Trees are Healing the Planet

A recent study found that new forests might be our best shot at saving the world. A global guide to doing it right.

Image result for trees are healing the planetThey make it look so easy. Credit: Nathan Anerson via Unsplash

It’s not often these days that there is good news about climate change. So when a recent study suggested that establishing a trillion new trees around the world could turn back the climate clock to the 1970’s, it landed like a bombshell in the scientific community. Researchers analyzing satellite data calculated about 2.2 billion acres of available land around the world that could be converted into forest cover, capturing 205 gigatonnes of CO2. This could bring down atmospheric levels by twenty five percent.

Prof. Thomas Crowther who co-authored the research said, “We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today.”

That’s a big statement — one that got the whole world got excited to run out and plant trees. Hell, it even became an election platform.

But there are many challenges with planning landscape-level projects decades into the future, especially as climate change alters local growing conditions. And unless the underlying causes of past deforestation are addressed, any new trees planted may suffer the same fate as the ones they are replacing.

So before we all stick shovels in the ground, we decided to take a look at some examples of resilient reforestation efforts and why they worked. MORE

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Microsoft Japan tested a four-day work week and productivity jumped by 40%

The experiment for the month of August led to more efficient meetings and happier workers who took less time off


 Microsoft Japan’s four-day work week project gave its entire 2,300 person staff five Friday’s off in a row without decreasing pay. Photograph: Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA

Microsoft tested out a four-day work week in its Japan offices and found as a result employees were not only happier – but significantly more productive.

For the month of August, Microsoft Japan experimented with a new project called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019, giving its entire 2,300-person workforce five Fridays off in a row without decreasing pay.

The shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%, the company concluded at the end of the trial. As part of the program, the company had also planned to subsidize family vacations for employees up to ¥100,000 or $920.

“Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot,” Microsoft Japan president and CEO Takuya Hirano said in a statement to Microsoft Japan’s website. “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time.”

In addition to the increased productivity, employees took 25% less time off during the trial and electricity use was down 23% in the office with the additional day off per week. Employees printed 59% fewer pages of paper during the trial. The vast majority of employees – 92% – said they liked the shorter week.

The experiment is not the first time long weekends have been experimented with in the corporate world. In 2018, New Zealand trust management company Perpetual Guardian trialled a four-day work week over two months for its 240 staff members. Employees reported experiencing better work–life balance and improved focus in the office. Staff stress levels decreased by 7%.

Workers have often said they could be more productive with less time in the office. A survey of 1,500 workers and 600 human resources managers by HR consulting firm Robert Half found 66% of workers said they wanted to work less than five days a week.

Another experiment published by the Harvard Business Review shows shorter work days, a decrease from the average 8-hour work day to a 6-hour work day, increased productivity. A 2018 survey of 3,000 employees by the Workforce Institute at Kronos found more than half of full-time workers thought they could do their job in five hours a day.

Microsoft Japan’s challenge was just a pilot project, the company told the Guardian in a statement, and it’s unclear if these changes will be implemented in offices elsewhere or on a longer term basis. It plans to implement another iteration of the challenge this winter.

“In the spirit of a growth mindset, we are always looking for new ways to innovate and leverage our own technology to improve the experience for our employees around the globe,” a Microsoft spokesman said.  SOURCE

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How a Toronto city charter could fend off ‘political interference’ by Queen’s Park

Proposal comes after city, province battle over council cuts, subway control


Proponents of a city charter say it will make Toronto more efficient and accountable to residents. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

It’s time for Toronto to take control of its future by establishing Ontario’s first city charter, some prominent city political leaders say.

They’ve put forward a written proposal that would allow Toronto to make decisions without the need for provincial approval, including in the areas of housing, education and transit.

A number of large Canadian cities — including Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver —  already have similar charters.

“The city has to go to the provincial government for approval for all sorts of things,” said former mayor John Sewell, a member of Charter City Toronto, the group that released the proposal Tuesday morning.

“That seems to me a real wasted effort. There’s no reason to think that the province is any smarter than the city in making decisions about those kinds of issues.”

Former mayors Barbara Hall and David Miller, former premier Bob Rae and Richard Peddie, the former president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, are also among those backing the proposal.

No rules are fireproof, but the ones we propose would afford solid protection for the city.– Charter City Toronto’s written proposal

The push for a charter comes at a time of heightened animosity between Toronto and the Ontario government. MORE

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Extinction Rebellion’s activists leverage disruption, arrests for climate action

“I feel like I’m doing the right thing,” said one protester. “I can’t imagine myself sitting back and watching the world collapse.”


Climate activists surround a pink boat during a protest near Oxford Circus London Underground station. CREDIT:BLOOMBERG

LONDON — Wielding a megaphone to rally protesters blocking a major road outside Parliament last month, Dr. Bing Jones was arrested for the fourth time since joining the eco-protest group Extinction Rebellion.

The arrests haven’t deterred him, however — in fact, Jones is now keen to adopt an even more disruptive approach.

“I will get arrested again and I’m willing to go to prison, because what are the alternatives?” Jones, 67, said. “It seems in a way kind of childish, but the fact is being polite just hasn’t worked.”

He is not alone: A coordinated series of demonstrations in 60 cities around the globe last month grabbed headlines. Some 1,832 people were arrested in London alone, according to the city’s Metropolitan Police, who said that £21 million ($27 million) were spent on policing the protests, which caused widespread disruption and delays as streets were crowded and public transport was brought to a halt.

London has become the natural home of these protests: More than 1,000 people were arrested during an 11-day campaign in April.

But rather than simply marching in the streets, Extinction Rebellion, also known as XR, aims to force governments to respond to the climate crisis by using nonviolent civil disobedience. The group’s uncompromising tactics include blocking traffic, grounding flights and gluing themselves to public buildings and to each other.

Despite the risk of arrests, XR has spread worldwide and includes some unlikely supporters — including seniors, doctors and religious leaders.

But as the group’s tactics has made waves, questions remain over whether the public will embrace its extreme goals and disruptive behavior.

Image: Climate protesters block Millbank in central London
Extinction Rebellion protesters block roads in central London on Oct. 7 as part of a wide-ranging series of global demonstrations demanding new climate policies.Matt Dunham / AP file

 

XR launched its first major demonstrations in Britain in November 2018 when hundreds of activists shut down bridges in central London to spread its core message that climate change is not only threatening ecological collapse but human extinction.

The movement demands that governments “tell the truth” about climate change, ensure that net-zero emissions are achieved by 2025 and establish a citizens’ assembly to inform how the transition should happen.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, in one of her last acts before stepping down in July, pledged that the U.K. would reach net-zero emissions by 2050, one of the most ambitious targets of any leading economy, showing how bold XR’s demand is.

In the wake of a 2018 United Nations report warning of the consequences if the planet warms above 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and the Fridays for Future student climate strikes, popularized by Greta Thunberg, the stage was set for a movement like XR to take off, said Alexander Hensby, a sociologist at the University of Kent in southeast England.

From India to Chile, people around the world have embraced the decentralized, leaderless movement by setting up local chapters to coordinate demonstrations.

“The very fact that we’re still talking about Extinction Rebellion now, the fact that we have this ongoing period of mass protest, is a testament to their ability to keep climate change pretty high up the media agenda,” Hensby said. SOURCE

KFC pledges to reduce single-use plastic in its restaurants

The company says all food packaging will be reusable by 2025

Photo
Photo (c) davidhills – Getty Images

One by one, chain restaurants have pledged to cut the use of antibiotics, switch to cage-free eggs, and adopt other sustainability policies. Now, KFC is turning its attention to another environmental issue — plastic.

The company has pledged that by 2025, all plastic-based, consumer-facing packaging will be recoverable or reusable. KFC says it’s part of its long-term plan to implement a more sustainable packaging strategy in its restaurants.

Single-use plastic has become a major environmental problem because it usually ends up in the ocean, where it threatens marine life and even becomes part of the human food chain. Fast food restaurants, in particular, are major consumers of single-use plastic with their use of drink containers, utensils, and food packaging.

Because of their massive, worldwide scale, fast-food restaurants are a major contributor to plastic pollution. But that huge scale also holds the potential for reducing the problem when these companies adopt ways to limit the use of single-use plastic in their operations.

Real impact

“As a global brand that operates more than 22,000 restaurants in over 135 countries, KFC is in a position to have a real impact on how the industry approaches waste and packaging management overall,” said Tony Lowings, KFC’s CEO. “With environmental sustainability as a core aspect of how we do business, this commitment represents a public acknowledgment of the obligation we have to address these serious issues.”

A growing number of restaurant chains have stuck a toe in the plastic sustainability waters by pledging to eliminate plastic straws, a relatively small part of the problem. In many cases, local governments have forced the issue by requiring restaurants within their boundaries to switch to paper straws, which are readily available but more expensive.

McDonald’s is currently testing paper straws at some of its stores and Starbucks has pledged to make the switch by next year. Pepsico, the parent company of Pepsi, recently promised to make greater use of recycled plastic in its packaging.

Team effort

To meet its newly-set goals KFC said it is working with major suppliers and franchisees to identify alternatives to plastic that make sense. In addition to plastic straws, it will try to reduce the use of plastic in bags, utensils, and drink lids.

Plastic pollution is not just unsightly, it can have serious health consequences. Scientists have long known that materials used to make plastic, some of them toxic, can “leak” into the environment, even if the plastic itself doesn’t biodegrade.

Researchers estimate that about 20 percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from ships and platforms that are offshore. The rest gets blown into the ocean, washed out by tides, or comes from intentional garbage dumping. SOURCE

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The Green Budget Coalition: Recommendations for Budget 2020

Image result for BC coast sea surge
Waves pound the shore in White Rock in March of this year. (Bill Hawke)

Canada and the world face a climate emergency and a biodiversity crisis. Canadians are already experiencing floods, fires, ecological disruption and a rapidly warming Arctic, and scientists project these and other impacts will intensify if climate change remains unchecked.

The Green Budget Coalition, comprising twenty-two leading Canadian environmental organizations, urges the Government of Canada to step up to this defining moment in history with the necessary investments in Budget 2020 to enable effective action.

Our Recommendations for Budget 2020 will help Canada make rapid progress. We draw upon the expertise of Canada’s environmental movement, as well as global knowledge and experience, to provide detailed, costed, strategic budget recommendations addressing critical environmental challenges. Implementing these recommendations would furnish economic, health, and environmental benefits for Canadians.

The GBC welcomed progress in recent federal budgets on climate action, protected areas, building and vehicle energy efficiency, food policy, and water, transit and natural infrastructure. However, we now need to scale up action before it is too late, to address the closely-related climate and biodiversity crises.

In this context, the Green Budget Coalition has developed its Recommendations for Budget 2020 addressing four themes:

    • First, the Green Budget Coalition urges scaled-up fiscal action to address the climate emergency, including eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and allocating major funding to building energy efficiency, transportation, community energy, international climate financing, nature-based solutions, and marine shipping, plus a number of complementary measures, including on carbon pricing, the Sustainable Finance report, and a just transition for energy sector workers.
    • Second, the Green Budget Coalition urges continued and ongoing investment in nature conservation and biodiversity, with a focus on: protected areas on public and private lands; habitat restoration, including wetlands and grasslands; oceans; and migratory birds.
    • Third, GBC recommendations regarding Sustainable Agriculture call for investing in agri-environmental programs, research and development, and a new facility for the National Insect Collection, to improve the agricultural sector’s sustainability, resilience and competitiveness.
    • Fourth, on Toxics and Pesticides we point to the need for regulatory departments to receive sufficient resources to meet and enforce current legislative requirements for managing toxic substances, including pesticides, to protect the health of Canadians and our environment.

We further outline complementary recommendations regarding environmental data and science, governance, plastics, water monitoring, wildlife vehicle collisions, and First Nations water infrastructure.

Implementing these Green Budget Coalition recommendations would lead to dramatic progress in advancing a healthier future for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. SOURCE

Atlantic Canada on irreversible path to significant sea level rise

 Canada’s Changing Climate report says Atlantic Canada will have a higher-than-average sea level rise. -
Canada’s Changing Climate report says Atlantic Canada will have a higher-than-average sea level rise. 

A new report on climate change has found that parts of Atlantic Canada will experience higher-than-average sea level rise in the coming decades, leading to more storm surges and flooding, ecosystem and infrastructure damage, and coastline erosion.

And while lowering global emissions can mitigate some of the worst case outcomes, experts say this trajectory cannot be reversed and governments need to also focus on protecting infrastructure and planning for the impacts of these projected rises in at-risk communities.

Tabled on Tuesday, the sweeping report, called Canada’s Changing Climate, was led by Environment and Climate Change Canada and authored by government scientists across a number of departments.

One of the main findings of the report was that scientists have high confidence that Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and parts of New Brunswick and the island of Newfoundland, will experience sea level rise higher than the global average during the coming century.

Thomas James, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada who authored the section of the report that looks at sea level change, said for all possible emission scenarios, global sea levels are expected to rise, and that rise will be more pronounced with higher global carbon emission scenarios.

According to the report, global mean sea level is projected to rise by 28-98 centimetres by the end of the century but, under a high emission scenario, the only area of Canada expected to see between 75 and 100 centimetres is Atlantic Canada.

An illustration included in Canada’s Changing Climate Report, released Tuesday, which shows projected relative sea level changes in the year 2100 for a high emission scenario at 69 coastal locations in Canada and the northern United States.
An illustration included in Canada’s Changing Climate Report, released Tuesday, which shows projected relative sea level changes in the year 2100 for a high emission scenario at 69 coastal locations in Canada and the northern United States.

James said that’s because sea level rise is compounded in the region by something called postglacial rebound.

“In the last ice age, the centre of Canada was loaded with thick ice sheets that were three to four kilometres thick, they pushed down the surface of the Earth, and deep in the Earth the mantle material actually … behaved like very thick molasses, and on the edge of the former ice sheet the land actually rose a bit,” he explained.

“Now that the ice is gone, the centre area that was depressed is now rising and peripheral areas, which includes parts of the Maritimes, that were elevated are now slowly sinking. Where the land is sinking slowly, it adds to the global sea level rise, so projected relative sea level rise is bigger than the global value.”

In places like Halifax, James said, this could mean a 20 centimetre increase in mean sea level rise and a four times increase in flooding by mid-century — in the next two or three decades — even in a low-emissions scenario. In a high emission scenario, the impact could be doubled.

“What we need to do is adapt, and that’s for the (infrastructure) that already exists, and protect, which is for the future — like protecting ecosystems, protecting us from putting ourselves where we shouldn’t be.”

– Nancy Anningson, senior co-ordinator of coastal adaptation, Ecology Action Centre

The report says large impactful events, such as high water levels reached once every 50 years at Halifax in the past, may occur as frequently as every two years by mid-century under the relative sea level rise caused by a high emission scenario.

To make matters worse, James said in some more northern areas, like in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and along the Labrador coast, sea ice duration is expected to decrease causing less shoreline protection for things like storm surges.

According to data available via sealevelrise.ca, a joint initiative of conservation groups like the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre and Newfoundland and Labrador Conservation Corps as well as federal and provincial governments and universities, 60 per cent of the population of New Brunswick, 70 per cent of the population of Nova Scotia and 90 per cent of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador live in coastal communities, and no place in P.E.I. is further than 16 kilometres from the coast.

It’s little wonder why people like Nancy Anningson, the Ecology Action Centre’s senior co-ordinator of coastal adaptation, are pushing for governments to start preparing for the inevitable.

“What we need to do is adapt, and that’s for the (infrastructure) that already exists, and protect, which is for the future — like protecting ecosystems, protecting us from putting ourselves where we shouldn’t be.”

In Nova Scotia, where sea level rise is projected to be the highest, a bill called the Coastal Protection Act was tabled in March and aims to legislate some of the items on the protection side such as limiting coastal developments and protecting coastal ecosystems like wetlands and dunes and marshes that buffer storms and protect the coastline.

Anningson said while governments are catching on to the protection piece, there is little being done to adapt homes and infrastructure that are currently in danger.

“The next step is to start to figure that out … and there are options for how to adapt as long as we acknowledge this is happening and prepare,” she said.

Some of those options include things like moving or raising structures, or waterproofing basements.

“We need to get information out to people and make them more aware of how this is impacting them and where the biggest risks are,” Anningson said. “We need to start working on that stuff, because this is happening.”

As for reducing the worst case scenarios presented by sea level rise, James said the only way is to put the entire globe, not just Canada, on a pathway of low carbon emissions.

“That’s what will reduce climate change and reduce the impacts of climate change,” he said. SOURCE

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Critics blast a proposal to curb climate change by halting population growth

More than 11,000 scientists signed a paper arguing the world needs to stabilize or gradually reduce the global population.

A crowd of people.
UNSPLASH / CHUTTERSNAP

More than 11,000 scientists from a broad range of disciplines signed a new editorial declaring a “climate emergency,” but other researchers immediately criticized one of the proposed remedies: halting population growth.

“Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year, or more than 200,000 per day, the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced,” reads the piece published in BioScience on Tuesday.

The authors note that effective means of lowering fertility rates include making family-planning services more widely available, improving education for girls and young women, and increasing gender equality.

But rich nations generally already have flat or declining birth rates, so the proposal largely seems directed at fast-growing developing nations in Africa and Asia. Specifically, the UN projects that nine countries will account for more than half of projected growth between now and 2050, including (in descending order) India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt, and the US (where migration is expected to be the main driver of growth).

“A bunch of white people in the developed world saying population should be reduced is the definition of an imperialist framing,” Arvind Ravikumar, an assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said on Twitter.

Joseph Majkut, a climate scientist and director of climate policy at the Niskanen Center, a think tank based in Washington, DC, says the suggestion is highly problematic from a political standpoint. It feeds directly into the perception among conservatives that “climate science and its conclusions are the product of an ideological movement,” one that prioritizes nature over humans.

A scientific rationale for a smaller world population could also be abused to justify more aggressive tactics of population control, or racist attitudes toward growing parts of the developing world. To some, the proposal drew to mind darker periods in the environmental movement, when various organizations and figures promoted pro-eugenics and anti-immigration views.

The UN projects that global population could grow from around 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050, and peak around the end of the century at 11 billion.

Fewer people producing less in greenhouse-gas emissions could make some difference in the danger that climate change poses over time. But whether we end up with 9, 10, or 11 billion people in the coming decades, the world will still be pumping out increasingly risky amounts of climate pollution if we don’t fundamentally fix the underlying energy, transportation, and food systems.

Others note inconsistencies in the BioScience paper’s proposed remedies to climate change. Notably, the authors also say the world needs to shift economic priorities away from growth in gross domestic product, and toward meeting basic human needs and reducing inequality.

However, rising GDP levels in many parts of the world reflect declining inequality as poor people in developing nations rise toward the middle class, says Jesse Reynolds, a fellow in environmental law and policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. And at least during the early stages, economic development is often correlated with declines in birth rates, so success at slowing GDP growth may complicate efforts to slow population growth.  

Many prominent names in climate science are conspicuously absent from the list of signatories, and many researchers who did add their names are in fields outside climate and energy. One notable name that does appear is James Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia who is considered the father of climate research for his early and influential modeling studies. 

SOURCE

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