the groups spearheading the marches, said in its mandate that it aims to “steer Canadian society off our current path of ecological and social catastrophe.” The group added: “Drastic climate action is the only option for humanity.” MORE

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Coverage at Climate Strike Canada
Coverage on #climatestrike

 

Canadians take to the streets in climate strike

Young women lead a march after participating in a "die-in" climate action protest in Vancouver on Sept. 20, 2019.

OTTAWA—The 16-year-old Swedish activist who started the global climate protest movement, pushing thousands of Canadians to the streets today, says she thinks the nasty backlash she has faced from some leaders is proof positive the message is getting across.

Greta Thunberg has been mocked and ridiculed by some of the world’s most powerful people, including U.S. President Donald Trump, who dismiss her calls to climate action as the musings of silly school girl. In Canada, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier dismissed her as a mentally ill pawn of adults.

But Thunberg, who is in Montreal for a massive climate march on an international day of climate action, said that if adults are mocking children, then they must be feeling the heat.

“I don’t understand why grown-ups would choose to mock children and teenagers for just communicating and acting on the science when they could do something good instead,” she said in response to a reporter’s question.

“But I guess they must feel like their world view or their interests or whatever it is, is threatened by us. We should take as a complement that we are having so much impact that people want to silence us. We’ve become too loud for people to handle so they try to silence us.”

More than 300,000 people are expected at the march in Montreal, with tens of thousands more planning to march in 85 different Canadian cities and towns from St. John’s, to Tofino, B.C., and as far north as Inuvik in the Northwest Territories.

Their message is clear: bolder action is urgently needed to save the planet from the crisis of climate change. MORE

RELATED:

Greta Thunberg meets Trudeau, tells him he’s not doing enough to fight climate change

 

Eyeing federal election, Canada’s oil lobby has been arming itself with personal data


This year, for the first time, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has registered with Elections Canada as a third-party advertiser. Illustration by Louise Reimer

Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group wanted to know more about its supporters.

Their music tastes, the cars they liked, their age, their race, how far they’d go in supporting the energy industry. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) blasted the survey out to its email list in July 2018, but didn’t include terms and conditions and has since declined to say how it planned to use the detailed personal data.

This summer, as the federal election drew closer, CAPP paid for promoted Facebook ads linking to a website that asked for data in the form of a pledge. That link asked CAPP supporters to sign a “pledge to Vote Energy” — signalling support for a seven-page “Vote Energy Platform” — by entering their name, email and postal code. CAPP poured tens of thousands of dollars into sponsored Facebook posts linking to the pledge.

“Canada’s only credible path to meeting its Paris commitments is through increased exports of Canadian natural gas,” reads one part of the platform. (Experts would disagree.)

It’s not clear how CAPP — an extraordinarily powerful and well-resourced lobby group whose membership list is dominated by foreign-owned companies — is using the data it collects. It didn’t answer specific questions from National Observer, and hasn’t divulged its reasoning publicly. But CAPP’s methods mirror political strategies used by American lobbyists to halt climate policy, a National Observer investigation has found.

Experts consulted by National Observer said such data could be used to shape public opinion. By “micro-targeting” members of the public who the data suggests will be sympathetic to CAPP messaging, the lobby could build a network of industry-coordinated grassroots support in key battlegrounds in the federal election, the experts said.

“CAPP is using techniques that we saw developed, to be frank, in Brexit and in the U.S. around the 2016 presidential election and adapting that to the Canadian context” – @MelaneeLThomas

CAPP’s American counterpart already uses these techniques to block climate action, and in 2015, CAPP said in a now-archived press release that it planned to adopt them. Such techniques used “north of the border could make a material difference in the public discourse over energy issues like pipeline development and hydraulic fracturing,” CAPP said at the time.

“(Data collection and micro-targeting) are a key part in building the social-media echo chambers that make people more vulnerable to one-sided messaging that reinforces highly selective and one-dimensional views of Canada and the world,” said Shane Gunster, a communications professor at Simon Fraser University who researches the oil industry’s use of social media.

In this year’s federal election, the climate crisis is a top issue for the first time. The public increasingly supports taking action on the issue, which, at the level of federal policy, has given rise to a nationwide price on carbon as well as stricter air pollution regulations. At the same time, CAPP is campaigning for the opposite: it wants the removal of emissions standards and more government support for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, the group’s Vote Energy Platform says.

Advocacy groups of all political stripes have always tried to sway the electorate in favour of causes they support, and well-resourced ones like CAPP have always been particularly good at it, said Melanee Thomas, a political scientist at the University of Calgary and Eakin Fellow at McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

But the data collection aspect of CAPP’s activities is an “escalation of that trend,” Thomas said. Though that escalation has been visible in the U.S. in recent years, it hasn’t yet been widely seen in Canada, she added….

Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group wanted to know more about its supporters.

Their music tastes, the cars they liked, their age, their race, how far they’d go in supporting the energy industry. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) blasted the survey out to its email list in July 2018, but didn’t include terms and conditions and has since declined to say how it planned to use the detailed personal data.

This summer, as the federal election drew closer, CAPP paid for promoted Facebook ads linking to a website that asked for data in the form of a pledge. That link asked CAPP supporters to sign a “pledge to Vote Energy” — signalling support for a seven-page “Vote Energy Platform” — by entering their name, email and postal code. CAPP poured tens of thousands of dollars into sponsored Facebook posts linking to the pledge.

“Canada’s only credible path to meeting its Paris commitments is through increased exports of Canadian natural gas,” reads one part of the platform. (Experts would disagree.)

It’s not clear how CAPP — an extraordinarily powerful and well-resourced lobby group whose membership list is dominated by foreign-owned companies — is using the data it collects. It didn’t answer specific questions from National Observer, and hasn’t divulged its reasoning publicly. But CAPP’s methods mirror political strategies used by American lobbyists to halt climate policy, a National Observer investigation has found.

Experts consulted by National Observer said such data could be used to shape public opinion. By “micro-targeting” members of the public who the data suggests will be sympathetic to CAPP messaging, the lobby could build a network of industry-coordinated grassroots support in key battlegrounds in the federal election, the experts said.

“CAPP is using techniques that we saw developed, to be frank, in Brexit and in the U.S. around the 2016 presidential election and adapting that to the Canadian context” – @MelaneeLThomas

CAPP’s American counterpart already uses these techniques to block climate action, and in 2015, CAPP said in a now-archived press release that it planned to adopt them. Such techniques used “north of the border could make a material difference in the public discourse over energy issues like pipeline development and hydraulic fracturing,” CAPP said at the time.

“(Data collection and micro-targeting) are a key part in building the social-media echo chambers that make people more vulnerable to one-sided messaging that reinforces highly selective and one-dimensional views of Canada and the world,” said Shane Gunster, a communications professor at Simon Fraser University who researches the oil industry’s use of social media.

In this year’s federal election, the climate crisis is a top issue for the first time. The public increasingly supports taking action on the issue, which, at the level of federal policy, has given rise to a nationwide price on carbon as well as stricter air pollution regulations. At the same time, CAPP is campaigning for the opposite: it wants the removal of emissions standards and more government support for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, the group’s Vote Energy Platform says.

Advocacy groups of all political stripes have always tried to sway the electorate in favour of causes they support, and well-resourced ones like CAPP have always been particularly good at it, said Melanee Thomas, a political scientist at the University of Calgary and Eakin Fellow at McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

But the data collection aspect of CAPP’s activities is an “escalation of that trend,” Thomas said. Though that escalation has been visible in the U.S. in recent years, it hasn’t yet been widely seen in Canada, she added.

(Top) A screenshot of a question CAPP asked Energy Citizen supporters in summer 2018; (bottom) A screenshot of the number of people who have taken CAPP’s Vote Energy pledge as of Sept. 26, 2019.

In an August 2018 email, Chelsie Klassen, a spokesperson for CAPP, didn’t answer specific questions about the motivation behind the survey, how many people responded and how the data would be used. The survey “was sent to Canada’s Energy Citizens (CEC) members to help us better understand their interests and improve our content,” she said.

CAPP also didn’t respond to repeated, detailed questions sent in early September 2019 about the Vote Energy pledge and how data collection fits with the lobby group’s election strategy.

“We do not respond to media requests from the National Observer,” a CAPP spokesperson said in response to a different story earlier this month.

All of this raises alarm bells, Thomas said: “Why would they need that kind of information?”

‘The same type of thing that political parties do to win’

At a Calgary event in April 2015, CAPP hosted an official from the oil lobby’s U.S. counterpart, the American Petroleum Institute (API), who made a presentation about micro-targeted campaigns. Deryck Spooner, then the senior director of external mobilization at API, was there to teach CAPP how to implement campaign strategies he tested in the U.S.

“We have won,” Spooner said, in everything from restrictions on oil and gas to climate change regulations.

In one case, an API-led group successfully opposed an attempt by environmentalists to block Canadian oil from being shipped through a harbour in South Portland, Me., CAPP said in a now-deleted press release. API also campaigned in favour of a shipping terminal for liquefied natural gas in Cove Point, Md., near Chesapeake Bay, a project that was approved by federal regulators in 2014.

In an audio recording of his speech at the event, Spooner outlined how API did it. They started by gathering detailed voter profiles through electoral records, surveys and online consumer data, he said, allowing API to micro-target its campaigns — through social media, flyers and other efforts — to areas where it could most effectively elect oil-friendly politicians and defeat policy measures addressing climate change.

“To date, we have about 32.8 million (voter profiles) in 34 states across America,” Spooner said. “That’s important because this is the same type of thing that political parties do to win… This is how we’re actually able to apply pressure on elected officials.”

Through this, Spooner said, API could “impact” 275 members of the U.S. Congress and 34 state governors, along with “thousands” of local governments. Armed with detailed voter profiles, API also built a “grassroots” pro-oil group called Energy Citizens that could mobilize to vote on key issues, Spooner said.

API grew the Energy Citizens base in part by enlisting its member companies to help recruit their employees, investors and other supporters, according to a leaked memo obtained by the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace in 2009.

In a now-archived press release about the speaker series, CAPP praised Spooner’s methods and announced its intent to adopt them.

“CAPP has begun down this road with the creation of its own Energy Citizens campaign,” the 2015 press release said.

“While it will take time to build the kind of numbers API has, it is affirming at these early stages to see what kind of a difference true grassroots engagement can make.”

Ever since public opposition to Northern Gateway — led by First Nations, local communities and environmental groups — resulted in the cancellation of the energy project, CAPP and the fossil fuel industry as a whole have worried that their traditional tools of influencing public policy and governments aren’t as effective as they once were, said Gunster.

“They’ve put lots of resources into supplementing them with public outreach initiatives, to subsidize the participation of pro-oil constituencies in media and public debates about energy, climate and environmental politics,” Gunster said by email.

“Collecting data about Canadians who can be politically mobilized in support of the fossil fuel industry has been a central objective of CAPP’s public outreach campaigns over the last several years.”

MORE

Climate activism is now a global movement, but it’s still not enough

Polling shows more people will need to demand action on climate change, particularly Republicans, to ensure the passage of desperately needed policies.

Protesters at a Global Climate Strike protest on September 20, 2019 in Washington, United States
SAMUEL CORUM/GETTY IMAGES

More than a million students, workers, and others poured into the streets of major cities across the world on Friday, in what was likely the largest protest to date demanding action to halt climate change.

The kickoff of the Global Climate Strike, ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York this week, was the latest and loudest signal yet that climate activism is coalescing into a powerful global movement.

“It sure feels like the climate strikes were a turning point,” says Costa Samaras, director of the Center for Engineering and Resilience for Climate Adaptation at Carnegie Mellon. “Policy progress on climate change comes from politicians, and politicians count votes. There were a lot of potential voters in the streets.”

The real question, of course, is whether there’s enough pressure and enough votes, not just to prompt bold talk from progressive politicians but to pass rigorous policies and treaties in the face of intense government polarization.

The stated demands of the protests, organized by young people concerned about the changes they’ll see in their lifetimes, include an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels, a rapid shift to 100% renewable energy sources, and “equity, reparations and climate justice.”

Certainly some politicians have taken note of the growing global calls for action. A sweeping, multibillion-dollar climate plan is the basic cost of entry for any candidate seeking the Democratic nomination in the upcoming US presidential election.

But have attitudes toward climate change really shifted enough across the electorate? The polling presents a mixed picture. MORE

 

The spiralling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction

As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the environmental impact of finding all the lithium required could become a major issue in its own right

Amur River, the China/Russia borderAMUR RIVER, THE CHINA/RUSSIA BORDER This cold, remote region is where around 100 Chinese electric-car manufacturers test prototypes, such as the Chinese/Slovenian joint venture APG Elaphe, pictured. Global annual sales of electric vehicles exceeded one million for the first time in 2017, with more than half of these in China. Matjaž Krivic/INSTITUTE

Here’s a thoroughly modern riddle: what links the battery in your smartphone with a dead yak floating down a Tibetan river? The answer is lithium – the reactive alkali metal that powers our phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars.

In May 2016, hundreds of protestors threw dead fish onto the streets of Tagong, a town on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. They had plucked them from the waters of the Liqi river, where a toxic chemical leak from the Ganzizhou Rongda Lithium mine had wreaked havoc with the local ecosystem.

There are pictures of masses of dead fish on the surface of the stream. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing cow and yak carcasses floating downstream, dead from drinking contaminated water. It was the third such incident in the space of seven years in an area which has seen a sharp rise in mining activity, including operations run by BYD, the world’ biggest supplier of lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and electric cars. After the second incident, in 2013, officials closed the mine, but when it reopened in April 2016, the fish started dying again.


Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Workers drill though the crust of the world’s biggest salt flat with large rigs. They are aiming for the brine underneath swathes of magnesium and potassium in the hope of finding lithium-rich spots. Since the 2000s, most of the world’s lithium has been extracted this way, rather than using mineral ore sources such as spodumene, petalite and lepidolite. Matjaž Krivic/INSTITUTE

Lithium-ion batteries are a crucial component of efforts to clean up the planet. The battery of a Tesla Model S has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it, while grid storage solutions that will help balance renewable energy would need much more.

Demand for lithium is increasing exponentially, and it doubled in price between 2016 and 2018. According to consultancy Cairn Energy Research Advisors, the lithium ion industry is expected to grow from 100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of annual production in 2017, to almost 800 GWhs in 2027.

William Adams, head of research at Metal Bulletin, says the current spike in demand can be traced back to 2015, when the Chinese government announced a huge push towards electric vehicles in its 13th Five Year Plan. That has led to a massive rise in the number of projects to extract lithium, and there are “hundreds more in the pipeline,” says Adams.

But there’s a problem. As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the environmental impact of finding all the lithium required to enable that transformation could become a serious issue in its own right. “One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries,” says Christina Valimaki an analyst at Elsevier. MORE

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Silicon Valley Is One of the Most Polluted Places in the Country

Microchip manufacturers contaminated the groundwater in the 1980s. Almost 40 years later, the cleanup still isn’t complete.

 

 

 

Why degrowth is the only responsible way forward

A reduction of economic activity is necessary and just – and can lead to human flourishing.

Moss Graffiti Image: Kulturlabor Trial&Error, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

To sustain the natural basis of our life, we must slow down. We have to reduce the amount of extraction, pollution, and waste throughout our economy. This implies less production, less consumption, and probably also less work.

The responsibility to do so must lie mainly on the rich, who currently enjoy a disproportionate share of our resources. But we should also do things differently, as much of today’s economic activity is of little benefit to human wellbeing. Imagine what could be if we organized democratically to produce what we actually need, distributed those resources fairly, and shared them in common. This, in a nutshell, is the vision of degrowth: a good life for all within planetary boundaries. And while this might seem utopian, there are already concrete policy ideas to start such a transformation.

In a recent article, Leigh Phillips argues that this is a delusion. He brings forth three main critiques: degrowth is (1) not necessary, (2) unjust, and (3) marks the end of progress. He suggests that we should “take over the machine, not turn it off”, expressing his concern that an end to growth would mean an end to all the things that makes our lives so rich, like for example fridges. This reminds him of the likes of Malthus or Thatcher, whose ideologies have supported the imposition of unjust limits onto the poorer parts of society….

Degrowth is necessary

Phillips acknowledges that we need to stay within planetary boundaries. But as an ecomodernist, he believes that all environmental problems can be solved by a shift in technology. All we need to do is become more efficient. This version of post-environmentalism has received a lot of support, as it aligns well with existing powerful interests in the economy. But it is problematic for many reasons.

First, there is no evidence for this claim. The potential of our current technology is limited. And the potential of future innovation is uncertain. As Phillips acknowledges himself, it will take considerable time until new technology arrives. We should not gamble away our future on ideas with such a low (if even known at all) probability of success.

Let us illustrate this in relation to climate change. The latest IPCC report to limit global warming to 1.5° presents four scenarios. Three of them strongly depend on negative emission technologies, which are highly controversial as they have not been proven to work at the required scale and represent an “unjust and high-stakes gamble”. The IPCC also provides a fourth scenario that does not rely on negative emissions, but which notably requires that “global material production and consumption declines significantly”.

Some demand reduction could be achieved through efficiency improvements. But these might be less effective than they appear. As long as we keep pursuing growth, such improvements will be used for further expansion. This can counteract possible environmental gains. Simply put, efficiency improvements make things cheaper and therefore push up consumption. Such a rebound effect has been found both in different countries and industries.

What is more, technological shifts always come at an environmental cost. Every sector of our economy is still based on some form of extraction, pollution, and waste. And all of them depend on carbon. Renewable energy, in particular, requires a great amount of rare minerals and land-use. The same goes for nuclear energy, which demands considerable resources in order to mine uranium, construct power plants, and deal with its waste. Even digital technology has environmental impacts.

Phillips tries to argue against this by pointing at past solutions to environmental problems, like the ozone layer or deforestation. However, he does acknowledge that those examples do not compare well to a bigger challenge like climate change. Some of those challenges were solvable because they only affected a single sector and an easy technological replacement was available.

Additionally, many past environmental challenges have not been overcome, but have simply been reshaped and displaced. Philips points towards the fact that net deforestation ceases in rich countries. But this is mainly because agricultural production is outsourced to poorer ones. The study he uses to show the increase in global tree-cover also shows an alarming reduction in tropical areas. The recent Amazon fires in Brazil, for example, are connected to increased deforestation efforts for agricultural expansion in the territory of the world’s 22nd largest export economy. The total amount of environmental degradation caused by our economy remains coupled to economic activity.

Finally, it is important to understand that environmental issues are all interrelated. Even the successful ozone depletion is nowadays under threat as climate change could reverse the recovery of the ozone layer. The deforestation study mentioned above shows that climate change has contributed to both increases and decreases of vegetation in different parts of the world. Mass extinction is another serious threat that our planet is experiencing at the moment, which is also connected to deforestation. And we know that most mass extinctions of the past “had something to do with rapid climate changes”.

All this means that it is hard to see a way around a reduction of economic activity. MORE

NDP Drops The Mic With Response To Liberal Climate Plan

Some things don’t need too many words.

Image result for huffpost: NDP Drops The Mic With Response To Liberal Climate PlanJagmeet Singh: “It doesn’t matter what he tells me.”

Sometimes you don’t need a lot of words to get your point across. That was definitely the case Tuesday when the NDP issued a press release in response to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s climate plan.

Trudeau was campaigning in NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s B.C. riding Tuesday to announce his party’s climate change policies in its election platform. Trudeau says he plans to push Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050, through strategies such as tax cuts for small clean energy businesses.

“We will hit net zero by 2050. Not only because we can but because we must,” Trudeau said.

But the NDP had words to say about Trudeau’s remarks in its release. Four words, to be exact.

“You. Bought. A. Pipeline.”

That’s a heck of mic drop.

The email is referring to the Trudeau government’s $4-billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline last year. It was a controversial move for a government that claimed to prioritize environmental issues, and was met by fierce backlash from environmental and Indigenous groups.

“We know that we need to keep moving forward towards cleaner sources of energy, towards greater energy efficiency, and that’s why we are evaluating projects on a rigorous scientific and environmental basis,” Trudeau said when asked about the pipeline Tuesday.

According to the National Energy Board, the production of the pipeline’s max capacity of oil could generate 14 million to 17 million more tonnes of greenhouse gases every year.

The NDP has come out staunchly against the pipeline already. Earlier this week, Singh even went so far as to say individual provinces could have the power to veto construction of national infrastructure in their borders.

Usually press releases are long-winded and full of campaign slogans and carefully picked quotes from leaders. But sometimes four words is all you need to get your point across. SOURCE