Climate Change: If Canada Was Sweden

Image result for greta thunberg climate strike sweden
Greta Thunberg with her “school strike for the climate” sign. Photo: AP Photo/Francois Mori

When Greta Thunberg began her Friday climate strikes on August 20, 2018, she promised to continue her weekly protests until Sweden reduced carbon emissions in line its Paris Agreement commitments. Since then, her legendary rise to become the world’s leading environmental activist has propelled millions to call for more ambitious action on the global climate emergency. In Canada, a million of us hit the streets on September 27 crying out for aggressive climate policy that matches the scope and severity of the climate crisis we are facing.

If Canada Was Sweden

There are many similarities between Canada and Sweden. Geographically, both countries are located in the northerly part of the northern hemisphere. Both have small populations living largely in urban centres but also widely scattered in rural areas. Both have a large living space per capita. So how do both countries compare on climate policy and emissions reduction? Barry Saxifrage provides some answers in his recent piece in the National Observer.

Annual GHG Emissions

Ten years ago, Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord pledging to reduce its GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. We will miss that goal by a country mile. We’re actually 20% above our target.

The main culprit killing any hope for reducing emissions on a national scale is Alberta which shows an alarming increase of 58%. Alberta makes up 11.6% of Canada’s population but it produces a whopping 37.5% of our GHG emissions. By comparison, Ontario is the most populous province with 38.3% of the population but only 23.3% of Canada’s GHGs.

The Saxifrage chart (above right) compares the three provinces recently visited by Greta—B.C., Quebec and Alberta—to Sweden which has scaled down its pollution by 26% during the same time frame.

“Sweden’s efforts show that it is clearly possible for wealthy northerners to achieve the kinds of pollution reductions we promised – and a whole lot more. Heck, the U.K. has managed to pull off a 41 per cent reduction since 1990,” writes Saxifrage.

Emissions Per Person

This Saxifrage chart shows climate pollution per person for Sweden and the same three provinces.

The Swedes again come out on top in a comparison of tonnes of CO² per person with Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

  • Global average – 6.2 tCO²
  • Sweden -5.2 tCO²
  • Quebec – 9.4 tCO²
  • B.C. – 12.9 tCO²
  • Alberta – 64.1 tCO²

Alberta is 10 times higher than the global average and 12 times higher than Sweden. The oil and gas sector dwarfs every other sector of the province’s economy.

Under the Paris Accord, Canada has committed to a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). By refusing to do its share of the heavy lifting, Alberta single-handedly  threatens to kill all of Canada’s climate goals.

In a previous piece, Saxifrage shows how our national carbon budget is “being eaten up by climate pollution from Alberta’s oilsands industry.”

The emissions gap between Swedes and Canadians is sure to widen as the Kenney government in Alberta doubles down on the unrelenting expansion of oilsands production. Similarly British Columbians face the grim prospect of more pollution resulting from the further development of LNG projects.

Driving

Many people reading this subtite will think immediately that comparing the driving and flying habits of Swedes and Canadians is an unfair comparison. We have much greater distances to travel. But Saxifrage takes this into account by comparing the amount of pollution per kilometre for the average passenger vehicle.

Our average Canadian vehicle dumps 206 grams of CO² per kilometre into the atmosphere. This converts to 4,850 kilometres of driving for each ton of emissions.

Swedish cars fare much better. They produce 139 grams per kilometre and can drive 7,200 kilometres for each ton they emit—50% better than their Canadian counterpart.

The climate impacts of driving and transportation in general are increasingly under the microscope as we struggle to remain within the global carbon budget. Using more efficient travelling modes—buses, rail, EVs, car pooling—will stretch our distance travelled per tonne of CO².

Not Climate-Perfect

As Greta has indicated quite openly, Sweden is not climate-perfect. There is much room for improvement. On flying alone, Swedes pollute three times more than the global average. In comparison, Canadians are at 4.6 times the global average.

The latest environmental movement sweeping Europe and Scandinavia is flygskam, an anti-flying movement that started in Sweden.  Flygskam translates to ‘flying shame’. And Greta’s decision to stop flying is shining the light on this trend. “I’ve decided to stop flying because I want to practice as I preach, to create opinion and to lower my own emissions. One person who stops flying will not make a difference. But if a large number of people do then it will. It sends a message that we are in a crisis and have to change our behaviour,” says Greta Thunberg. SOURCE

The climate impacts of driving and transportation in general are increasingly under the microscope as we struggle to remain within the global carbon budget. Using more efficient travelling modes—buses, rail, EVs, car pooling—will stretch our distance travelled per tonne of CO².

Not Climate-Perfect

As Greta has indicated quite openly, Sweden is not climate-perfect. There is much room for improvement. On flying alone, Swedes pollute three times more than the global average. In comparison, Canadians are at 4.6 times the global average.

The latest environmental movement sweeping Europe and Scandinavia is flygskam, an anti-flying movement that started in Sweden.  Flygskam translates to ‘flying shame’. And Greta’s decision to stop flying is shining the light on this trend. “I’ve decided to stop flying because I want to practice as I preach, to create opinion and to lower my own emissions. One person who stops flying will not make a difference. But if a large number of people do then it will. It sends a message that we are in a crisis and have to change our behaviour,” says Greta Thunberg.

The Billionaires Are Getting Nervous

Bill Gates and others warn that higher taxes would lead to lower growth. They have their facts backward.

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Bill Gates in New York on Wednesday.
Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

When Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, the top marginal tax rate on personal income was 70 percent, tax rates on capital gains and corporate income were significantly higher than at present, and the estate tax was a much more formidable levy. None of that dissuaded Mr. Gates from pouring himself into his business, nor discouraged his investors from pouring in their money.

Yet he is now the latest affluent American to warn that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan for much higher taxes on the rich would be bad not just for the wealthy but for the rest of America, too.

Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, suggested on Wednesday that a big tax increase would result in less economic growth. “I do think if you tax too much you do risk the capital formation, innovation, U.S. as the desirable place to do innovative companies — I do think you risk that,” he said.

Other perturbed plutocrats have made the same point with less finesse. The billionaire investor Leon Cooperman was downright crude when he declared that Ms. Warren was wrecking the American dream. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, complained on CNBC that Ms. Warren “uses some pretty harsh words” about the rich. He added, “Some would say vilifies successful people.”

Let’s get a few things straight.

The wealthiest Americans are paying a much smaller share of income in taxes than they did a half-century ago. In 1961, Americans with the highest incomes paid an average of 51.5 percent of that income in federal, state and local taxes. In 2011, Americans with the highest incomes paid just 33.2 percent of their income in taxes, according to a study by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman published last year. Data for the last few years is not yet available but would most likely show a relatively similar tax burden.

The federal government needs a lot more money. Decades of episodic tax cuts have left the government deeply in debt: The Treasury is on pace to borrow more than $1 trillion during the current fiscal year to meet its obligations. The government will need still more money for critical investments in infrastructure, education and the social safety net.

This is not an endorsement of the particulars of Ms. Warren’s tax plan. There is plenty of room to debate how much money the government needs, and how best to raise that money. The specific proposals by Ms. Warren and one of her rivals, Senator Bernie Sanders, to impose a new federal tax on wealth are innovations that require careful consideration.

But a necessary part of the solution is to collect more from those Americans who have the most.

And there is little evidence to justify Mr. Gates’s concern that tax increases of the magnitude proposed by Ms. Warren and other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination would meaningfully discourage innovation, investment or economic growth.

The available evidence strongly suggests that taxation exerts a minor influence on innovation. Experts have an imperfect understanding of what drives innovation, but taxation isn’t in the same weight class as factors including education, research and a consistent legal system.

Congress has slashed taxation three times in the past four decades, each time for the stated purpose of spurring innovation, investment and growth. Each time, the purported benefits failed to materialize. President Trump initiated the most recent experiment in 2017. The International Monetary Fund concluded this year that it had not worked.

Moreover, while higher tax rates may weigh modestly against innovation and investment, that calculus is incomplete. It ignores the question of what the government does with the additional money. It also ignores the possibility that higher taxes could result in more innovation.

A study of American patent holders found that innovators tend to come from wealthy families, to grow up in communities of innovators and to receive high-quality educations in math and science. Mr. Gates, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in American history, fits the profile: He grew up in an affluent family and received the best education money could buy.

The implication of that study, and related research, is that public investment, funded by taxation, could give more kids the kinds of advantages enjoyed by the young Mr. Gates.

There is no doubt that it is theoretically possible to raise taxes to prohibitive heights: If people had to pay a tax of 100 percent of the next dollar they earned, they would be likely to call it a day.

But the alarm bells are out of all proportion with Ms. Warren’s plan. Describing his concerns on Wednesday, Mr. Gates at one point suggested he might be asked to pay $100 billion.

The Warren campaign calculates that under Ms. Warren’s plan, Mr. Gates would owe $6.379 billion in taxes next year. Notably, that is less than Mr. Gates earned from his investments last year. Even under Ms. Warren’s plan, there’s a good chance Mr. Gates would get richer.

To his credit, Mr. Gates has said that he thinks the wealthy should pay higher taxes. But that’s not how he behaved on Wednesday. He can demonstrate that he’s serious about tax increases by setting aside the hyperbole and engaging in principled and factual debate about the details. SOURCE

 

Modern vegetables and fruits are significantly less nutritious than even a generation ago

Image result for fruits and vegetables soil

If you want to eat food that is nutrient-dense, and optimally nutritious (and if you have any interest whatsoever in growing food), you’re going to love this month’s WHOLE Life Action Hour interview with Erik Cutter.

Erik is a regenerative urban farmer and chef with a background in biochemistry and oncology, who starred in the award-winning film, The Need To GROW. His passion is helping people to replenish their bodies with the most nutrient-packed foods on the planet.

In the modern world, we face a “double whammy” nutritional crisis. Our soil is increasingly depleted, resulting in dramatically lower levels of critical nutrients in our crops, including protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C, and others. And our food is so hyper-processed that most of the nutrition is stripped out of it by the time it reaches our dinner plates. But the good news is, you can turn all this around — contributing to a healthier planet while saturating your body with the full spectrum of nutrients you need to thrive. Join Erik Cutter, renowned urban farmer, and health advocate, to find out how you can heal your body, and your world — deliciously!

SOURCE

Forged in Fire: California’s Lessons for a Green New Deal

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2018 file photo, flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif. A federal hazard tree-removal program will remove destroyed trees from last year's deadly Camp Fire that remain on private property and could fall on public roads and facilities. But the Chico Enterprise-Record reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency program will not take down trees that could fall on homes. Some arborists have estimated there are half a million to a million burned trees remaining from the fire that wiped out 14,000 homes and killed 85 last November. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

Flames climb trees as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2018. Photo: Noah Berger/AP

WE WERE JUST TAKING PICTURES. Of the ash, stray bricks, and weeds. Of twisted metal and charred patio furniture. Of the pine trees still standing on the edge of the lots, their towering trunks now charcoal black. Of the lonely white brick fireplace in the middle of it all, the only surviving structure, metal pokers hanging expectantly by the grate.

“Get the hell off my property!”

The words came bellowing from a burly man who had just pulled up to the pile of ash that once was his home in Paradise, California. As he shouted a litany of complaints, it became clear that his rage wasn’t only reserved for us trespassers — and there have been plenty who have gone to Paradise to gaze at the eerie emptiness where a thriving community once stood, before it was decimated by California’s deadliest fire one year ago.

The target was myriad forces that had conspired to twist the knife, again and again, on his already wrenching property loss — from the insurance company that wouldn’t pay up, to the county that wouldn’t let him clean up, to the state that wanted his (now contaminated) well to be sealed up. His rage was also directed at the absence of decent temporary housing for fire victims like him, not to mention the electric utility that had started the blaze and was still evading responsibility.

When the complaints petered out, I approached the man to introduce myself and apologize for our intrusion. But as I got closer, I felt his volatility: I have been in many disaster-struck communities and know how quickly the gale-force of emotion these events churn up can direct itself at the closest available target. We wished him luck and left.

The encounter was a reminder of the kind of stress that is in the air in the parts of California recently scorched by fire, as well as in the communities that have welcomed thousands of newly homeless neighbors to towns now bursting at the seams. The intersecting hardships experienced by so many in the region also explain why, days before the one-year anniversary of the deadly Camp Fire that burned down Paradise and killed 86 people, local politicians in neighboring Chico unveiled a plan calling for the small city to adopt its own Green New Deal.

Like its national inspiration, the Chico Green New Deal framework marries rapid decarbonization targets with calls for more affordable housing; a safe and sustainable food system; investments in “clean, 21st century” public transit; green jobs creation, including projects earmarked for the poorest residents; and much more.

Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy.

“Your city council has heard the call of its community that has resounded locally and across the nation,” said Chico Vice Mayor Alex Brown when the plan was announced. “We are choosing to walk the walk of this movement and to take the leadership being demanded of us.” In an interview, Brown told me that the Camp Fire’s impact on both Paradise and Chico was a glimpse of the future unless action is taken to both radically lower emissions and build “communities that are more resilient to these shifts.” Brown is well aware that a small city like hers isn’t going to make much of a dent in global emissions. But, she said, “We can demonstrate what a Green New Deal looks like at the local level.

The Chico plan is one of many similar local initiatives that have sprung up in the year since the Sunrise Movement occupied the office of then-prospective House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with young demonstrators demanding that the Democratic Party embrace a sweeping Green New Deal to meet the twin crises of climate disruption and deepening inequality. Since then, as the Green New Deal proposal has picked up momentum in the Democratic primaries, several states and big cities have unveiled their own frameworks, including Maine and Seattle, where city council recently passed a resolution that included the city’s most ambitious climate justice targets to date. It also pledged to create an oversight board to hold the city to its commitments, a body that will be made up of representatives from communities directly impacted by racial, economic, and environmental injustice, as well as climate experts and representatives from trade unions and green groups.

And yet the contribution now coming from humble Chico — a scrappy northern California college town with a population of approximately 100,000 — may be the most politically significant. Because the Chico Green New Deal is based directly on this region’s hard-won experience of living through the 2018 inferno; it was forged, quite literally, in fire.

Ever since the Green New Deal landed on the political map, liberals have attacked it for its supposedly impractical scope and ambition. Fighting poverty, racism, and homelessness are worthy goals, we have been told — but what do they have to do with lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Surely a carbon-centric approach — like a simple tax or cap-and-trade and some narrow regulations on polluters — would be more likely to succeed. And besides, connecting greenhouse-gas reductions with building a fairer society just confirms Republican beliefs that climate change is a vast left-wing plot: Better to focus exclusively on pollution and worry about the rest down the road. Conservative Chico city council members have gone on the offensive against the Green New Deal with precisely this kind of attack.

PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire October 21, 2019 in Paradise, California. It has been one year since the the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise, California charring over 150,000 acres, killed 85 people and destroyed over 18,000 homes and businesses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An aerial view of a destroyed neighborhood in Paradise, Calif., on Oct. 21, 2019, one year after the Camp Fire. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yet Chico’s lived experience over the past year is a devastating rebuke to this line of criticism. As the community that housed the vast majority of people displaced by the Camp Fire, Chico shows that there is no way to cope with climate breakdown without a simultaneous shift to a very different kind of economy, one that is willing to make major nonmarket investments in housing, transit, health (including mental health), water, electricity, and more. MORE