Our house is on fire

Illustration by Katie O’Rourke

The Amazon provides an astonishing 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen, and gives home to about a million indigenous people and countless irreplaceable ecosystems. These ecosystems absorb millions of tonnes of carbon each year, but by burning and slashing, we release that carbon. With enough dieback and deforestation, we threaten to hit a tipping point where the Amazon becomes a carbon source rather than a carbon sink. If this happens, the consequences for runaway climate breakdown will be unthinkable.

That’s one of the reasons why it’s so frightening to see deforestation rates reach an area the size of Manhattan every day, along with a record 72,000 wildfires this year alone – an 84 per cent increase on last year. Some scientists estimate that if we lose another fifth of the Amazon, it will trigger a complete system collapse which no human intervention could stop. When Swedish activist Greta Thunberg said “our house is on fire” in her famous speeches, she probably originally meant it as a metaphor. Now it is actually true.

Because of the lack of media coverage of this brutality, it can be easy to think that the wildfires of the Amazon are just a freak aberration, a natural disaster, or the tragic consequence of an already warming world. Undoubtedly, our climate emergency is fanning the flames, just as it ignites the rising number of wildfires across the planet. But make no mistake about one thing: this is part of a deliberate attempt to destroy the Amazon, by the fascist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro.

Where most of us see one of the world’s most precious ecosystems, Bolsonaro and his government see an opportunity to make a quick buck. They want to raze the forest as quickly as they can, to open up the space for ‘development’ – which is to say cattle, soy crops and mining. Pleas about the climatic impacts of such a policy will go unheard, because Bolsonaro is also a loud and proud climate denier. He will destroy the whole rainforest without a second thought, and leaked documents secured by democraciaAbierta confirm that this is precisely the plan. If anything is what Polly Higgins had in mind when she was calling for ecocide to be made a crime, it’s this.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon have shown strength, determination and resilience in the face of colonisation and destruction for generations, and they lead the fight against this latest assault today. How best can the international community show our solidarity at such a pivotal time for our planet? I believe Polly’s call to make ecocide a crime in international law is an idea whose time has come – in fact, it’s desperately overdue. Yes, there are some immediate actions Governments could take to protect the Amazon, from blocking the Mercosur trade deal, to imposing sanctions on Brazil. But few actions would be more swiftly effective than the application of an ecocide law. SOURCE

BC Wastes $1 Billion A Year In Fossil Fuel Subsidies. The Madness Continues: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Equal $1,650 Per Canadian

The Madness Continues: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Equal $1,650 Per Canadian, Below2C

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vow to phase out ‘inefficient’ subsidies for coal, oil and gas still hasn’t happened — despite the escalating costs of the climate emergency.

According to a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) report, Canada subsidized the fossil fuel industry to the tune of almost $60 billion in 2015 — approximately $1,650 per Canadian.

Yet subsidizing one of the world’s wealthiest industries is folly. Such subsidies not only hurt Canadian taxpayers and the economy — they also exacerbate the climate emergency.

Indeed, the G20 countries have already agreed that subsidizing fossil fuels is irrational in a warming world — and have called for action to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that distort markets.

The problem is that subsidies encourage the production and wasteful consumption of fossil fuels all while impeding the shift to cleaner renewables.

3 Ways Canada Subsidizes Fossil Fuels

For these reasons, during the last election campaign Justin Trudeau sensibly committed to “phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

The problem is that government has not yet delivered on this promise.

A new 2019 report by Canada’s Auditor General reveals government’s review of such subsidies is “incomplete and not rigorous,” is “not based on all relevant and reliable information” and “did not consider economic, social and environmental sustainability over the long term.”

Canada continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry in myriad ways. First, it provides tax breaks under the federal Income Tax Act. For example, in 2015 the federal government introduced a new accelerated depreciation rate for equipment used in LNG facilities, which was a change proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Second, government provides funding to the fossil fuel industry at favourable rates through direct financing and loan guarantees. A recent example is Export Development Canada’s administration of a nearly $5 billion loan to support the government’s controversial purchase and operation of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Ottawa has no plan to recoup that principal cost from industry — and is also subsidizing half the interest expense with taxpayer dollars.

Third, Canada provides direct funding to the fossil fuel industry through research, development and other services provided by federal agencies.

For example, the federal government is paying $1.5 billion for the Oceans Protection Plan, an initiative to safeguard bitumen transport through the Port of Vancouver. This plan was necessitated by new oil tanker traffic — and should be paid for by oil shippers.

The Ultimate Subsidy – Buying a Pipeline

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Victoria in April of 2018 to reiterate the federal government’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline and commitment to the Oceans Protection Plan.

Yet now, taxpayers will pay up to $6 billion for the plan over the next 20 years.

The Social Costs of Fossil Fuels

The Madness Continues: Fossil Fuel Subsidies Equal $1,650 Per Canadian, Below2CCredit: Collection of images from CC sources, Below2°C.

Finally, there is the $60 billion subsidy that the IMF focused on — the “social costs” of carbon that governments pay, instead of fuel producers.

Lacking adequate carbon taxes, governments continue to pick up the tab for the impacts of climate change — for example, repairing damage from extreme weather events, building new levees, sea walls and storm sewers and paying for wildfire control and increased health costs.

Massive Upside of Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Fortunately, implementing carbon taxes and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will pay off in the long run.

The IMF estimates that elimination of global fossil fuel subsidies would reduce CO2 emissions by 28 per cent and reduce premature air pollution deaths by 46 per cent.

Equally important, the IMF concluded that elimination of subsidies would actually result in a net economic gain. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies will be a win for both the environment and for the economy.

In sum, Canada needs to implement robust carbon taxes to pay for the massive climate change costs that society now confronts.

Just as important, Canada must finally follow through on its specific promise to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

After all, claiming to fight climate change while subsidizing fossil fuels is as crazy as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. It may make you feel virtuous, but it isn’t going to work. SOURCE


Fossil Fuel Subsidies – Dumbest Policy Of Our Times
Where Are Canadian Fossil Fuel Subsidies Coming From and Going To?

Conservative platform a recipe for public service job losses and service cuts

The newly released Conservative party platform confirmed what many in the federal public service feared; Andrew Scheer is planning to pick up where Stephen Harper left off.

The Conservative plan looks to slash government operations by a staggering $14.4 billion and recklessly gut 25% of government regulations. In the end, cutting “operations” always means reducing the services Canadians receive and eliminating the jobs of those who provide them.

Needless cuts to federal regulations can dramatically weaken existing rules that protect the environment, federally regulated workers, and the health and safety of Canadians. It can also be expected to result in layoffs of federal public service workers responsible for developing and administering these frameworks.

And in the wake of Phoenix, a disaster the Conservatives engineered, Scheer’s platform doesn’t even mention the failed pay system, but instead calls for a hiring freeze for full-time federal government workers. This will lead to the loss of thousands of federal government jobs in the years to come and hurt the economy of communities across Canada.

“The Conservatives are trying to balance the budget on the backs of federal public service workers – the same men and women who haven’t even been paid properly for over four years because of the Phoenix disaster they started,” said Chris Aylward, President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“It was clear from the start that Andrew Scheer was no better than Stephen Harper, and today he confirmed it.”  SOURCE

Scientists Want to Make Harming the Environment a War Crime

Image result for global citizen: Scientists Want to Make Harming the Environment a War Crime

Forests burned to the ground. Rivers damaged by broken infrastructure. Animals slaughtered and driven from their habitats. The environmental impacts of war are staggering, yet they’re often overshadowed by the societal wreckage created by conflict.

Now in a letter published in the scientific journal Nature, a group of scientists is urging the United Nations to make it a war crime to harm the environment during times of conflict. The UN’s International Law Commission is in talks through Aug. 8, and the scientists are calling on attending members to create a framework “to protect the environment in regions of armed conflict.”

“We call on governments to incorporate explicit safeguards for biodiversity, and to use the commission’s recommendations to finally deliver a Fifth Geneva Convention to uphold environmental protection during such confrontations,” the petition reads.

“Despite calls for a fifth convention two decades ago, military conflict continues to destroy megafauna, push species to extinction, and poison water resources,” the petition continues. “The uncontrolled circulation of arms exacerbates the situation, for instance by driving unsustainable hunting of wildlife.”

Regardless of where war occurs, it devastates local environments. The United States invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has led to rampant deforestation, polluted water sources, and widespread air pollution. In addition to the pollution created by bombs, the US military regularly burns garbage in open pits, releasing harmful toxins into the air, and heavy machinery causes more dust to circulate in the atmosphere.

When the US attacked Iraq in 1991, bombs containing depleted uranium led to radiation contamination in the soil and water sources, the Guardian reports.

The US military also destroyed millions of acres of forest during the Vietnam war with a toxic substance called “agent orange.” The environmental effects of that bombing campaign are still felt today.

Read More: If You Use Natural Resources Like There’s ‘No Tomorrow,’ There May Not Be One, UN Says

War has also greatly endangered animal and plant species. During the Congolese Civil Wars, for example, animals as diverse as antelopes, elephants, and monkeys were killed and forced to flee their destroyed habitats. Even in times of peace, animals regularly step on leftover land mines. The chemicals used to make weapons can irrevocably contaminate water sources, and the lawlessness engendered by war can give rise to destructive activities like illegal mining operations.

Then there are the contributions militaries make to climate change. The US military burned more oil in Iraq in 2008 alone than the annual amount that would be used by 1.2 million cars. Overall, the US military releases more greenhouse gas emissions by itself than many countries. Armies also regularly torch oil wells to thwart their enemies, releasing immense amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere in the process.

Read More: These Are 6 of the Most Exploited Resources on Earth

The UN already urges countries to protect the environment during times of conflict through the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. A UN environment resolution was also adopted in 2016 to promote strong environmental safeguards in war.

Ultimately, if harming the environment was a war crime, then most acts of modern warfare would essentially be forbidden. After all, there’s no way to drop a bomb without harming the ground it falls on. SOURCE

Alberta now says energy war room not subject to freedom of information laws as a private corporation

The Alberta government now says that Minister of Energy Sonya Savage misspoke Wednesday, when she told reporters that the government’s new Canadian Energy Centre, set up to combat what the government sees as misinformation about the energy industry, would be subject to freedom of information laws.

EDMONTON—The Alberta government’s new war room, recently named the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), will be a private entity owned by the province and not subject to freedom of information laws after all, a spokesperson clarified Thursday.

In a press conference the day before, Minister of Energy Sonya Savage told reporters that the body would be open to requests under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP).

FOIP allows journalists and members of the public to ask for documents, specific communications and certain other information about public bodies or organizations.

However, Christine Myatt, press secretary to the premier, sent a statement to reporters Thursday saying that the minister “was not sufficiently clear regarding FOIP legislation’s applicability to the CEC.”

“The CEC’s internal operations are not subject to FOIP, as this would provide a tactical and/or strategic advantage to the very foreign-funded special interests the CEC is looking to counter,” wrote Myatt. “For example, we would not let those foreign-funded special interests seeking to attack our province see our detailed defence plans.”

During the election campaign, and up until recently, the centre has been known as the “Energy War Room” — mandated with combating what the Alberta government sees as misinformation about the oil and gas industry in social and traditional media. The Alberta government accepts the controversial theory that a foreign funded campaign of misinformation has been deployed in Canada specifically to landlock Alberta oil — hamstringing the economy.

Critics suggest it is the stuff of conspiracy theories and the Opposition NDP say the war room doesn’t do anything to help get Albertans back to work. MORE

More than half a million Canadians could work in clean tech by 2030: report

Montrealers of all ages marching in the climate change strike in downtown Montreal on Sept. 27, 2019.
Montrealers of all ages marching in the climate change strike in downtown Montreal on Sept. 27, 2019. Tim Sargeant / Global News

Half a million Canadians will likely be employed in the clean energy sector by 2030, a new report suggests.

Clean Energy Canada, a non-partisan clean technology research group based at Simon Fraser University in B.C., issued the study, titled The Fast Lane, which follows up on a report released earlier this year tracking the historic growth of the industry and the nearly 300,000 people it employs in Canada.

In its new report, the group forecasts the Canadian clean tech industry will grow four times faster than the industrial average over the next 20 years and create a total of 160,000 new jobs, bringing the number of Canadians employed in clean tech to 559,400.

In net terms, that would be an increase of 110,000 jobs, since the report also predicts roughly 50,000 fossil fuel jobs will be lost in the next 10 years as that industry contracts at a rate of roughly 0.5 per cent each year and shifts towards automation.

That’s compared to what the group projects as growth of 3.5 per cent each year in the clean tech sector.

“The world is transitioning to clean energy with or without Canada, and we still can be an energy leader in the decades ahead,” said Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada. MORE


What’s driving California’s emissions? You guessed it: Cars.

California received plenty of praise back in 2016 when it hit its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions four years ahead of time. But the Golden State’s progress has slowed, according to a report out Tuesday from a nonpartisan research center. California is now on track to hit its 2030 goal in 2061. Three whole decades late.

The biggest problem: California’s beloved cars.

“This is a sobering report,” said F. Noel Perry, a California investor who founded the center behind the report, Next 10. “We are at a very important point: California is going to need major policy breakthroughs and deep structural changes if we’re going to meet our climate goals.”

What happened? Over the last three years, California has reduced emissions at a rate of only 1.15 percent. At that pace, it would take a century for the state to zero-out carbon emissions. But a law ex-Governor Jerry Brown signed in 2016, requires the state to reach zero emissions by 2050. Since falling behind, the state would need to step up emissions reductions to 4.51 percent every year, according to the report.

Next 10

Next 10’s report, the California Green Innovation Index, shows that the state has plucked most of the low-hanging fruit, mainly by cleaning up electricity production. California’s next challenge is the tougher job of eliminating climate pollutants from transportation, industry, and homes, and offices. And, yes, all of those cars.

Passenger vehicles alone produce nearly a third of California’s emissions, more than all of the electric plants, livestock, and oil refineries in the state put together. Vehicle ownership has reached an all-time high, as has the total miles that Californians are driving. Moreover, “even in climate conscious California we’ve seen a consumer preference shift to favor SUVs and light trucks,” said Adam Fowler of Beacon Economics, which prepared this report for Next 10.

Next 10

Since early 2017, more than half the new passenger vehicles Californians bought were SUVs and trucks.

Another big, related problem is housing. California’s economy is booming, but cities haven’t built the homes needed by all the new workers. That’s forcing more people into suburbs far from public transportation. The report found that the percentage of people choosing public transit “declined substantially throughout most of California between 2008 and 2018.” Failure to build housing is doubly bad because new buildings are much more efficient in terms of insulation,climate control, and energy efficiency. Every new home even gets solar panels.

“This is one of the gnarliest challenges,” Perry said. “How do we reduce commute times and how do we build denser housing?”

It’s not all bad news. California continues to prove it’s possible to cut carbon emissions while the economy expands. From 2016 to 2017, California’s economy per capita grew 3.1 percent while each person’s emissions decreased.

And the authors said that the state still deserves a lot of credit. “California policies have made appliances more efficient, renewable energy cheaper, and given cars better gas mileage all across the country,” Perry said.

Climate rebels open new fronts across capital as protests escalate

Activists block trade at Billingsgate fish market and target headquarters of energy company Shell to ‘raise awareness’

 An Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Brussels on Saturday. Photograph: Isopix/REX/Shutterstock

Climate protesters on Saturday intensified efforts to disrupt life in London, and targeted sites including Billingsgate fish market and Shell’s headquarters. They said police took at least 28 of their supporters into custody. That number means that more than 1,200 Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested in London since their protests, over the government’s “failure” to act over climate change, were launched last Monday.

And those detained include Belgian Princess Esméralda who was taken into a police van for questioning and held for about five hours after she joined a sit-in at Trafalgar Square on Thursday. “The more people from all sections of society protest, the greater the impact will be,” the 63-year-old said. Other protests launched on Saturday included one by more than 50 healthcare professionals – wearing scrubs and singing the Extinction Rebellion anthem – who gathered outside Shell’s headquarters before they marched to Parliament Square. “We are meeting outside Shell because they are one of the biggest companies involved in the oil and energy industry, and they have real power to decarbonise that industry,” said Alex Turner, 36, a paediatric and emergency doctor from Bristol. “We are protesting illegal levels of air pollution.”

Julia Simons, 23, a final-year medical student at Cambridge University, said: “Our government has the responsibility to explain [climate science] to its citizens, to understand that if they don’t act radically, that future which I’ve been studying for won’t exist.” Hundreds of protesters remained camped in Trafalgar Square, where police were continuing efforts to remove them and the roadblock they had set up in Westminster.

Similar protests took place in many other countries. Dutch police arrested 130 activists in Amsterdam after they blocked a bridge in the centre of the city. Some protesters slumped on hammocks hung from pillars supporting the bridge to prevent boats from passing underneath.

In France, hundreds of activists blocked a route to the national assembly in Paris for several hours but were later dispersed by police. In Brussels, demonstrators occupied the gardens of the royal palace while in Melbourne protesters said they would hold a “spring rebellion” of civil disobedience this week including blocking traffic.

 Doctors gather to protest in support of Extinction Rebellion in London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Pinterest

At the same time, a petition calling for non-violent protest to be maintained to ensure action is taken to tackle climate change has been signed by more than 300 scientists and environmentalists. “We have an obligation that extends beyond merely describing and understanding the natural world to taking an active part in helping to protect it,” the petition states. “The scientific community has already tried all conventional methods to draw attention to the crisis. We believe continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law. We believe it is our moral duty to act now, and we urge other scientists to join us in helping to protect humanity’s only home.”

District judge John Zani granted Brown conditional bail, prohibiting him from going within one mile of any airport in the UK.

Brown – who participated in five Paralympic Games and won two gold medals and a bronze – told reporters he was “relieved” to be out of custody. “I am not denying what I did, but I was compelled to do what I did because of my concerns for the future of my children,” he added.

The protest at Billingsgate, the UK’s largest inland fish market, by Extinction Rebellion’s animal rebellion chapter began early on Saturday when protesters blocked the entrance. One demonstrator locked herself to the gate. Police initially tried to prevent the protesters from reaching the market but relented after negotiations, the group said.

“At London’s Billingsgate market, thousands of fish, stolen daily from their ocean homes, lie dead or dying,” said Kerri Waters, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion. “Many will have suffocated slowly when pulled aboard fishing vessels, while thousands of others remain alive as they’re transported by lorry to the market, where they’ll be gutted or boiled alive.” SOURCE