These U.N. Climate Scientists Think They Can Halt Global Warming for $300 Billion. Here’s How

People pave straw checkerboard barriers to prevent and control desertification in Linze County of Zhangye City, northwest China's Gansu Province, on March 12, 2019. Linze County is located on the border of Badain Jaran Desert. In recent years, local authority continues to promote anti-desertification efforts, and a total of about 45,000 acres of trees have been planted.People pave straw checkerboard barriers to prevent and control desertification in Linze County of Zhangye City, northwest China’s Gansu Province, on March 12, 2019. Linze County is located on the border of Badain Jaran Desert. In recent years, local authority continues to promote anti-desertification efforts, and a total of about 45,000 acres of trees have been planted. Wang Jiang–Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

$300 billion. That’s the money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming, according to United Nations climate scientists. It’s the gross domestic product of Chile, or the world’s military spending every 60 days.

The sum is not to fund green technologies or finance a moonshot solution to emissions, but to use simple, age-old practices to lock millions of tons of carbon back into an overlooked and over-exploited resource: the soil.

“We have lost the biological function of soils. We have got to reverse that,” said Barron J. Orr, lead scientist for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. “If we do it, we are turning the land into the big part of the solution for climate change.”

Rene Castro Salazar, an assistant director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that of the 2 billion hectares (almost 5 billion acres) of land around the world that has been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation and other largely human factors, 900 million hectares could be restored.

July 2019 Was the Earth’s Hottest Month Ever Recorded, NOAA Says
July 2019 was the hottest July and the hottest month on record globally since temperature records began in a year of many record breaking temperatures as heatwaves hit many parts of the world.

Returning that land to pasture, food crops or trees would convert enough carbon into biomass to stabilize emissions of CO2, the biggest greenhouse gas, for 15-20 years, giving the world time to adopt carbon-neutral technologies.

“With political will and investment of about $300 billion, it is doable,” Castro Salazar said. We would be “using the least-cost options we have, while waiting for the technologies in energy and transportation to mature and be fully available in the market. It will stabilize the atmospheric changes, the fight against climate change, for 15-20 years. We very much need that.”

The heart of the idea is to tackle the growing problem of desertification — the degradation of dry land to the point where it can support little life. At least a third of the world’s land has been degraded to some extent, directly affecting the lives of 2 billion people, said Eduardo Mansur, director of the land and water division at the FAO.

Marginal lands are being stressed around the globe by the twin phenomena of accelerated climate change and a rate of population growth that could lift the global tally to almost 10 billion people by 2050, he said. Much of that growth is in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where land is already highly stressed.

“The idea is to put more carbon into the soil,” said Orr. “That’s not going to be a simple thing because of the natural conditions. But keeping the carbon in the soil and getting that natural vegetation, grazing land etc. thriving again — that’s the key.”

Last month, at a UN conference on desertification in New Delhi, 196 countries plus the European Union agreed to a declaration that each country would adopt measures needed to restore unproductive land by 2030. The UN team has used satellite imaging and other data to identify the 900 million hectares of degraded land that could be realistically restored. In many cases, the revitalized areas could benefit the local community and host country through increased food supply, tourism and other commercial uses. MORE

Extinction Rebellion’s car-free streets showcase the possibility of a beautiful, safe and green future

Image result for the conversation: Extinction Rebellion’s car-free streets showcase the possibility of a beautiful, safe and green future
© James McKayAuthor provided

Standing in the middle of a usually busy central London street during Extinction Rebellion’s protests, the air noticeably cleaner, the area quieter, I was struck by the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. We need to create a transport system that is zero carbon in only a few years. Despite London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, the daily reality is still toxic traffic fumes, unjustifiable road deaths and high levels of transport carbon emissions (up to one-third of all emissions in many places). There are over 9,000 extra deaths a year in London due to illegal air toxicity, much of which is from road transport.

But some cities have created more car-free, healthy and safe places. Copenhagen and Amsterdam are known for their amazing cycling culture. Curitiba, in Brazil, has an amazing bus transit system that functions like a subway network. Helsinki has committed to going car-free as soon as possible. Tokyo has some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the world. And Venice hasn’t seen a car in its history.

As I’ve shown in my latest book, creating the car-free city is possible, and urgently necessary, right now. We have all the technical and policy know-how. But we lack a vision of how it could be different, and the recognition that far from a sacrifice, it will bring mainly improvements, rather than constraints, to our lives. Such visions are necessary. The best way to demonstrate this is by using a bit of speculative fiction. So bear with me while we jump into an imagined near future.

Future gazing. Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

What 2025 could look like

After the government capitulated to mass public unrest in 2020, citizen’s assemblies met to plan the future of the country. One of them outlined what they called “The Great Transport Turning”, an ambitious new mobility plan for the country that would unlock us from the car and create beautiful, safe and clean places for people. I can’t believe it’s only been five years, but our neighbourhoods have been completely transformed into beautiful, clean, safe places for everyone. I see my kids smiling every day as they safely rush off on their bikes and scooters to meet friends or go to school.

So how did it all happen? On the recommendation of the People’s Assembly, the Department for Transport was renamed the Department for People’s Mobility. It was given a remit to implement a “climate safe and socially just mobility plan” by 2025. It cost around £300 billion – about a third of the total cost of the UK’s transition to zero carbon – funded by a combination of a windfall from closing tax avoidance loop holes, a hike in corporation tax, and a citizen’s transport levy.

An army of newly trained people’s mobility officers started to implement the people’s plan. The UK’s big cities got a huge makeover, with dozens more suburban train stations and extensive electrified mass transit networks comprising trolley buses and trams that were connected to surrounding small towns. That took a huge slug of cars off the roads straight away. Even though it’s not all quite finished, enormous progress has been made towards creating a zero carbon transport infrastructure, along with a green jobs bonanza in the construction industry.

Regional co-operatives, owned and managed by workers and users, were set up to run it all. Across the UK, everyone gets 14 free tickets each week, with any extra journeys costing a flat rate of just a £1 for travel within their locality. Employee-owned bus companies with fully electric fleets, cycle storage on the front and more access for wheelchair users than current buses, were set up. MORE

We Used to Just Call These “Houses”

Image result for strong towns: We Used to Just Call These "Houses"

We have a way in the modern world of rediscovering things that humans have always done but branding them as something trendy and a little alien. So it goes with the explosion of interest in “tiny houses” as an answer to what ails cities struggling to house and attract people.

The ironic thing about tiny houses is that they’re nothing new; it’s just that, in surprisingly recent memory, our culture had a different name for them. We called them “houses.”

The Bottom Is Missing From the American Housing Market

Our houses are very big in North America. In fact, the US, Canada, and Australia are the three biggest outliers worldwide in both the average size of new homes (a whopping 2,164 square feet in the U.S.) and the average per capita living spaceHome size has crept up over the years, too. The American Enterprise Institute published a chart that shows that the average U.S. home size has increased by about 1,000 square feet since 1973, a near-doubling of living space per person. Interestingly, the same article also includes a chart that shows a relatively stable price per square foot, when adjusted for inflation, suggesting that the super-sizing of our homes in size is an underappreciated driver of today’s affordability crises.

A typical older Houston bungalow. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
A typical older Houston bungalow. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

In a prior era, all sorts of housing arrangements were commonplace that you almost never see built new anymore. Shotgun houses were the predominant form for a period in cities including Louisville and New Orleans; they’re called that because they’re very narrow and linear, and you could supposedly shoot a shotgun round in the front door and out the back. The skinny row houses of cities like Philadelphia are another space-economizing, traditionally American home style. In Southern cities where the row house never predominated, you can see old neighborhoods with very modest stand-alone bungalows on very tight lots.

At the bottom of the market, for those who couldn’t afford their own home, single-room occupancy buildings (SROs) used to be common in America’s big cities: in these, you essentially rent a dorm room, and amenities like kitchens and bathrooms are shared. But it was also far more common in the past for homeowners to take in a lodger. You’d live in a finished basement or attic and pay modest rent, which was often a vital source of income to homeowners in tough times.

All of these played important roles in the human habitat, the complex ecosystem that is the city. In terms of the development and evolution of neighborhoods, the tiny house on a tiny lot is the most modest increment of development on vacant land, and it is within reach of people who couldn’t otherwise build something that will accrue wealth for them over time.

A tiny-house cluster in Oregon. (Image: Sightline Institute )
A tiny-house cluster in Oregon. (Image: Sightline Institute)

For the renter not thinking about accruing wealth, a small home lowers the bar to being able to live in a place you couldn’t otherwise live. So if you are a young person looking for work in a new city; a couple or a small family saving up for a dream home; a single older adult without a lot of stuff or the desire or means to maintain a lot of space; you have a range of options that can serve your situation. And this means, just maybe, that you can move to a better neighborhood that would otherwise be off-limits to you, or to a whole new city with more economic opportunity.

I wrote in February 2019 about an AARP report that observes that the share of U.S. households comprised of a conventional nuclear family has been falling, and is down to only 1 in 5. Our cultural narratives about desirable housing haven’t caught up to this shift; we still idealize the 3- or 4-bedroom single family house with a sizable yard.

Joe Minicozzi of Urban3 likes to ask his audiences in talks, “Who here would live in a 400 square foot apartment?” Few if any hands go up. So then he asks a follow-up question: “Who has lived in a 400 square foot apartment?” And many hands go up: all sorts of people, it turns out, live in these spaces as young adults only to turn around and say, “I can’t see how anyone would want that!” as older adults. The tiny house, the ADU, the micro-studio: these homes don’t serve every need, but they serve people in situations that aren’t alien to us, but utterly normal. So why are they so rare today? MORE

Single Use Plastic Bans: What You Need to Know

 

Image result for single-use plastic bans

The discussion on single-use plastics is heating up across Canada. The federal government announced in June 2019 its intention to institute a nationwide ban by 2021 if re-elected this fall. Meanwhile, a growing number of provinces, cities, and towns have already banned certain single-use plastic products and the British Columbia Court of Appeal has now weighed in on a B.C. municipality’s authority to do such a thing. So what are some considerations that single-use plastic bans raise for businesses, consumers, and governments alike?

Background: Plastic Bans Becoming Increasingly Common

On June 10, 2019, the federal government announced its plan to ban a list of single-use plastics by as early as 2021 if re-elected. This comes in the wake of the European Union’s Parliament voting in March 2019 to ban several single-use plastic products on the same timeline. In addition, the federal government recently listed plastic microbeads on the Schedule 1 List of Toxic Substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, SC 1999, c 33.

Governments at the provincial and municipal level across the country have already imposed bans on items such as single-use plastic bags.

At the provincial level, Newfoundland and Labrador announced in April 2019 that it will become the second province behind Prince Edward Island to ban plastic shopping bags. At the municipal level, the list of communities that have banned plastic bags include dozens in Quebec, four in Manitoba, three in New Brunswick, and a quickly growing number in B.C. In July 2019, Jasper and Wetaskiwin became the second and third communities in Alberta, after the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, to ban plastic bags. This much is clear: whether or not single-use plastic bans can effectively reduce the pollution associated with plastic products, they are becoming increasingly widespread.

Can Governments Ban Single-use Plastics?

An important question for governments proposing a ban, as well as for the businesses and consumers who will be affected, is whether such a ban is legal. In other words: can the government do that?

What does our Constitution say?

Our Constitution says that the federal government can enact laws in some topic areas, while the provincial government can enact laws in others. However, in the case of environmental protection, no level of government has exclusive jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Canada has made clear that both the federal and provincial governments can make laws on a specific environmental issue as long as they can connect that issue to a power granted to them in the Constitution. The appellate courts in Ontario and Saskatchewan confirmed this in their recent majority decisions that determined that the federal government could impose a national price on carbon (subject of course to further appeals to the Supreme Court).

What this means is that the federal government may often be able to connect an environmental issue to its power to legislate with respect to criminal law or matters of “national concern” under the “Peace, Order, and good Government” clause in section 91 of the Constitution. Provincial governments, on the other hand, can often legislate on environmental issues due to their authority over property and civil rights and matters of a local and private nature.

Importantly, municipal governments can also legislate on issues relating to the environment, as long as their respective provincial governments have authorized them to do so. A municipality can pass bylaws for any purpose that a province has the power over and has properly delegated to the municipality.

In the past, the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed the ability of the town of Hudson, Ontario to restrict the use of pesticides within the town, while the Ontario Superior Court has struck down Toronto’s ban on the possession and sale of shark fin products.

Victoria’s Ban on Single-use Plastic Bags

Most recently, and specific to single-use plastics, the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the case of Canadian Plastic Bag Association v Victoria (City), 2019 BCCA 254 struck down Victoria’s ban on single-use plastic bags for being outside Victoria’s jurisdiction.

While Victoria argued that it could impose such a ban because of its authority to create bylaws relating to “business” under the provincial legislation that governs B.C.’s cities, the Court of Appeal found that the bylaw was in fact related to environmental protection. Bylaws relating to environmental protection require provincial approval in B.C. and because Victoria did not receive such approval, its ban on plastic bags was invalid.

This decision highlights the importance of knowing the limits of a government’s authority to impose laws and regulations, such as those that ban single-use plastics. This is important not only for the government seeking to enact laws that will achieve their intended results, but also for the businesses and consumers who stand to be impacted by new laws.

What Comes Next at the Federal Level?

A federal ban on single-use plastics remains speculative at this time. However, if a ban does become reality in the future, it will likely mirror current prohibitions seen elsewhere on plastic bags, straws, and cutlery.

The ban would likely impact the retail and restaurant industry, which uses items such as plastic bags, containers, and cutlery in its day-to-day operations, the oil industry, which provides the building blocks for resins used to produce plastic products, and the plastic producers themselves.

On the other hand, a ban could also be part of a larger plan that reduces waste management costs, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and provides further financial benefits by redirecting a greater proportion of plastic waste away from landfills and into recycled materials.

Of course, whether a federal ban will be implemented as early as 2021 will likely depend on the outcome of this fall’s federal election. SOURCE

LEAKED AUDIO REVEALS HOW COCA-COLA UNDERMINES PLASTIC RECYCLING EFFORTS

Coca-Cola bottles are pictured on the production line in the bottling plant of the Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG production facility in Genshagen, Germany, 21 August 2013. Here, Coca-Cola products are filled into disposable packaging on 158,000 square meters. 170 employees work in the production facility, which was opened in 1998. The Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG is one of the biggest beverage companies in Germany with a sales volume of 3.7 billion liters in 2012. Photo by: Jens Kalaene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Coca-Cola bottles on the production line in the bottling plant of a Coca-Cola facility in Genshagen, Germany, on Aug. 21, 2013. Photo: Jens Kalaene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

FOR DECADES, COCA-COLA has burnished its public image as an environmentally caring company with donations to recycling nonprofits. Meanwhile, as one of the world’s most polluting brands, Coke has quietly fought efforts to hold the company accountable for plastic waste.

Audio from a meeting of recycling leaders obtained by The Intercept reveals how the soda giant’s “green” philanthropy helped squelch what could have been an important tool in fighting the plastic crisis — and shines a light on the behind-the-scenes tactics beverage and plastics companies have quietly used for decades to evade responsibility for their waste. The meeting of the coalition group known as Atlanta Recycles took place in January at the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials in Atlanta’s south side.

Among the topics on the agenda for the recycling experts was a grant coming to Atlanta as part of a multimillion-dollar campaign Coke was launching “to boost recycling rates and help inspire a grassroots movement.” But it quickly became clear that one possible avenue for boosting recycling rates — a bottle bill — was off the table.

Here’s John Seydel, director of the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Resilience:

“Something that I wanted to bring up here, just thinking, making sure to look at other cities as well as states for policies that would be pushing for more — or incentivize more recycling. And I think it’s been a very long time since the state of Georgia has even considered something like a bottle bill. I do think that’s something worth looking at.”

Seydel was right. If they were truly interested in increasing the recycling rate, a bottle bill or container deposit law, which requires beverage companies to tack a charge onto the price of their drink to be refunded after it’s returned, would be well worth looking at. People are far more likely to return their bottles if there’s a financial incentive. States with bottle bills recycle about 60 percent of their bottles and cans, as opposed to 24 percent in other states. And states that have bottle bills also have an average of 40 percent less beverage container litter on their coasts, according to a 2018 study of the U.S. and Australia published in the journal Marine Policy.

But bottle bills also put some of the responsibility — and cost — of recycling back on the companies that produce the waste, which may be why Coke and other soda companies have long fought against them. MORE

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OUR OCEANS CAN’T STOMACH ANY MORE PLASTIC. 

Revitalizing the Pickering waterfront

The Pickering Nuclear Station takes up 600 acres of prime waterfront real estate in the City of Pickering. When North America’s 3rd oldest (and 5th largest) nuclear station closes in 2024, the people of Pickering can revitalize their waterfront – and their community. But that will only happen if Ontario Power Generation (OPG) does the right thing and begins dismantling the 53-year-old plant as soon as it closes.

‘Immediate dismantling’ is strongly recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and has been successfully carried out at a number of closed plants in the United States, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.  OPG, however, says it wants to wait 30 years to begin the process of taking apart Pickering, leaving a mothballed hulk on the Pickering waterfront until at least 2064.

Delaying dismantling may be in OPG’s financial interest – allowing it to leave decommissioning funds in the bank – but it certainly is not in the interests of the community. Nor is there any safety justification for such a delay. If OPG can rebuild reactors in operating nuclear stations, it can take apart idled reactors using the same technology. Immediate dismantling also allows current workers to be involved in the decommissioning process and to apply their knowledge of this one-of-a-kind plant. That will not be the case three decades from now.

In the west end of the GTA, Mississauga is well underway with creating a whole new community on the site of what was the Lakeview coal-fired generating station (also an OPG plant). The same sort of community renewal could take place in Pickering if OPG follows the IAEA’s advice and immediately dismantles the Pickering Nuclear Station after closure. For the thousands of people now living around the station, it’s a choice between new green space, neighbourhoods and businesses, or three decades of looking at a desolate concrete shell on their waterfront.

Please click here to read our new report: Making the Right Choice for Pickering’s WaterfrontOr learn more here.

We’re holding a public meeting in Pickering to kick off a community conversation of what could be done with this prime waterfront site. Join us on Tuesday Nov. 19th at the George Ashe Community Centre, 470 Kingston Rd. in Pickering. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Meeting starts at 7 p.m.  Register to attend here. Learn more, share your ideas, join the discussion.  SOURCE

What is crime against future generations? And why should we care?

Crimes against Future Generations

Actions which are so terrible that they put the very survival of life at risk or threaten the way of life of communities should be prohibited and prosecuted. When individuals act despite knowing the severe consequences of their acts or conduct on the long-term health, safety, or means of survival of human populations, they are committing what we call a crime against future generations.

We recognise crimes as:

Acts or threats of acts in the present that could cause serious widespread and long term harm to the health, safety or survival of future generations. These acts or threats may consist of individual, family, social, political, military, economic, cultural or scientific activities that:

    • could cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural or human environment, including the conditions of survival of an entire species, sub-species or ecosystem; or
    • •could gravely or irreparably imperil the health, means of survival or safety of a given human population.

Crimes against future generations would not be future crimes, nor crimes committed in the future. Rather, they would apply to acts or conduct undertaken in the present which seriously harm the natural environment, human populations, species or ecosystems in the present and which have consequences for the long-term.

Just as crimes against humanity are not crimes which are directly committed against humanity, crimes against future generations would also not be directly committed against future generations. The term “humanity” in crimes against humanity indicates that this crime concerns offences which are of concern to all of humanity, and that the gravity is such that when they are committed, all of humanity is injured and aggrieved. Crimes against future generations are similar, and arise where there is a connection, in terms of knowledge and causation, between the underlying offence and damage in the long-term.

…The initiative of defining crimes against future generations grew from discussions held by the World Future Council Commission on Future Justice on the need to develop new laws and policies guaranteeing human security, ecological integrity, and social equity in the interest of future generations. The development of the concept and a definition of crimes against future generations for the International Criminal Court were commissioned to Sébastien Jodoin, Lead Counsel with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, CISDL. This process included expert workshops, consultations and meetings organised by the World Future Council and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law with leading international judges and lawyers from 2007 to 2010. The resulting definition of crimes against future generations under international law builds upon a number of principles and developments in international law and policy on sustainable development, environment, human rights and international crime. The World Future Council also continues to work on the foundational level of the Future Justice agenda and seeks to influence the way we think and act by engaging with experts and advocates in international law and policy. A related academic book ‘Sustainable Development, International Criminal Justice, and Treaty Implementation’ on the links between sustainable development and international criminal law, with many contributors from all over the world, was published in August 2013.

Encouraging and inspirational initiatives related to the World Future Council’s crimes against future generations work are gaining traction around the world:

The One Justice Project (1JP) is a collaborative legal research and advocacy project seeking recognition of the most serious violations of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights as crimes in global public opinion, international law, and domestic legal systems. It will campaign for changes in international and domestic law to provide individual criminal accountability for such violations as forced labour, corruption, discriminatory denials of access to basic levels of water, food, health, and education, and severe environmental harm and pollution.

Read here about the Ecocide campaign, an initiative working to introduce a proposed law against ecocide. Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.

The initiative of defining crimes against future generations grew from discussions held by the World Future Council Commission on Future Justice on the need to develop new laws and policies guaranteeing human security, ecological integrity, and social equity in the interest of future generations. The development of the concept and a definition of crimes against future generations for the International Criminal Court were commissioned to Sébastien Jodoin, Lead Counsel with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, CISDL. This process included expert workshops, consultations and meetings organised by the World Future Council and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law with leading international judges and lawyers from 2007 to 2010. The resulting definition of crimes against future generations under international law builds upon a number of principles and developments in international law and policy on sustainable development, environment, human rights and international crime. The World Future Council also continues to work on the foundational level of the Future Justice agenda and seeks to influence the way we think and act by engaging with experts and advocates in international law and policy. A related academic book ‘Sustainable Development, International Criminal Justice, and Treaty Implementation’ on the links between sustainable development and international criminal law, with many contributors from all over the world, was published in August 2013.

Encouraging and inspirational initiatives related to the World Future Council’s crimes against future generations work are gaining traction around the world:

The One Justice Project (1JP) is a collaborative legal research and advocacy project seeking recognition of the most serious violations of economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights as crimes in global public opinion, international law, and domestic legal systems. It will campaign for changes in international and domestic law to provide individual criminal accountability for such violations as forced labour, corruption, discriminatory denials of access to basic levels of water, food, health, and education, and severe environmental harm and pollution.

Read here about the Ecocide campaign, an initiative working to introduce a proposed law against ecocide. Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.