The election’s over; now let’s get to work!

"Climate Action: Be a leader" sign at Climate Strike VancouverMany politicians want to be seen to be doing something, as long as it doesn’t hurt their re-election chances, rather than demonstrating their commitments in ways that might not show immediate returns.(Photo: Chris Yakimov via Flickr)

The election may be over, but there’s no time to be complacent. Canadians voters — and many people too young to vote — demanded that politicians take climate disruption seriously. The parties and candidates listened and, for the first time, climate became a top election issue. Now we have to make sure they all come together to keep their promises and step up their ambitions.

We must hold elected representatives from every party to account, to avoid the usual scenario where parties and leaders concentrate on what will benefit them most before the next election rather than making serious attempts to curtail a problem that spells catastrophe over a longer period if we don’t act quickly and decisively. It’s an inherent weakness in our political systems. Many politicians just want to be seen to be doing something, as long as it doesn’t hurt their re-election chances, rather than demonstrating their commitments in ways that might not show immediate returns.

Although every major party campaigned with a climate plan, none went far enough. Even if the new goverment were to adopt the best ideas from other parties, the flaws in our economic and political systems could prevent us from bringing about necessary change. One flaw is the aforementioned election-cycle stasis. In part, that’s what keeps politicians and governments holding onto the status quo, fearing the bold, transformative policies the country and world so desperately need in this time of climate crisis.

Although every day we fail to take decisive action makes it that much harder to address global heating, the benefits of doing so still far exceed keeping the planet livable for humans and other species — although that alone should be enough. Some have argued bizarrely that protecting the very things that keep us alive and healthy is not economically viable. They elevate a recent, human-constructed system created under considerably different conditions than today’s above the natural systems that provide all we need to live, from air to water to food.

“Over the next few decades, acting to reduce climate change is expected to cost much less than the damage otherwise inflicted by climate change on people, infrastructure and ecosystems.”

That in itself shows our economic systems are failing us and should be altered to fit today’s reality. But even under current economics, doing all we can to slow and halt catastrophic heating will pay many dividends. A recent study in Science by an international group of scientists concludes, “Over the next few decades, acting to reduce climate change is expected to cost much less than the damage otherwise inflicted by climate change on people, infrastructure and ecosystems.”

A report released around the same time by the Global Commission on Adaptation, representing leaders in business, science and politics, echoes that. It focuses on adaptation to the now-unavoidable consequences of climate disruption but doesn’t dismiss the need to prevent the crisis from worsening.

“Adaptation is not an alternative to a redoubled effort to stop climate change, but an essential complement to it. Failing to lead and act on adaptation will result in a huge economic and human toll, causing widespread increases in poverty and severely undermining long-term global economic prospects,” according to “Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience.”

Researchers conclude that “investing $1.8 trillion globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits.”

Researchers conclude that “investing $1.8 trillion globally in five areas from 2020 to 2030 could generate $7.1 trillion in total net benefits.” Those areas are “early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture crop production, global mangrove protection, and investments in making water resources more resilient.”

The Science study notes we have little time to spare. “The investment is even more compelling given the wealth of evidence that the impacts of climate change are happening faster and more extensively than projected, even just a few years ago.”

We need to do everything to slow and eventually halt the climate crisis and to adapt to the consequences our stalling has already set in motion. The voters of today have spoken, and those who will soon be old enough to vote couldn’t be clearer: We need all political representatives to cast aside their differences and work together to solve this challenge. An election is just the start. SOURCE

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‘We Have to Get This Right’: Historic Bill in US House Would Create Specific Protections for Climate Refugees

“If we are going to meaningfully discuss comprehensive climate equity and climate justice, we must inject security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons into our conversations.”

Syrian refugees

A group of Syrian refugees arrives on the island of Lesbos after traveling in an inflatable raft from Turkey near Skala Sikaminias, Greece on July 15, 2015. (Photo: UNHCR/Andrew McConnell)

Rep. Nydia Velázquez on Wednesday introduced historic legislation in the Democrat-controlled House that would establish formal federal protections in the United States for refugees fleeing impacts of the human-caused global climate crisis.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez on Wednesday introduced historic legislation in the Democrat-controlled House that would establish formal federal protections in the United States for refugees fleeing impacts of the human-caused global climate crisis.

“This legislation will not only reaffirm our nation’s longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters, but it will also update it to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”
—Rep. Nydia Velázquez

“If we are going to meaningfully discuss comprehensive climate equity and climate justice, we must inject security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons into our conversations,” the New York congresswoman said in a statement.

The Climate Displaced Person’s Act of 2019 (H.R. 4732) would create protections for climate-displaced persons (CDPs), or “individuals who have been forcibly displaced by climate change or climate-induced disruptions, such as sea-level rise, glacial outburst floods, desertification, or fires,” according to Velázquez’s office.

Specifically, the first-of-its kind House bill (pdf) would establish a new humanitarian program that would allow a minimum of 50,000 CDPs to resettle in the United States beginning in the next fiscal year. It would direct the secretary of state to create a climate resilience position at the federal department and work with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator to develop a “global climate resilience strategy.”

The bill would also direct the president to collect and maintain data on climate-related displacement and empower the president to provide assistance to programs and initiatives that promote resilience among communities facing the impacts of the climate emergency.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)—who co-sponsors the Green New Deal resolution with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—introduced companion legislation (S. 2565) to Velázquez’s bill last month. However, unlike the House, Republicans control the Senate.

Even if the bill passed both chambers of Congress, it likely would not be signed into law by President Donald Trump, who has pursued several initiatives to severely limit all forms of migration to the United States—from separating migrant families and caging children to his recent proposal to slash the refugee cap to 18,000 for the next fiscal year, which would be a historic low for a country that has taken in an average of 95,000 people annually.

Although the CDP Act faces seemingly insurmountable barriers as long as the GOP has a majority in the Senate and Trump remains president, “the bill lays the groundwork for how a future administration could deal with what’s already forecast to be among the greatest upheavals global warming will cause,” noted HuffPost, which first reported on the measure Wednesday.

“Despite this administration’s efforts to strip the world’s most vulnerable populations of refuge, America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” said Velázquez. “This legislation will not only reaffirm our nation’s longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters, but it will also update it to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”

…In an interview with Common Dreams last month, author and activist Naomi Klein specifically noted the failure of governments—especially wealthy and powerful ones like the United States—to respond properly to the intersection of the world’s refugee crisis and the calamity of climate change.

“We need to be talking more about immigration and what the future of the border looks like in the context of a crisis that was created in wealthy countries,” Klein explained, “but is impacting the poorest people in the world first and worst. And those connections, I think, are still not being made nearly enough.” MORE

New federal Parliament must unite for urgent, achievable action on climate emergency

With one decade to halve emissions, Parliament has critical role in addressing climate crisis

OTTAWA — The newly elected Canadian Parliament must implement unprecedented action to meet its international climate commitments, in line with maximum global warming of 1.5 C. To do so, members of Parliament must come together and work across political boundaries.

“Canadians overwhelmingly support climate action. They want immediate and long-term solutions to the climate crisis now,” David Suzuki Foundation CEO Stephen Cornish said. “Canadians — especially younger people — expect government to rise to the challenge.”

Leading up to the election, several polls identified climate change as one of, if not the, top election issue. Throughout the country, more than 800,000 young people and their supporters took to the streets on September 27, joining more than 7.6 million worldwide, to demand that adults take the climate crisis seriously.

“In Canada, we have a rich history of coming together in minority government situations for the betterment of society, from wartime efforts to Medicare and universal pension plans. This is such a moment. Transitioning to clean energy and helping solve the global climate emergency should unite us as Canadians, helping create a better, safer, more just world,” Cornish said.

Last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s leading authority on climate change and the response needed to prevent breakdown of the planet’s climate system — gave the world 12 years to cut global carbon emissions by roughly half, and fully by 2050. Canada is not on track to meet its 2030 target, which is even less stringent than the IPCC targets.

“Canadians want decisive action. We want investments in our future that will help diversify our economy and increase our economic stability,” Cornish said. “This year, the Bank of Canada identified climate change as a major area of economic risk, but it’s also an area of great opportunity for our country. The actions this Parliament takes to transition us to a clean energy future will have huge impacts on the well-being of our children and grandchildren. This government must deliver – for all Canadians.”


David Suzuki Foundation priority asks of new federal government:
    • Fully implement the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, and move forward with new measures to achieve a legislated 2030 climate target in line with 1.5 C.
    • Introduce legislation to recognize in law the right to a healthy environment (an environmental bill of rights).
    • Protect Canada’s most important oceans and land, including habitat that will allow recovery of species at risk, and meet our other UN Convention on Biological Diversity targets.
    • Address the conservation needs in Canada’s ocean environment, including recovering degraded fish stocksand reducing impacts of open net-pen aquaculture on all coasts.
    • Make real progress toward a zero-waste, circular economy, including a regulatory ban on non-essential single-use plastics by 2021.

SOURCE

The Short List Of Climate Actions That Will Work

 


Image: Zach Shahan | CleanTechnica.com

Image result for Michael Barnard#I spend a lot of time critiquing solutions for low-carbon transformation, and that leads, inevitably, to people asking me: what works? What should we be doing? Most recently, that came in the form of a question on Quora that was well enough formed to trigger me to write down the solution set: “What exactly is the current scientific consensus on steps to combat climate change?

Consensus is an interesting word. I tend to prefer consilience, where multiple lines of investigation lead to the same conclusions. That said, the following are the solutions or approaches that I see from my investigations and discussions as gaining consensus and consilience. It’s not the how, but the what. There are many paths that lead to these realities. One way to read the following is to consider that it describes the world in 2050.

This list doesn’t necessarily map easily to Project Drawdown because its approach is a cost benefit analysis of CO2e reductions for dollars, while this is a more aggressive transformational vision.


The Short List

Electrify everything

Convert all energy services to work directly from electricity instead of fossil fuels. Transportation, industry, and agriculture. All of it. All gas appliances must go. All road transport must be electric. Most trains and a lot of planes must shift to electric. Electricity creating biofuels or hydrogen for the subset of transportation that can’t be electrified. All heat from electricity. The US throws away two thirds of all primary energy, mostly in the form of waste heat from fossil fuels used in inherently inefficient combustion processes. We only have to replace a third of the actual primary energy we use today to maintain our lifestyle and economy.

Overbuild renewable generation

All other forms of generation with the exception of nuclear were overbuilt, so we’ll do the same with wind and solar, and they are really cheap, so that is not that expensive. Also a bit of geothermal and some biomass. After all, about $3 trillion would provide all primary energy for everything the US does today.

Build continent-scale electrical grids and markets

And improve existing ones. HVDC became much more viable with high-speed hybrid circuit breakers in 2011, and is an essential technology for long-distance, low-loss electrical transmission. It can replace some AC transmission and be buried along existing right-of-ways.

Build a fair amount of hydro storage

And some other storage too. While storage of electricity is an overstated concern given overbuilt renewables and continent-scale grids, some is still required. Pumped hydro resource potential is far greater than the need, is efficient, and uses very stable, known technologies. Shifting existing hydro-electric dams to be passive, on-demand storage as opposed to baseload is also key. Fast response grid storage can be provided by existing lithium-ion technologies, as Tesla has proven in California and Australia. By 2050, we’ll have roughy 20 TWh of batteries on wheels in US cars alone, available both for demand management to reduce peak demand, soak up excess generation, and to provide vehicle-to-grid electricity as needed.

Plant a lot of trees

We have cut down about 50% of the six trillion trees that used to grow on earth. Planting a trillion trees would buy us a lot of time as they sucked about a ton of CO2 from the atmosphere per tree over 40 years.

Change agricultural practices

High-tillage agriculture is a process that keeps releasing carbon captured by the soil back into the atmosphere. Switching to low-tillage farming would buy us a lot of time as the CO2 captured by farmland would stay in the soil a lot longer, and some of it would be permanently sequestered.

Fix concrete

8% of global CO2 emissions come from making Portland cement. It’s absolutely critical to urban densification and industry, so we won’t stop making it. But it’s a huge source of CO2, about half from the energy and half from CO2 that bakes off limestone as it is turned into quicklime. Electrifying that energy flow helps a lot, but capturing that CO2 is one of the few places where mechanical carbon capture makes sense.

Price carbon aggressively

The simplest way to get a lot of people and industries to shift away from emitting lots of CO2 is to make it expensive. That’s what carbon taxes do.

Shut down coal and gas generation aggressively

Getting rid of coal is already happening, but it’s by far the biggest single source of CO2 emissions. Aggressive actions to eliminate burning coal are needed. For gas, the question is how few gas plants can we build, how many of them can we run on biologically sourced methane and how fast can we shut them down.

Stop financing and subsidies for fossil fuel

Exploration, extraction, and use, just cut it out. The US alone spends tens of billions of dollars annually on subsidies of various kinds for the fossil fuel industry, and hasn’t done a thing about it since committing to eliminate them in 2009. The G7 and G20 have committed to eliminating subsidies, but progress has been very slow. The World Bank continues to finance coal, oil, and gas projects, despite commitments to end them.

Eliminate HFCs in refrigeration

The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer targets the unforeseen side effects of displacing ozone-depleting CFCs with high-greenhouse gas HFCs. Project Drawdown puts this at #1 on its ranked list of solutions by cost vs benefit. The US has not ratified this Amendment, although 65 other countries have.


There are some mildly controversial things left out of this list

Nuclear power is too slow to build and too expensive

That’s empirical reality, not an advocacy statement. The conditions for rapid build that existed in a couple of places and times in the past don’t exist today. And we need a lot of clean electricity very quickly. Nuclear need not apply. Keep existing nuclear going, don’t stop new nuclear buildout in China, pretty much the only place building new generation capacity, but don’t expect it to be more than a rounding error in a few decades. New nuclear technologies are decades from commercial deployment at any scale, and we have technologies that are reliable, predictable, cheap, and fast to build, so there will be nothing for them to do once they actually make it out of R&D.

Mechanical carbon capture and sequestration is a mostly dead end

This is an overhyped fig leaf for the fossil fuel industry. Virtually every CCS site is actually an enhanced oil recovery site which recovers oil that couldn’t be pumped out before, typically enough that 2–3 times more CO2 is generated from the oil than was put underground. Exceptions are natural gas wells with too high a concentration of CO2, leading to 25 times the emissions once the natural gas is burned. Expensive, unscalable, and wasteful. As stated, it might be useful for concrete.

Air-to-fuel technologies are dead ends

Solutions such as Carbon Engineering’s direct-air-capture with hydrogen electrolysis to create synthetic fuels is a broken model. It’s vastly more expensive and higher CO2 emitting than electrification or biological pathway fuel synthesis. Any money spent on this would have vastly better results if spent on renewables instead. It’s not an either-or, but in this case policy makers should ignore this and governments shouldn’t fund it.


The military is a hard problem

The military requires vast amounts of high energy fuel in places with no electrical supply chain, often for months at a time. The US military is considered by many to be the single largest CO2 emitting organization in the world. However, eliminating global fossil fuel strategic military actions — which describes virtually everything done in the Middle East for the last 100 years — will diminish the need for the US military substantially. A great deal of its current emissions, which hopefully will start coming to light once the US signs the Paris Accord either in 2021 or 2025 once Trump is gone, are related to the ongoing Middle Eastern deployments. There’s only so much we can do for biofuels, but to be clear, the world has been in a period of diminishing military conflict since the end of WWII. Globalization may have downsides, but the ties of trade and treaties which bind countries together have been highly effective in allowing diplomacy pathways to work, and making the military option increasingly difficult to consider.


Where approaches or recommendations from people or groups diverge from the above, question what lobbying groups are involved, where revenue will be lost or gained and in general what the motivations of the people or organizations involved are. This is all empirically grounded analysis. It’s not rocket science.

We have the solutions. We just need the will to execute, which is being sapped by the losers in this necessary transformation, predominantly the fossil fuel industry. SOURCE

Climate change and the agri-business footprint

Cargill beef-processing plant in Schuyler, Nebraska. Image: Ammodramus/Wikimedia Commons
Image: Ammodramus/Wikimedia Commons

With the federal election behind us and a minority government in place, there may be an opportunity to push for expanding the climate change debate to include the impact that industrial agriculture is having on our environment.

It is going to take a firm understanding of the importance of supporting local food sources, small-scale agriculture, and how our knowledge of land use and food production can help mitigate climate change.

Will the NDP and Greens be able to push the climate change debate forward by working for policies that protect our food system and move away from agri-business?

After all, carbon emissions from agriculture contribute almost as much as fossil fuels to climate change. So what are we going to do about that?

We in Canada, in many cases, have had the luxury of choice, particularly when it comes to our trips to the grocery store. Even the poorest in our country have more choice than most people in this world. Don’t get me wrong — I think there are plenty of people in Canada who need a hand, better services, and quality food. The fact that we still have food banks in this country shows that we have many fundamental issues to deal with.

But that’s the crux — food banks, for example. People who are searching for food, trying to buy it or grow it, and who have a daily struggle to eat, do not have the choice of reflecting on how best to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Theirs is a daily struggle to find the food that will allow their families to survive. Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy, active life.

If we do not tackle agricultural emissions, who farms, and how we produce food, those stats will only get worse and fewer of us will have choices.

In an article for Wired magazine, Timothy A. Wise, the author of Eating Tomorrow, notes that if we are committed to reducing emissions created by agri-business not only will we need to change how we farm and who farms, but also directly challenge the corporate lobbyists protecting corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, Cargill, and Nestlé and fertilizer giants such as Yara, among others. The article notes that the conglomerates that control seed and artificial fertilizers are working hard to expand their control and ensure their profits, and in so doing expand their carbon emissions. Wise emphasizes that in order to curtail this carbon footprint, governments will need to roll back corporations’ economic hold on food production and break up their holdings, legally mandating their dissolution through more stringent government regulations.

In other cases, agricultural corporations, taking a page from the nuclear industry’s playbook, have wanted to be seen to be “cleaner” and on the side of climate change activists — strategically identifying opportunities to re-brand their corporate footprint by appearing to be working to safeguard the planet. Several “front groups” have been created over the last decade, and despite using the euphemism “climate smart agriculture,” many of them actually represent fertilizer and seed companies that are huge emitters of carbon emissions. The agro-fertilizer industry, like pharmaceuticals, is huge business. With the increasing knowledge that artificial fertilizers are not necessary to feed the world if sustainable practices are adopted, corporations such as Syngenta and Yara are working hard to confuse the issues to try to control the debate on agriculture and climate change. MORE

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Province’s commitment to local autonomy outside Toronto ‘highly ironic,’ Mayor Tory says

Mayor John Tory called the province's unilateral cut to the size of city council a "terrible episode last year, which I think was damaging in many respects."

As many Ontario municipalities celebrated the end of a threat of forced amalgamations, Toronto politicians wondered why the Ford government treated their city so differently.

Toronto Councillor Gord Perks said the Ontario government’s about-face Friday on regional reform, after last year unilaterally slashing the size of Toronto council, shows the premier “thinks Torontonians are second-class citizens.

“Premier Ford has clearly said that people in Brampton and Mississauga have the right to decide what kind of government they want and Torontonians do not, and that’s awful.”

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark revealed that, nine months after his government promised major reforms including possible amalgamations to force efficiencies and cost-savings, he was scrapping the regional reform. Instead Ontario’s 444 municipalities will share a total of $143 million in provincial funding to find efficiencies and improve services.

“Throughout this extensive review, the government heard that local communities should decide what is best for them in terms of governance, decision-making and service delivery,” Clark’s ministry said in a news release.

“After careful consideration of the feedback we heard through the course of the review, our government stands firm in its commitment to partnering with municipalities without pursuing a top-down approach.”

Ford’s government triggered a firestorm of criticism when the premier cut Toronto council from a planned 47 councillors, set by council after years of study, to 25, even though the election, and door-knocking by candidates, had started months earlier.

The premier threatened to use the notwithstanding clause to override any charter rights challenge, and remains committed to fighting the City of Toronto in court should the city get leave to take its challenge to the council cut to the Supreme Court of Canada.

‘It’s terrifying’: B.C. teen leads effort to fight climate change

Fifteen teenagers are suing government for violating their right to life, liberty and security of the person


Sierra Robinson, 17, is one of 15 youths suing the Canadian government for failing to take action on climate change. (Facebook)

Sierra Robinson is just a normal teenager. She goes to school, hangs out with her friends and loves the outdoors.

She’s also one of 15 youths taking Ottawa to court for failing to tackle climate change, and possibly robbing her and other young people of the same quality of life as generations before her have enjoyed.

“I’ve grown up in the Cowichan Valley on my family’s farm. I spent every moment I could outside, climbing trees, catching frogs, playing with chickens,” Robinson told Black Press Media by phone.

“That’s developed a really strong connection with the outside.”

Robinson, 17, is frustrated by a government that has said they’re serious about climate change, but then turn around and buy a pipeline.

She feels Trudeau’s participation in the climate strikes is more lip service than action.

“We’re striking because of people like him, who are continuing to contribute to the climate crisis,” Robinson said.

“It’s terrifying because we can try to do everything we can on an individual level… but really, it’s [up to] our politicians, as they’re continuing to buy pipelines.”

The lawsuit has two sides: one is the right life, liberty and security of the person under section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while the other is more specific to the youths involved. That challenge will fall under section 15 of the charter, and argue that young people are directly impacted by climate change in a way older generations are not.

The youths are asking the Supreme Court of Canada Canada to create a science-based climate recovery plan, and stick to court-mandate targets so they can enjoy the same planet as generations before them.

Robinson knows suing the federal government is a drastic step. But it’s one she feel she has to take to get the government’s attention.

“We can’t vote yet, so we’re not included in these conversations that are shaping our futures,” she said.

Robinson hopes the lawsuit will bring the issue of climate change closer to home for politicians.

“They live in these big fancy houses, or they live in a way where they’re further away from the impacts,” she said.

“I’m just frustrated that we have to go to the level of an entire lawsuit to get our government to take action. People should have done this a long time ago.”

For Robinson, climate change hits a lot closer to home.

She remembers a neighbouring farmer whose well ran dry and had to choose between water for his cows, and watering his corn crop.

“He lost his whole crop of corn because he was only able to give that water to his cows to keep them alive,” Robinson said.

“That’s really scary.”

Robinson and the 14 other youths will be partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation, who are hopeful that the energy around climate change these days will push the courts to intervene.

“That’s a very positive potential is that it will spur governments attention and action on this issue, and make climate more of a priority,” foundation CEO Stephen Cornish said.

Cornish said court action was necessary because the steps being taken by Ottawa are not good enough.

“What’s important to note that this isn’t about a particular party,” Cornish noted.

“There have been successive generations of government who have not lived up to this.”

Cornish is hoping the lawsuit sets a precedent for other countries around the world

Lawyer Chris Tollefson, who will make up part of the legal team, said the lawsuit will aim to set a precedent that Canadians do have the rights when it comes to what sort of planet they live on. MORE

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