Scientific Breakthrough: MIT Solves Two Huge Energy Problems

Battery Lab

While methane has recently started to grab some attention for its contribution to climate change, carbon dioxide remains the main culprit that scientists point their finger at. Because of its bad-guy status, there have been understandably many attempts to capture and store, or even utilize this CO2. But so far, none of these attempts has demonstrated potential for large-scale adoption. That is, up until now.

Now, a new kind of battery just might fill this need.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have published a paper that details the mechanism of a battery device that can suck out the carbon dioxide from the air, store it, and then release it for sequestration or storage and subsequent sale: the oil and gas industry uses CO2 to improve well output.

The principle of the device is ingeniously simple: as the battery charges, it sucks in carbon dioxide. During discharge, the CO2 is released into the ground. The battery itself is made up of arrays of electrodes with gaps between the arrays so the gas can enter the device. Each electrode is coated with a carbon nanotube layer that enables an electrochemical reaction when carbon dioxide comes into contact with the surface of the electrodes. The guarantee for this contact is the fact the electrodes have a natural affinity for CO2, which means they attract the gas molecules when they enter the device.

“The greatest advantage of this technology over most other carbon capture or carbon absorbing technologies is the binary nature of the adsorbent’s affinity to carbon dioxide,” explains one of the authors, Sahag Voskian, as quoted by New Atlas. “This binary affinity allows capture of carbon dioxide from any concentration, including 400 parts per million (the levels in the atmosphere), and allows its release into any carrier stream, including 100 percent CO2.”

The process is called electro-swing adsorption and, according to the authors of the paper, the device utilizing it could be economically feasible at a cost of between $50 and $100 per ton of carbon dioxide. What’s more, Sahag Voskian and T. Alan Hatton say, the device is very easy to use thanks to its simple design and minimal additional equipment, which is limited to a power source for the charging and a destination for the electricity, a so-called sink.

If the electro-swing device lives up to the promise it would save thebiggest problem of carbon capture and storage: the prohibitively highcosts. The costliest part of the process is the capture. The Carbon Capture and Storage Association estimates the cost of capturing carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning at about US$70-102 per ton.

The same association predicts these could fall to around US$40-57 over the next few years, with hopes that carbon capture technology will follow the cost-falling path of lithium ion batteries. While it is far from certain it will work out that way, inventions such as the carbon-swing device are offering solutions.

For now, based on CCSA’s cost projections for carbon capture, the creators of the electro-swing battery will need to lower the upper limit of their cost range. But with its simple design and plug-and-play nature, the device could have a bright future in carbon capture. SOURCE

‘Canada will benefit from climate change’: comments from Ford appointee draw fire

Joe Oliver, the chair of Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator, Joe Oliver, seen here in 2015, wrote that Canada has “enormous agricultural potential if the land warms up” and “let’s not ignore the greater personal comfort of living in a more hospitable climate.”

The agency that operates Ontario’s electricity system is distancing itself from controversial climate-change comments made by its chair, Joe Oliver, a former federal finance minister appointed to the board last spring by Premier Doug Ford’s government.

Concerns about how seriously the environmental challenge is viewed by the province grew Monday as opposition parties — who last week took aim at Energy Minister Greg Rickford for quoting from a website denying the scientific consensus on climate change — flagged remarks from Oliver.

Oliver, 79, leads the board of the Independent Electricity System Operator, which runs day-to-day needs of the power grid and plans for its future needs. The agency, for example, is handling compensation for developers of more than 750 renewable energy contracts cancelled by the Ford government in July 2018.

In a commentary written for the National Post on August 15 and headlined “Canada will benefit from climate change,” Oliver referred to a study on its impact by Moody’s, a U.S. business and financial services company, and wrote the country has “enormous agricultural potential if the land warms up” and “let’s not ignore the greater personal comfort of living in a more hospitable climate.”

He also argued Canada is responsible for just 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and thus “cannot achieve a measurable impact on global temperatures.”

The New Democrats and Green party said Oliver’s remarks are troublesome amid escalating warnings about climate change from the scientific community and the United Nations, which has appointed former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney its special envoy on climate.

“To suggest, somehow, that Canada is going to benefit from global warming is the height of insanity. And it is a very, very dangerous opinion to have,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “If he was being flip, shame on him, because this is nothing to joke about.”

The Independent Electricity System Operator said it “has no comment on personal views expressed by Mr. Oliver” and noted “addressing non-traditional threats to grid reliability such as climate change and cyber-attacks is part of the IESO’s corporate strategy to ensure the reliability of Ontario’s electricity system.” SOURCE

5 things everyone can do to protect the planet’s soil

hand in soil

Here’s why soil is one of our most valuable natural resources and what you can do to support it.

Unless you happen to be a farmer or a gardener, chances are you don’t think about soil very often. Even among the eco-minded, we generally think more about the water and air and forests and animals before we think about soil.

But just like we require healthy water and air, so do we require healthy soil. As the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) explains: “Soil provides ecosystem services critical for life: soil acts as a water filter and a growing medium; provides habitat for billions of organisms, contributing to biodiversity; and supplies most of the antibiotics used to fight diseases. Humans use soil as a holding facility for solid waste, filter for wastewater, and foundation for our cities and towns. Finally, soil is the basis of our nation’s agroecosystems which provide us with feed, fiber, food and fuel.”

And as the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) puts it, “Soil is essential to life.”

Which is why these two soil societies are asking everyone to join in celebrating World Soil Day on December 5th, a day to focus attention on the importance of protecting soil as the valuable, natural resource it is.

Now the question is: How does one possibly celebrate soil? Go to a field and throw it a party? Buy some perfume that smells like damp soil? (OK, admittedly that’s a weird one, but I had to get a mention in of one of my favorite scents, M2 Black March, that I affectionately call my “dirt perfume” – it smells just like a scoop of soil from the forest floor.)

Anyway, as it turns out, there is plenty we can do to celebrate the soil, without being farmers or soil scientists. Here are some of the things that the ASA and SSSA recommend:

1. Reduce food waste

The food we buy at the grocery store impacts the entire food supply system. One of the easiest ways we can support the soil is by limiting the amount of food that ends up in our garbage. All the food that ends up in our shopping carts requires land, water, nutrients and energy to produce. By consuming more and throwing away less, we will prevent valuable nutrients from ending up in a landfill.

Reducing food waste has also been called “One of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming.”

2. Eat a diverse diet

By eating different types of foods, we can help create demand for a wide variety of agricultural products, which is better for soil. Food diversity helps with biodiversity and soil fertility when land is used to grow multiple crops. For protein sources, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends varying “your protein routine.”

In general, eating a diverse diet is better for our health too – “eating the rainbow” (a variety of color in fruits and vegetables) helps the body get a great assortment of nutrients.

3. Compost

So maybe our eyes were bigger than our appetites at the grocery store, and we end up with food we can’t finish. Instead of throwing it in the garbage, consider investing in a compost system! Composting can return nutrients in food back to nature. And, compost will be great for our gardens next growing season.

See more of our composting stories here.

4. Read labels on lawn and garden products

Walking through the aisles of any home improvement or garden store, there is a seemingly endless array of products for our lawns and gardens. No matter which product we end up selecting, the most important step before applying is to thoroughly read the label and all instructions. Over- and under-application of the product can both cause problems.

And to that end, TreeHugger advocates for all-natural weed and creature control:

• 6 homemade herbicides: Kill the weeds without killing the Earth
• 8 natural & homemade insecticides: Save your garden without killing the Earth

5. Perform soil tests

If we are looking to fertilize our lawn or garden, we need to know what nutrients are already in the soil before applying more. We might be able to save money and apply less fertilizer. Or, we might just need to add one specific nutrient, and not others. A simple way to get reliable results is to have our soil tested. Local university extension services can help provide information on testing soil. It’s usually a matter of scooping up soil from a few areas of the yard and sending it in to the lab!

So there you go, see? You can celebrate soil! Here’s to a happy and sustainable World Soil Day.

5 reasons BC needs a law to protect the coast

Third Beach, Tofino (Photo: Michael Gabelmann)
Top photo: Third Beach, Tofino, BC (Photo: Michael Gabelmann via Flickr Creative Commons)

December 3, 2019

Who is minding the coast in BC? You might be surprised to learn there are some big gaps – protecting shoreline habitat, working with Indigenous governments to legally implement marine planning , managing the cumulative effects of tenures for docks, utilities, log handling, shellfish aquaculture, and a range of other commercial uses…it all adds up to vulnerability for BC coastlines and the communities that depend on them.

Another problem area is the effect of climate change on the coasts, which we wrote about recently, following the release of the expert report on the global state of oceans and coasts.

West Coast and CPAWS join forces in new campaign

Despite its extensive responsibilities and the sheer importance of the coast and ocean to all who live here, the provincial government has no coordinated coastal strategy to guide regulation and policy. That is why we have launched a campaign with our partners at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS BC) – Protect the Coast.

We’re calling for the creation of a new provincial Coastal Strategy and accompanying BC Coastal Protection Act, to be co-developed with Indigenous governments and coordinated with federal and local governments, as all orders of government share jurisdiction.

A new Act could address many issues, but here are a few important reasons why these innovations matter for BC’s coast.

Five key reasons to establish a BC Coastal Protection Act

1. Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and upholding Indigenous laws

Often the province develops legislation and policy without proper Indigenous involvement. A solution is to co-develop a BC Coastal Protection Act jointly with First Nations in BC. The new BC Environmental Assessment Act is an example that shows how this process can work.

Provincial coastal and marine management does not currently recognize Indigenous law and/or provide adequate space for Indigenous nations to articulate their coastal governance laws. A new Act can recognize Indigenous legal principles, building on successful experiences such as the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act, and marine plans such as the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) plans.

2. Integrated governance and co-governance

With both the federal and provincial governments having constitutional responsibility over BC’s coast, First Nations having inherent jurisdiction, and local governments having an active role, there’s a big risk of governments working at cross purposes or blaming each other for failing to address problems. The BC coastal and marine environment needs more effective decision-making at the regional level, to get the different orders of government talking together. A new law can fill that gap.

One positive example is the government-to-government decision-making body established to address aquaculture in the Broughton Archipelago. Composed of the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw/Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations and three provincial Ministries, this body reached agreement to protect and restore wild salmon stocks. Their recommendations included establishing a farm-free migration corridor in the Broughton, allowing an orderly transition plan for the 17 salmon farms in the Broughton area, and plans for creating employment and other opportunities for local communities and workers. Two fish farm operators in the region, Mowi Canada West (formerly Marine Harvest Canada) and Cermaq Canada, also agreed to the plan. The federal Minister of Fisheries commended the work of the body.

At present, the role of most First Nations in coastal management is not formally recognized by the BC government. A Coastal Protection Act could allow co-governance through the establishment of a new provincial Coastal Commission, for example. Alternatively, regional co-governance bodies can be created, following examples such as the Haida Gwaii Management Council and Archipelago Management Board. Both bodies exercise decision-making responsibilities in tandem with the provincial and federal governments, respectively.

There also needs to be a link between more strategic level management and planning, and action on the ground. An Act can set out a process for co-developing coastal and marine objectives that can then be administered by all orders of government within their spheres of authority. A well-known example of this is found in the California Coastal Act and Commission.

3. Preventing further loss of coastal habitat and protecting vital habitats

Foreshore habitat continues to be lost in BC as a result of development (with estimates of 50 – 90% losses of coastal wetlands in major estuaries since records started being kept). A new Act can create provincial regulation or policy to prohibit or prevent coastal habitat loss and better protect the foreshore by coordinating with coastal flood management activities, and supporting nature-based measures to deal with coastal flooding.

Currently BC lags behind other jurisdictions: this past spring Nova Scotia passed a Coastal Protection Act, and down the Pacific coast Washington, Oregon and California all have coastal protection laws.

The State of Washington is currently using regulation and incentives to reduce overall rates of shoreline hardening. A recent report from the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria takes an in-depth look at Washington’s law and how it works to protect forage fish habitat, and how a new Act in BC might replicate this approach.

No comparable regulatory tool or policy exists in BC. And as a result, shoreline habitats, such as the beaches that forage fish and other species rely on, may be lost. A number of local governments have adopted Green ShoresTM policies that need provincial legislative support to be fully implemented.

A provincial Coastal Protection Act can also restrict building on the sensitive foreshore by developing requirements for coastal setbacks. The BC Riparian Areas Regulation does not apply in marine areas, and local governments that try to require setbacks and prohibit building seawalls have been challenged in court as lacking adequate jurisdiction as this court case shows. (The Islands Trust is appealing the decision)

4. Requiring binding and enforceable marine plans, and a new system of marine tenures

The province is at the forefront of best practice in marine spatial plans (MSP). The ecosystem-based Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP) plans developed for the central and north coasts, co-developed with Indigenous governments, are a cause for celebration. Older coastal plans such as this one developed for the Johnston-Bute coastal area also show provincial leadership.

Yet all these plans are voluntary, carry no consequences for non-compliance, and do not address the cumulative effects of tenure approvals. Without legislative backing and oversight, these plans risk being ignored.

The Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Council on Finfish Aquaculture emphasized that after expending so much time end energy to reach aquaculture siting decisions, there is a need to “Identify and apply appropriate B.C. regulatory tools to reinforce the direction provided on net-pen finfish aquaculture siting and tenure management in existing, approved marine spatial plans developed and approved by B.C and First Nations.”

The solution here is clear: a Coastal Protection Act can make marine plans legally binding and enforceable. Legislation often provides that plans are binding, such as the Mackenzie Valley Natural Resource Management Act, and the Ontario Far North Act.

5. Protecting and restoring the health of the marine environment

Poor marine environmental quality threatens fisheries, wild salmon, shellfish aquaculture, human health and recreation. More frequent beach closures and chronic fecal coliform contamination result from inadequate sewage and septic treatment.

A legal order or regulation in a new BC Act can establish management objectives for marine use designations and zones, just as the BC Land Act enables land use objectives and the BC Water Sustainability Act enables water objectives. The province could work with the federal government, as Fisheries and Oceans Canada may create marine environmental quality guidelines under the federal Oceans Act. To date, no such guidelines have been issued.

Protecting the health of the marine environment also means addressing the impacts of climate change on the coast. In BC, local governments are the primary managers of the current and anticipated impacts of sea level rise. They have responsibility for most coastal dikes as well as development in coastal areas.

The provincial government has provided guidance about the rate of sea level rise. While the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy provides overall information about climate impacts, there is no clear framework for implementing mitigation measures.

From a governance and flood risk management perspective, the connection between provincial and local governments is made through the Flood Hazard Area Land Use Management Guidelines, which are developed as policy to support the implementation of the Local Government Act. A coastal protection law can establish a legal pathway for implementing flood management measures that work with nature, and help preserve coastal habitat.

Tell us what you think!

We’d like to hear from you about what coastal problems the government can tackle and how a new law and strategy can help. Please reply in the comments section below and fuel our campaign with examples of gaps in our coastal and marine protection laws that could be filled by a new law.

Greta Thunberg: ‘The People in Power Refuse to Listen… We Will Make Them Hear Us’

A dispatch from New York, where young climate strikers are planning a revolution they say world leaders can’t ignore.

Greta Thunberg at the NYC climate strike
Greta Thunberg speaks to climate strikers in New York City: ‘We will hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and will make the world leaders act. We can and we will.’ Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, AP Photo.

he millions of young people who skipped school on Friday to protest the failure of world leaders to fix the climate emergency had a message for politicians like Justin Trudeau — prove that you actually care about an entire generation’s future or else suffer the consequences.

“What’s the point in educating ourselves and learning the facts when the people in power refuse to listen, to be educated, and pay attention to the facts,” I heard Greta Thunberg tell a crowd in New York’s Battery Park that organizers of the Global Climate Strikes at one point estimated at 250,000 people. “Everywhere I have been the situation is more or less the same, the people in power who write beautiful words are the same, the number of politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies are the same, and the promises are the same and the lies are the same.”

Thunberg earlier this month travelled to New York on a zero-emissions boat. Several days earlier she told U.S. congressmembers that “this is the time to wake-up.” The 16-year-old climate change icon from Sweden said the leaders gathering next Monday for a UN emergency meeting on climate change ignore young people at their peril.

“Do you think they will hear us?” she asked the crowd of schoolchildren, teens and their adult allies. “We will make them hear us.”

Trudeau could easily fit the cynical description of politicians offered by Thunberg. In June, the Liberal government passed a motion declaring that we are in a climate emergency, deeming the warming that’s affecting Canada two times as fast as the rest of the world a “real and urgent crisis.” It then approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline the very next day.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer would likely also qualify for putting forward a climate plan that includes no actual commitments or targets for reducing emissions. Then again, so might NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green party leader Elizabeth May, some observers argue, for failing to call out the fossil fuel industry with the forcefulness required.

The hundreds of thousands of youth who marched in New York, as well as the millions more in 150 cities around the world (including hundreds of people in Vancouver), are sick of politicians lying to them.

The homemade signs in New York offered a glimpse into the anxiety young people feel about the climate emergency, as well as their desire for radical change to avert it: “Don’t let Gen Z be the end”, “The Earth is on fucking fire”, “Will there be a happy ending?”, “Stop the burning”, “We have every reason to worry.”

At one point I saw a young girl carrying a sign that said, “What if we held billionaires accountable for the massive amount of pollution they cause.” Climate strikers are fed up with those in power publicly telling them soothing tales about innovation and progress while making deals with corporations behind closed doors to maintain the status quo. “Stop sugar-coating global warming,” read one teenager’s sign. Nearby, a girl who couldn’t have been older than 10 marched solemnly with a sign that read: “We are all literally going to fucking die.”

851px version of Climate strikers in NYC
Hundreds of thousands of youth marched in New York on Sept. 20. Photo by Geoff Dembicki.

Varshini Prakash told an earlier gathering in Manhattan’s Foley Square it’s no coincidence that young people around the world are feeling panic-stricken and isolated about an emergency that threatens the natural systems upon which human civilization depends.

“We’ve grown up seeing the political establishment fail us, and for twice as long as I have been alive on this planet we have known about the crisis,” said the co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, which has worked with Canadian author Naomi Klein, progressive superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others to push for an economy-transforming Green New Deal. “The wealthy and the powerful have profited off of pollution, have lied to millions of people about the science, have choked our democracy with their big oil dollars and stolen our futures.”

Prakash’s voice became angrier and more intense. She clenched the mic. “Today, this generation is taking over,” she declared. “Our days of waiting for action, our days of waiting to be heard are over.”

She acknowledged that though the climate strikes were a good start, there is a long road ahead: “We’ve got to be honest with each-other, if we want to survive, if we want to win, there are not enough of us here yet… we have to bring society and our economy to a standstill, politicians are going to have to know that they are going to win or lose based on where they stand on this issue.”

She had a clear warning for political leaders who stand in the way: “We are not just some young people skipping school or some adults who are not going to work, we are a wave of change. We are unstoppable.”

The crowd raptly listened to every word. “We will rise to the challenge,” Thunberg said. “We will hold those responsible for this crisis accountable and will make the world leaders act. We can and we will.” The teens around me roared with approval.  [Tyee]  SOURCE

How the youth-led climate strikes became a global mass movement

The Global Climate Strike is the result of a whole new generation taking bold action and could be the turning point for grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.

Image result for waging nonviolence: The Global Climate Strike is the result of a whole new generation taking bold action and could be the turning point for grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.

It began as a call to action from a group of youth activists scattered across the globe, and soon became what is shaping up to be the largest planet-wide protest for the climate the world has ever seen.

The Global Climate Strike, which kicks off on Sept. 20, will not be the first time people all over the world have taken action for the climate on a single day. But if things play out the way organizers hope, it could mark a turning point for the grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.

“Strikes are happening almost everywhere you can think of,” said Jamie Margolin, a high school student from Seattle who played a role in initiating this global movement. “People are participating in literally every place in the world.”

“Suddenly there’s this entire new generation of activists calling out everyone no matter who they are for not doing enough, and that’s woken people up.”

Starting Friday and continuing throughout the following week, thousands or possibly millions of people will participate in actions calling on governments to address the climate crisis. From elementary school students organizing walk-outs, to experienced activists planning nonviolent disruption in major cities, people will call attention to the moral urgency of climate change by interrupting business as usual.

“It’s a galvanizing moment for the climate movement, which frankly has been losing the battle up to now,” said Jake Woodier of the UK Student Climate Network, which is organizing for the strike in London and other cities across the United Kingdom. “Suddenly there’s this entire new generation of activists calling out everyone no matter who they are for not doing enough, and that’s woken people up.”

As is nearly always the case for large social movements, momentum for the Climate Strike came from many different people in different places. But if its origins can be traced to a specific event, it would probably be a 2018 march spearheaded by the youth-led organization Zero Hour, which Margolin co-founded a year earlier with a small group of other young activists — mainly students of color.

The Zero Hour youth climate march took place on July 21 of last year in Washington, D.C. and was preceded two days earlier by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill, along with other student-led events all over the United States. Hundreds of young people joined the D.C. action despite rainy weather, drawing considerable media attention and shining a spotlight on how Generation Z is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. But what hardly anyone could have guessed was that behind the scenes, Zero Hour had put in motion a series of events that would lead to an even larger, worldwide mobilization led by young people.

Jamie Margolin speaking to a crowd of youth climate activists. (Facebook/Zero Hour) 

On the other side of the Atlantic, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, 15 years old at the time, had been reading news about Zero Hour online and was inspired by its leaders’ vision of a distinctively youth-led movement. She began following organizers like Margolin on social media, and soon the teens from different continents were communicating about climate activism over the internet. On August 20, 2018, Thunberg staged her first “climate strike,” skipping school to protest for climate action outside the Swedish parliament. The following month she launched the ongoing “Fridays for Future” strikes, inviting other students to join her in holding school walkouts every week.

“Greta Thunberg’s actions sparked a movement,” Woodier said. “In a world where we’re often made to feel individualized and atomized, that we’re small and can’t make a difference, she has been a massive inspiration to many young people.”

 Why desperation could be the key to tackling climate change

In late 2018, Thunberg began attending intergovernmental climate meetings in Europe, including a U.N. summit in Poland. She wasn’t the first young person to show up at the United Nations and call on leaders to take action, but there was something unique about her approach.

For one thing, Thunberg was decidedly more pointed than her predecessors in calling out policymakers’ inaction, telling the leaders in Poland, “You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is.” For thousands of people around the world who were fed up with decades of government inertia, her tone was a welcome change.

Moreover, several converging factors contributed to Thunberg’s activism coming at the perfect time. The climate movement has — over the last decade — been getting gradually better at organizing coordinated actions across continents, making possible the rapid spread of new tactics. At the same time, in the United States, the high school student-led March for Our Lives against gun violence provided a model for what a mass youth movement could look like. Finally, with extreme weather hammering nearly every part of the world, more people are waking up to the urgency of the climate crisis, making them receptive to Thunberg’s message. As a well-spoken member of the generation that will bear the costs of climate change more than any other alive today, Thunberg was the perfect movement spokesperson to harness the opportunity created by these events. Soon her addresses to world leaders were going viral on YouTube.

Meanwhile, the Fridays for Future movement was growing — especially in Europe, where it has had the most influence so far. In July, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cited pressure from youth activists as one reason her government plans to move more aggressively to curb carbon emissions. Across much of Europe, the strike movement has helped put climate change higher on the political agenda for both policymakers and voters. A Green Party surge in May’s E.U. parliamentary elections is possibly the most concrete sign yet of the movement’s impact. But the strikes quickly spread beyond Europe.

There are now nearly 700 strikes scheduled in the United States, and hundreds of others in 117 countries across the globe.

By early 2019, school strikes were taking place in countries including the United States, Brazil, India and Australia. Then, over the spring and summer, calls started coming for a new escalation of the movement — one led by youth, but with participation from people of all ages. The idea was for a worldwide strike where people would leave school, work or other daily tasks to join protests for climate action.

The date chosen to kick off the planet-wide strike coincides with the lead-up to an emergency climate summit, called by U.N. Secretary-Gen. António Guterres and is scheduled to begin in New York on Sept. 23. Many see this U.N. gathering — intended as an opportunity for countries to strengthen their goals under the Paris climate agreement — as being itself a direct reaction to the grassroots pressure governments are feeling.

“This climate action summit was called in response to the worsening climate crisis and pressure from the strike movement,” Woodier said. “That’s a reversal from the past, when climate organizers planned demonstrations in response to official events set in stone long beforehand.”

Greta Thunberg (center) joined other climate striking youth in New York City last month. (Twitter/@GretaThunberg) 

Thunberg has been invited to address the U.N. meeting, and a special youth summit will be attended by teens from around the world, including Margolin. On Aug. 28, Thunberg arrived in New York after crossing the Atlantic in an emissions-free yacht. She had barely set foot on U.S. soil before joining a youth-led climate protest outside the U.N. headquarters. Meanwhile, the Global Climate Strike has been endorsed by close to 200 organizations in the United States alone, and hundreds more internationally.

While the largest demonstrations will take place in major cities, strike actions are also making waves in smaller towns, even within fossil fuel-producing states. “I expect our growing local climate movement will bring out more people for the strike than we’ve ever seen before,” said Jeff Smith, co-chair of 350 Montana, one of several organization involved in planning a series of strike actions in Missoula. “I expect the crowds alone will be enough to dominate our local news cycle.”

In the United States, national organizations encouraging their members to join the strikes include Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, Oil Change International, MoveOn, Food and Water Watch and many others. According to the international climate group 350.org, there are now nearly 700 strikes scheduled in the United States, and hundreds of others in 117 countries across the globe.

 8 lessons for today’s youth-led movements from a decade of youth climate organizing

350.org has a good amount of experience with this type of international climate mobilization. The organization initiated the first truly large-scale day of action specifically devoted to climate change in October 2009. It took place in the lead-up to that year’s U.N. climate negotiations in Copenhagen and was meant to push delegates to adopt a strong, binding international climate treaty. The idea that such a goal could have been successful at that point may appear naïve in hindsight, but at the time it didn’t seem so unreasonable. The United States had recently elected Barack Obama as its president, and even many climate activists had yet to realize just how deeply entrenched fossil fuel money was in the halls of government.

Indeed, the 2009 day of global action was largely a festive, celebratory affair. Groups posed for photos with banners in front of melting alpine glaciers and other landmarks affected by climate change. There was lots of artwork and relatively few truly large marches. This made sense for a global movement that was just finding its feet — at a time when it genuinely seemed like world leaders might be gently prodded into doing the right thing. But with international progress on climate change largely stalled, legislative action in the United States nonexistent, and the ascendancy of right-wing leaders like Donald Trump, the mood of the climate movement has changed dramatically.

“Folks watching the science understand we are now in the runaway phase of climate catastrophe,” said Nadine Bloch, an organizer with #ShutDownDC, which is planning an action to bring work in the U.S. Capitol to a standstill next week. “The urgency of being on fire has finally been heeded by folks outside traditional activist communities.” The Global Climate Strike will take place just 10 years shy of the 2009 mobilization, and it will include larger and more escalated demonstrations. Its message — that action on climate change takes precedence over school and day jobs — reflects this increased urgency.

Yet, while the word “strike” connotes a more militant type of nonviolent action than photo shoots and rallies, not everyone shares the same vision of what it looks like. “In the United States in particular, a lot of people don’t understand what a strike actually is,” Bloch said. “They’re still talking about getting permits for protests, which isn’t a true strike.” #ShutDownDC envisions something more disruptive, though nonviolent. “We’re planning to interrupt business as usual in the seat of government power where leaders are refusing to acknowledge the climate crisis or take responsibility.”

“I’m motivated by two things: What I’m for and what I’m against,” Margolin said.

Activists are also planning for how to carry momentum from the strike forward into other youth-led movements. “Dismay at government inaction has led people to get involved in the climate strikes,” said Gracie Brett of Divest Ed, which works with over 70 campus-based fossil fuel divestment campaigns. “This same urgency has led to the divestment movement getting a second wind recently. It offers an opportunity to be involved beyond the strike.”

Jamie Margolin also sees the strike as a way to bring larger numbers of young people into the climate movement. “A lot of people aren’t initially attracted to the nitty gritty organizing, which is the vast majority of the work that goes into climate activism,” she said. “But if you say to them, ‘Hey do you want to join this mass action?’ — that attracts nearly everyone. Mobilizations like the strike are a point of entry to the wider movement.”

Margolin, who originally helped inspire Greta Thunberg’s activism, has since followed her lead by regularly striking from school. She has relatives in Colombia and is motivated by the knowledge of how climate change will impact both her current home and the place of her family’s origins. In this sense, she has much in common with other young people in an increasingly diverse and international climate movement — where teenagers and young adults use the internet to coordinate actions across continents and oceans.

“I’m motivated by two things: What I’m for and what I’m against,” Margolin said. “I’m fighting to protect the beautiful Pacific Northwest where I live today, and the beautiful Amazon Rainforest in the place my family is from. But I’m also fighting against the handful of people at the top of a handful of corporations who are literally destroying life on Earth for the other seven billion of us. SOURCE

Greta Thunberg arrives in Lisbon after three-week voyage from US

Climate activist heading to COP25 in Madrid after crossing Atlantic on family’s yacht

Greta Thunberg arrives in Lisbon on La Vagabonde, which leaves little or no carbon footprint when its sails are up, using solar panels and hydro-generators for electricity. Photograph: Pedro Nunes/Reuters

The climate activist Greta Thunberg has arrived in Lisbon after a three-week catamaran voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from the US.

The Swedish teenager now plans to head to Spain to attend the UN climate conference in Madrid.

Thunberg hitched a ride from the US with an Australian family on their 48-ft (15-metre) yacht.

The white catamaran carrying Thunberg sailed slowly up the River Tagus under blue skies and a stiff breeze. Thunberg’s father, Svante, was also on the boat as it approached the Lisbon quayside.

 Inside the mission to create an army of Greta Thunbergs – video

Chile’s environment minister, Carolina Schmidt, saluted Thunberg’s role in speaking out about the threat of climate breakdown.

“She has been a leader that has been able to move and open hearts for many young people and many people all over the world,” Schmidt said at the summit in Madrid. “We need that tremendous force in order to increase climate action,.”

Thunberg was due to be met in Lisbon by local dignitaries and other activists. Her representatives said they could not confirm when she would travel to the Spanish capital.

SOURCE

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Thunberg Isn’t the Only Young Voice We Should Be Listening To

 

 

Auditor general’s report finds Ontario not using ‘sound evidence’ in climate change plan

Ford government’s environmental plan relies on overestimations, projects that don’t exist yet


Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk on Wednesday released her first report since becoming responsible for examining Ontario’s environmental policies. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Ontario’s auditor general says the Ford government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and battle climate change is not supported by sound evidence.

Bonnie Lysysk’s 2019 report found that Ontario is overestimating the potential impact of its new environmental plan.

She said the government has also miscalculated some estimates and made policy changes that could discourage further emission reductions.

“Our office’s analysis found that the emissions reductions in the plan are not yet supported by sound evidence,” Lysysk writes in the report, which includes recommendations to help Ontario achieve reduction targets outlined in the Paris agreement.

It is the first auditor general report released since the Progressive Conservative government abolished the province’s environmental commissioner position in April. That office was previously responsible for examining environmental policies.

Details of Lysyk’s environmental findings were first reported by CBC News last week.

The Progressive Conservative government has made sweeping changes to Ontario’s environmental policies since the 2018 election, introducing what it calls a “made-in-Ontario” environmental plan.

The province estimates that its new approach will still meet federal reduction targets of 30 per cent below 2005 emission levels, or the equivalent of 17.6 megatonnes by 2030.

But that estimate is based on an older forecast that accounted for initiatives around electricity conservation, renewable energy and cap-and-trade — programs that have all been cancelled by the Ford government.

Lysyk estimates the new plan will only reduce emissions by between 6.3 and 13 megatonnes by 2030.

“We found that they need to do more modelling, more research and more specific identification of ways to [reduce emissions],” she told reporters.

Double counting

The report also determined the Ford government is relying on future developments that may not be realized.

The province estimates there will be 1.3 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in 2030 — a 3,000 per cent increase from the current 41,000 EVs on the road — amounting to a 2.6 megatonne reduction.

However, that forecast factors in substantial government incentives designed to make EVs more affordable. The Ford government cancelled those incentives in the summer of 2018.

The government is also counting on more homeowners switching to renewable natural gas, amounting to a 2.3 megatonne reduction. But according to the auditor general report, “evidence shows that the higher cost of renewable natural gas means that few customers would switch.”

Ontario’s new climate plan also relies on unspecified future innovations by the private sector to reduce emissions by an additional 2.2 megatonnes.

“The ministry was unable to provide any evidence to support this estimate,” the report says.

In some instances, Lysyk also found the province was double counting emission reductions, such as in programs designed to reduce natural gas emissions.

She is recommending that Ontario increase transparency around its environmental plan and release more frequent updates on its objectives and achievements.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has overseen sweeping changes to the province’s environment and climate change plans since taking office in 2018. Wednesday’s report suggests the approach falls short in several areas. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

PCs defend plan

Despite the numerous issues and recommendations laid out in the auditor general’s report, Ontario’s Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said the province remains committed to meeting or perhaps exceeding the 2030 emissions target.

“We have a plan. The auditor general didn’t say it was terrible, she said that it needed to be tightened up,” Yurek said. “We totally agree with that.”

He described the government’s environmental plan as an evolving document that will be altered over time to meet new demands and account for future developments.

He did not announce any plans to revive previous environmental initiatives, such as the EV incentive program.

“People themselves have an individual choice and responsibility. When they’re purchasing their next vehicle, I’m hoping they’re looking at electric vehicles,” Yurek said.

Opposition parties denounced the Ford government’s response to the audit.

“Magic math and magic markets will not solve the climate emergency,” said Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario.

“The Ford government is acting like the climate crisis isn’t even a problem,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Health and safety

The expanded report, which spans more than 1,200 pages, identified dozens of other areas where Ontario could make improvements.

Auditors found that Ontario’s 77,000 residents living in 626 long-term care homes do not always receive “established standards for nutritional value or quality.” There were approximately 1.3 food-related incidents reported every day starting in January 2018.

At one long-term care home, residents were served liquid whole eggs three months past their best-before date, according to the report.

Lysyk also found that wait times for addiction treatments, hospital admissions and deaths related to opiates are on the rise, despite Ontario increasing its investments in combating the epidemic. In 2018, more than four people died every day in Ontario due to opiates.

The report found that inmates with mental health issues are sometimes placed in solitary confinement because guards are not properly trained. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters)

“We found that the Ministry of Health does not allocate funding to addictions treatment programs based on need,” Lysyk wrote.

She also noted that Ontario could make improvements to its inspections of commercial vehicles, which currently have a higher fatality and injury rate than Canada as a whole and than the United States.

Lysyk found the provincial government missed an opportunity to remove thousands of unsafe vehicles from roads due to a decrease in inspections, primarily under the previous Liberal government between 2014 and 2018.

Justice and social services

The report also highlighted a growing problem at Ontario’s prisons and jails, which Lysyk says are not equipped to handle a rising population of inmates with mental health issues and those on remand.

Correctional staff are not properly trained to deal with mental health and behavioural issues, the report found, reducing an institution’s ability to properly rehabilitate inmates.

There are also issues among Ontario’s coroners and pathologists, including the practice of coroners conducting death investigations into patients they cared for while they were alive. That amounts to a conflict of interest, the audit says.

The province also does not conduct enough quality reviews of pathologists, auditors found, leading to “low-quality” death investigations in Ontario.

A review or investigation into the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) may also be needed, Lysyk said.

The cost of the program has ballooned 75 per cent over the past 10 years, from $3.1 billion to $5.4 billion.

The number of monthly cases increased by 50 per cent during the same period, although the overall population has only grown by 12 per cent.

Lysyk said Ontario has never investigated why those changes have occurred.

Verdict against power plant: blocker Guilty – and yet felt winners

Three men and two women paralyzed a RWE coal-fired power plant. A court has condemned them – but only in one of three points. Environmental activists should pay 50 to 60 daily rates of five euros each.

Translated from the German

"We have a self-defense here," says the defender of the activists who paralyzed the lignite power plant Weisweiler“We have a self-defense here,” says the defender of the activists who paralyzed the lignite power plant Weisweiler Jochen Tack / imago images

In the courtroom 17 of the district court in Eschweiler penetrate the songs and cries of the demonstrators. Around 50 supporters of the defendants stand in the street in front of the court, holding up banners, one says, “Dear judge, who wins, is it coal, is it your child?”

display

Just before 5 pm, Judge Sven Gißelbach pronounces his verdict: The five environmental activists who blocked the lignite power plant in Weisweiler in the autumn of 2017 are being punished because of resistance to law enforcement officials. But in the most serious charge against them, the disturbance of public enterprises, Gisselbach sees the offense is not realized. Even for trespassing the defendants are not prosecuted.

When the judge submits the verdict, the activists and their defenders look at each other, stunned, as if they had not expected this outcome. A few minutes later, in front of the courtroom, there are hugs and pat on the back.

“It’s a 2-1 victory for us, that’s pretty good,” says Niklas R., one of the defendants. Meaning: no punishment in two charges, in one.

A masterpiece of environmental protest?

The case received a lot of attention because it dealt with basic questions of the climate protests. It was about how far the fight against global warming can go. What is still legitimate, what is illegal? Where is the limit from which civil disobedience must be punished?

After the three days of negotiations at the District Court in Eschweiler, it is clear: in protesting for a better climate, activists are allowed to go quite far before the rule of law becomes hard. MORE

Some hard truths (and a dirty little secret) about Canadian energy

TMX will help, but Alberta and Canada need a lot more


Houses, bottom, line the side of a hill in Burnaby, the terminus of the TMX, as the downtown Vancouver skyline is seen in the distance. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

This is an opinion piece from Brian Jean, who was MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin in northern Alberta from 2015-2018. He led Alberta’s Opposition as Wildrose Party leader for two years and ran to lead the UCP when his party merged with the PCs in 2017 but lost to Jason Kenney. Before that, he represented the Athabasca and Fort McMurray regions as a Conservative MP for a decade.

Alberta’s energy sector is the goose that lays golden eggs for Canada.

It has attracted millions of young, hardworking people to Alberta. It is the reason why Alberta contributes more financially to Canada than any other sub-national region in any other country contributes to its central government.

Quebec is sustained by equalization dollars that come from Alberta. If Ottawa has tax revenue to distribute as equalization, it is because hardworking Albertans and the energy industry are paying those taxes.

Ottawa benefits from all the wealth that Alberta’s energy creates, so much so that a two-month cratering of Alberta’s oil prices in the last quarter of 2018 slashed national GDP growth to zero.

That massive financial benefit is now at risk because of short-sighted decisions by politicians.

Alberta has oil that the world wants to buy, that Canadians want to buy, but Canadian politicians don’t want to make the reasonable accommodations that would let us sell it.

Recently politicians have been focused on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX). That is good, but we need more than that. TMX isn’t enough to make Albertans stop worrying about being taken for granted by Canada and it isn’t enough to ensure Alberta’s and Canada’s long-term prosperity.

Alberta produces just under four million barrels of oil per day (bpd). We consume about 25 per cent of that in Canada and we sell the rest to Trump’s America — at a discount.

America is our only foreign customer. They are also our top competitor.

Because of fracking discoveries, the U.S. is now the world’s top producer of oil. They don’t really need our oil and they need less every day. That is part of the reason why our oil sells at a discount that Alberta’s former NDP government concluded was costing the Canadian economy $84 million a day.

TMX will hardly change that.


An oil tanker anchors at the terminus to the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. TMX’s shallow port can’t accommodate modern supertankers. (Chris Corday/CBC)

If TMX is finally built it will send a further 590,000 bpd to Vancouver. That helps, but only a little.

It’s a dirty little secret that most of the new TMX oil will be sold to U.S. west coast refineries. Very little of it will go to China, Japan, Korea or India, despite the fact that all of them want it. At most TMX will sell a few hundred thousand barrels a day to Asia.

You see, Vancouver’s shallow port can’t accommodate modern supertankers.

Most oil gets shipped in two million-plus barrel supertankers, but Vancouver can only handle 800 thousand barrel ships, and those can only be three-quarters filled before they bottom out.

The cost advantages of transporting Alberta oil in efficient supertankers will never happen via Vancouver. And that means TMX alone won’t lead to a growing Alberta energy industry.

If Alberta’s energy industry isn’t growing, it will never again fill the 30 per cent of downtown Calgary that is currently empty. It’s that simple and that bleak.

Canada needs a growing energy industry in Alberta. To be successful we need to sell more than two million barrels a day to a customer that isn’t the Americans. That’s Asia or, better yet, Canada.

What Alberta needs is a deep-water export pipeline to Asia or the Energy East pipeline to eastern Canada. Either would lead to a booming Alberta economy, which could sustain the Canada we all know.

That is what Alberta would have, if we were the only decider on this file — if just economics went into making this decision.

It’s time our politicians were honest with Albertans and Canadians.

TMX is a start, but it isn’t enough.

We need to work on a solution that gets Alberta a customer, other than the Americans, for two million barrels a day of oil.

That customer should be the rest of Canada. SOURCE