Terence Corcoran: The Trudeau Liberals will have to live with being in breach of a UN declaration they should never have adopted

In other words, says the UN, Canada should stop all work on its three largest energy projects worth billions in new investment

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Members of Parliament to the House of Commons as parliament prepares to resume for the first time since the election in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 5, 2019.Patrick Doyle / Reuters

According to an ancient political proverb, governments that pander to the globalist sword fighters at the United Nations run a grave risk of getting their policy necks lopped off. And so, as prophesied, that object now rolling across the Canadian West toward Ottawa is the Trudeau government’s self-righteous 2016 decision to wrap its arms around UNDRIP — the 2007 United Nations United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

With Canada now signed on to the United Nations’ feel-good indigenous agenda, UN operatives are back and claiming, as is their practice, that Canada is failing to live up to the full meaning of the declaration, which among other things requires Ottawa and the provinces receive full agreement from Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development.

Through a subgroup called the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the UN has drafted a two-page decision calling on Canada to “immediately cease” construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, to “immediately suspend” construction on the Site C dam in British Columbia and to “immediately halt” all work on the Coastal Gas Link LNG pipeline.

In other words, says the UN, Canada should stop all work on its three largest energy projects worth billions in new investment. According to the “decision”— following typical global bureaucratise — CERD said it is “concerned” about the pipeline plans, “disturbed” by forced removal and harassment of protesters and “alarmed” by what it calls escalating threats of violence against Indigenous people.

Had the Trudeau government refrained from enthusiastically adopting the UN Indigenous rights declaration in 2016, the quick answer to these insistent directives would be to tell the global agency to look to parts of the world where rights are actually being trampled on. China, for example. Or how about Venezuela? Iran, anyone?

The only option is to let the pipelines be built and to hell with the UN.

But having signed on to the declaration, Canada is an easier target, a goose with its self-righteous neck sticking out for easy political removal. When Canada adopted the declaration in May of 2016 — nine years late — the formal announcement by Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett was greeted with a standing ovation at the UN. Canada, she said, is “now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification.”

Well, not quite. There are a couple of clauses in the declaration that most legal scholars and clear-eyed politicians view as all but impossible to adopt within Canada’s constitutional framework.

Even former Trudeau justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould sounded more than skeptical about the UNDRIP adoption. In a 2016 speech, she said much as she would like to cast Canada’s Indian Act into the fire of history, “simplistic approaches, such as adopting the UNDRIP as being Canadian law, are unworkable.” In another comment, she said “it is important to appreciate how come it cannot be simply incorporated, word for word, into Canadian law.”

But that is exactly what the UN wants Canada to do. In its decision calling for the shutdown and suspension of Trans Mountain and Coastal Gas Link pipelines, CERD insists that Canada constitutionally adopt a UNDRIP legal concept that requires Canadian governments to seek the “free, prior and informed consent” of Indigenous people over large-scale economic development projects that may impair their rights, culture and way of life.

Free, prior and informed consent — known in the business as FPIC — is imbedded in UNDRIP and was for a decade the major reason Canada did not sign the 2007 declaration. Canada was so strongly opposed to the idea that it was the only UN member to refuse the UN’s FPIC principles.

Even after the Trudeau government adopted UNDRIP, it continued to fudge the issue. A recent paper in the International Indigenous Policy Journal says the latest Trudeau government pronouncement on FPIC is weak. The best Ottawa can do is claim that it “recognizes that meaningful engagement with Indigenous peoples aims to secure their free, prior and informed consent.”  A policy that “aims to” do something is not a hard policy.

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that governments, including provinces, have a “duty to consult” Indigenous peoples, but legal experts say FPIC takes the concept several steps beyond mere consultation to requiring full “free will” agreement.

The province of British Columbia has also embraced UNDRIP, so it will have to find a way to respond to the UN criticisms of the Site C hydro project.

The Trudeau Liberals are now in a bind of their own making. Ottawa moved to adopt UN principles that are incompatible with Canadian constitutional law, and now the UN is knocking at Canada’s door demanding action.

Alberta has firmly responded: “With all the injustice in the world,” said Minister of Energy Sonya Savage, “it’s beyond rich that the unelected, unaccountable United Nations would seemingly single out Canada — one of the greatest champions of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

What will Ottawa do? In his post-election mandate letter to Carolyn Bennett as minister of Indigenous relations, the prime minister instructed her to “support the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada in work to introduce co-developed legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020.”

If legal scholars and Jody Wilson-Raybould are right, introducing “free and prior consent” into Canadian law is a legal impossibility, which means that the Trudeau Liberals will have to live with being in breach of a UN declaration they should never have adopted.

The only option is to let the pipelines be built and to hell with the UN.

Unist’ot’en camp awaits RCMP after injunction enforced at Gidimt’en anti-pipeline checkpoint

Mounties enforcing court order to allow pipeline company access to northern B.C. road and bridge

The Unist’ot’en camp is one of two set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to prevent TransCanada Corp from gaining access to the road near Houston, B.C. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

It remained to be seen Wednesday how the RCMP would enforce a court injunction that would grant the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline project access to a road and bridge near Houston, B.C., that have been blocked by opponents of the project from the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

The Unist’ot’en camp is one of two set up by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation to prevent TransCanada Corp., which owns Coastal GasLink, from gaining access to the forest road in northern B.C., about 300 kilometres west of Prince George.

The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the coast, where a liquefied natural gas project is scheduled for construction.

On Monday, RCMP entered the fortified checkpoint at the Gidimt’en camp on the forest service road to enforce the injunction, granted in December, ordering people to stop preventing workers from gaining access. Fourteen people were arrested.

Members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation established the camps with fortified checkpoints, saying Coastal GasLink workers can only pass if they have consent from hereditary leaders.

An RCMP officer speaks with a driver at the ‘exclusion zone’ police have set up on a forest road near Houston, B.C., as they enforce an injunction allowing pipeline workers access past Wet’suwet’en checkpoints. Mounties were headed to a second camp Tuesday. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

TransCanada, now known as TC Energy, said it signed agreements with all First Nations along the proposed pipeline route to the $40-billion LNG Canada facility being built in Kitimat, B.C., but some hereditary chiefs say those agreements don’t apply to the traditional territories.

RCMP Cpl. Madonna Saunderson said the people arrested on Monday were brought to the Houston detachment.

“Any of those who were arrested in violation of the injunction or any of the orders in the injunction have to be taken before the justice who issued the injunction, which happens to be in Prince George,” she said.

She said she did not know when that would happen.

About a dozen Unist’ot’en supporters gathered in front of the Prince George courthouse Tuesday.

Watch footage from outside the courthouse:

Unist’ot’en supporters outside Prince George courthouse
Unist’ot’en supporters outside Prince George courthouse 0:38

Some people who weren’t arrested Monday at Gidimt’en retreated to the Unist’ot’en camp. It was established in 2010 in a remote part of the Wet’suwet’en​ Nation’s traditional territory.

Media are not being permitted to pass the RCMP exclusion zone established on the forest service road at the 27 kilometre mark.

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This is as far as we could get today. Police exclusion zone still at the 27km mark of the road. RCMP chopper took off while we were there. A few people on site at a fire.

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Hereditary Chief Namoks spoke at a rally held in nearby Smithers, B.C., Tuesday in support of the Unist’ot’en camp. He and other leaders have been meeting with RCMP and he said police want to bring in people from the Assembly of First Nations and the Union of British

Columbia Indian Chiefs to foster “dialogue.”

“They need to build trust with us,” he said.

“We have no trust right now. We understand the RCMP was doing what they were ordered to do. I don’t hold animosity against any human being but I do have an issue when industry is steering a government which orders the RCMP to do what they did to our people yesterday.”

Rallies were held across Canada on Tuesday in support of the Wet’suwet’en camps.

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Chief Namoks talks a bit about their meeting with the RCMP today re

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In an open letter posted on the company’s website, he wrote it was “unfortunate the RCMP were forced to take this action.”

Elder Carmen Nikal speaks at a rally in Smithers, B.C., Tuesday. She was among 14 people arrested Monday at the Gidimt’en camp for defying an injunction. She was released overnight but the others were held in custody. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

“We took legal action as a last resort and only after six years of unsuccessful efforts to find a mutual solution,” the letter reads in part.

“We respect the rights of individuals to peacefully express their point of view, as long as their activities do not disrupt or jeopardize the safety of the public, our employees, our contractors, and even themselves.”

Murray Rankin, MP for Victoria, also posted an open letter on the NDP website, writing that the party is calling on the prime minister “to engage immediately with the Wet’suwet’sen and demonstrate his commitment to real and meaningful reconciliation.”

“If Prime Minister Trudeau is serious about his commitments to Indigenous Peoples, he needs to help facilitate a peaceful resolution that respects the rights of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation,” Rankin wrote. SOURCE

Coastal GasLink posts injunction order giving opponents 72-hours to clear way toward its work site in B.C.

Na’moks, centre, a spokesman for the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, speaks during a news conference in Smithers, B.C., on Jan. 7, 2020. The order stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry addresses members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters who say the project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.

A natural gas pipeline company has posted an injunction order giving opponents 72 hours to clear the way toward its work site in northern British Columbia, although the company says its focus remains finding a peaceful resolution that avoids enforcement.

The order stamped Tuesday by the B.C. Supreme Court registry addresses members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and supporters who say the Coastal GasLink project has no authority without consent from the five hereditary clan chiefs.

It comes one year after the RCMP’s enforcement of a similar injunction along the same road sparked rallies across Canada in support of Indigenous rights and raised questions about land claims.

The order requires the defendants to remove any obstructions including cabins and gates on any roads, bridges or work sites the company has been authorized to use.

If they don’t remove the obstructions themselves, the court says the company is at liberty to remove them.

It gives authorization to the RCMP to arrest and remove anyone police have “reasonable or probable grounds” to believe has knowledge of the order and is contravening it.

“The police retain discretion as to timing and manner of enforcement of this order,” it says.

Coastal GasLink, however, says posting the order was procedural and the company has no plans to request police action.

The B.C. Supreme Court granted an injunction to Coastal GasLink on Dec. 31. The order stamped Tuesday provides details of the court injunction.

Previous injunction and enforcement orders remained in effect until the new order was issued, Coastal GasLink spokeswoman Suzanne Wilton said.

Obstructing access was already prohibited under the previous orders and they also included enforcement provisions.

“We continue to believe that dialogue is preferable to confrontation while engagement and a negotiated resolution remain possible,” Wilton said in an email.

The company declined an interview request.

The order does not apply to a metal gate on the west side of a bridge outside the Unist’ot’en camp, unless it is used to prevent or impede the workers’ access.

Hereditary chiefs negotiated last year with the RCMP for the gate to remain outside the camp, which is home to some members of one of the First Nation’s 13 house groups, so long as it would not be used to prevent workers from accessing the work site.

Fourteen people were arrested by police officers at a checkpoint constructed along the road leading to both the Unist’ot’en camp and the Coastal GasLink work site on Jan. 7, 2019.

The company has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nation councils along the 670-kilometre pipeline route, but the five Wet’suwet’en hereditary clan chiefs say no one can access the land without their consent.

The pipeline is part of the $40-billion LNG Canada project that will export Canadian natural gas to Asian markets.

Coastal GasLink shared photos Tuesday of what it says are more than 100 trees that have been felled across the logging road.

The RCMP said its officers came across the fallen trees on Monday as they were conducting regular safety patrols along the Morice West Forest Service Road. In a statement, the RCMP said some trees along the road are a safety hazard because they were partly cut and the wind could cause them to fall without warning.

Police say they also found three stacks of tires covered by tarps and trees, which contained several jugs of gasoline, diesel, oil, kindling and bags of fuel-soaked rags.

The RCMP say the hereditary chiefs were advised of what was found and have been told police are conducting a criminal investigation over traps that are likely to cause bodily harm.

“We want to emphasize that we are impartial in this dispute and our priority is to facilitate a dialogue between the various stakeholders involved,” the Mounties said. “We remain hopeful that these efforts will result in a resolution.”

At a news conference Tuesday, hereditary chief Na’moks called for construction to cease and for the B.C. government to revoke the company’s permits.

He said the Wet’suwet’en felled the trees to protect their own safety.

Members of the Gidimt’en, one of five Wet’suwet’en clans, and supporters reoccupied the area along the logging road in April near the site where the injunction was enforced last year.

Jen Wickham says her fellow members are concerned that it could be enforced before the 72 hours is up, since a previous injunction was already in place.

Lawyer Michael Lee Ross, who represents the Wet’suwet’en members named in the injunction, said once the new injunction order was stamped, the previous one became a historic document.

However, he said the RCMP could step in at any time if they find reason to.

Ross said his clients are discussing a possible appeal of the order.

“A challenge of an order is normally a challenge of the legal basis on which the order is grounded. So that is one of the avenues that is still open to them,” he said Wednesday.

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Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs held a press conference calling for construction to cease and for permits to be suspended on the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Spokesman Na’moks says the First Nation won’t meet with industry representatives, only “decision makers” like the provincial and federal governments.

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What the Wet’suwet’en case says about how Canadian courts address Indigenous law
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs demand meeting with B.C. and federal officials

One thing you can do: Help to preserve forests

Tyler Varsell

If you’re in North America, some of the fiber in your paper towels (and other tissue products like toilet paper) probably started off as a tree in the boreal forest of northern Canada, one of the last big, intact forests in the world.When we make a mess in the kitchen, many of us reach for paper towels without sparing a thought for where those crisp white sheets originated.

Boreal forests stretch across Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Northern Europe, and, together, they form a giant reservoir that stores carbon dioxide. That’s important, because that carbon would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Collectively, boreal forests lock away about 703 gigatons of carbon in woody fibers and soil. Tropical forests, by comparison, store about 375 gigatons of carbon.

These are tough times for forests, though. Because of climate change, they’re highly susceptible to wildfires, like the ones in Australia, and pest infestations. So, anything we can do to keep them intact is good.

Trevor Hesselink, director of policy and research at the Wildlands League, a Canadian conservation organization, said it’s important to weigh the value of paper products against the value of intact forests. “If you are thinking through a carbon lens, those single-use products are very short-lived,” he said.

Canada is generally seen as being good at forest management. In logged areas of the boreal forest, trees are replanted and allowed to regenerate, and the country boasts a very low official deforestation rate of just 0.02 percent (though that has been disputed by some environmental groups).

The bad news is, even if actual deforestation is low, planting a young tree to replace a mature one is not the one-for-one carbon scenario many people imagine, Mr. Hesselink said.

For a long time, scientists believed older trees stopped absorbing carbon as they aged. But recently, researchers have that found older trees continue absorbing carbon dioxide for decades or even centuries longer than originally thought, said William Moomaw, a physical chemist and lead author on five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

Leaving existing forests to grow will be more effective at mitigating climate change over the next 80 years than reforestation or planting new forests, Dr. Moomaw and his colleagues have said. A tree planted this year won’t make much of a difference in terms of carbon sequestration over the next decade, a period many scientists say is critical for climate action. “They just don’t absorb enough carbon dioxide,” Dr. Moomaw said. “They aren’t big enough.”

Furthermore, boreal forests support a diverse array of plant and animal species. They’re also central to life for hundreds of indigenous groups.

There is some debate over the degree to which pulp and paper products, like the disposable towels in your kitchen, drive logging activity in the boreal forest.

Tony Lemprière, senior manager of climate change policy in the Canadian Forest Service, pointed out that industry can use waste from timber production to make paper products. But the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 44 percent of the pulp produced in Ontario comes from whole trees rather than byproduct.

Regardless, it’s easy to reduce the amount of single-use paper products you buy.

Reusable cloth towels are a great alternative, said Shelley Vinyard, who heads the boreal forest program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. For those moments when you really do need a paper towel, she recommends one made of recycled content. The council’s consumer guide has recommendations for paper towels, toilet paper and facial tissues. SOURCE

George Monbiot: Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet

Scientists are replacing crops and livestock with food made from microbes and water. It may save humanity’s bacon

Illustration: Matt Kenyon

It sounds like a miracle, but no great technological leaps were required. In a commercial lab on the outskirts of Helsinki, I watched scientists turn water into food. Through a porthole in a metal tank, I could see a yellow froth churning. It’s a primordial soup of bacteria, taken from the soil and multiplied in the laboratory, using hydrogen extracted from water as its energy source. When the froth was siphoned through a tangle of pipes and squirted on to heated rollers, it turned into a rich yellow flour.

This flour is not yet licensed for sale. But the scientists, working for a company called Solar Foods, were allowed to give me some while filming our documentary Apocalypse Cow. I asked them to make me a pancake: I would be the first person on Earth, beyond the lab staff, to eat such a thing. They set up a frying pan in the lab, mixed the flour with oat milk, and I took my small step for man. It tasted … just like a pancake.

But pancakes are not the intended product. Such flours are likely soon to become the feedstock for almost everything. In their raw state, they can replace the fillers now used in thousands of food products. When the bacteria are modified they will create the specific proteins needed for lab-grown meat, milk and eggs. Other tweaks will produce lauric acid – goodbye palm oil – and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – hello lab-grown fish. The carbohydrates that remain when proteins and fats have been extracted could replace everything from pasta flour to potato crisps. The first commercial factory built by Solar Foods should be running next year.

The hydrogen pathway used by Solar Foods is about 10 times as efficient as photosynthesis. But because only part of a plant can be eaten, while the bacterial flour is mangetout, you can multiply that efficiency several times. And because it will be brewed in giant vats the land efficiency, the company estimates, is roughly 20,000 times greater. Everyone on Earth could be handsomely fed, and using a tiny fraction of its surface. If, as the company intends, the water used in the process (which is much less than required by farming) is electrolysed with solar power, the best places to build these plants will be deserts.

We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.I know some people will be horrified by this prospect. I can see some drawbacks. But I believe it comes in the nick of time.

Several impending disasters are converging on our food supply, any of which could be catastrophic. Climate breakdown threatens to cause what scientists call “multiple breadbasket failures”, through synchronous heatwaves and other impacts. The UN forecasts that by 2050 feeding the world will require a 20% expansion in agriculture’s global water use. But water use is already maxed out in many places: aquifers are vanishing, rivers are failing to reach the sea. The glaciers that supply half the population of Asia are rapidly retreating. Inevitable global heating – due to greenhouse gases already released – is likely to reduce dry season rainfall in critical areas, turning fertile plains into dustbowls.

global soil crisis threatens the very basis of our subsistence, as great tracts of arable land lose their fertility through erosion, compaction and contamination. Phosphate supplies, crucial for agriculture, are dwindling fast. Insectageddon threatens catastrophic pollination failures. It is hard to see how farming can feed us all even until 2050, let alone to the end of the century and beyond.

Food production is ripping the living world apart. Fishing and farming are, by a long way, the greatest cause of extinction and loss of the diversity and abundance of wildlife. Farming is a major cause of climate breakdown, the biggest cause of river pollution and a hefty source of air pollution. Across vast tracts of the world’s surface, it has replaced complex wild ecosystems with simplified human food chains. Industrial fishing is driving cascading ecological collapse in seas around the world. Eating is now a moral minefield, as almost everything we put in our mouths – from beef to avocados, cheese to chocolate, almonds to tortilla chips, salmon to peanut butter – has an insupportable environmental cost.

But just as hope appeared to be evaporating, the new technologies I call farmfree food create astonishing possibilities to save both people and planet. Farmfree food will allow us to hand back vast areas of land and sea to nature, permitting rewilding and carbon drawdown on a massive scale. It means an end to the exploitation of animals, an end to most deforestation, a massive reduction in the use of pesticides and fertiliser, the end of trawlers and longliners. It’s our best hope of stopping what some have called the “sixth great extinction”, but I prefer to call the great extermination. And, if it’s done right, it means cheap and abundant food for everyone.

Research by the thinktank RethinkX suggests that proteins from precision fermentation will be around 10 times cheaper than animal protein by 2035. The result, it says, will be the near-complete collapse of the livestock industry. The new food economy will “replace an extravagantly inefficient system that requires enormous quantities of inputs and produces huge amounts of waste with one that is precise, targeted, and tractable”. Using tiny areas of land, with a massively reduced requirement for water and nutrients, it “presents the greatest opportunity for environmental restoration in human history”.

Not only will food be cheaper, it will also be healthier. Because farmfree foods will be built up from simple ingredients, rather than broken down from complex ones, allergens, hard fats and other unhealthy components can be screened out. Meat will still be meat, though it will be grown in factories on collagen scaffolds, rather than in the bodies of animals. Starch will still be starch, fats will still be fats. But food is likely to be better, cheaper and much less damaging to the living planet.

It might seem odd for someone who has spent his life calling for political change to enthuse about a technological shift. But nowhere on Earth can I see sensible farm policies developing. Governments provide an astonishing £560bn a year in farm subsidies, and almost all of them are perverse and destructive, driving deforestation, pollution and the killing of wildlife. Research by the Food and Land Use Coalition found that only 1% of the money is used to protect the living world. It failed to find “any examples of governments using their fiscal instruments to directly support the expansion of supply of healthier and more nutritious food.”

Nor is the mainstream debate about farming taking us anywhere, except towards further catastrophe. There’s a widespread belief that the problem is intensive farming, and the answer is extensification (producing less food per hectare). It’s true that intensive farming is highly damaging, but extensive farming is even worse. Many people are rightly concerned about urban sprawl. But agricultural sprawl – which covers a much wider area – is a far greater threat to the natural world. Every hectare of land used by farming is a hectare not used for wildlife and complex living systems.

paper in Nature suggests that, per kilo of food produced, extensive farming causes greater greenhouse gas emissions, soil loss, water use and nitrogen and phosphate pollution than intensive farming. If everyone ate pasture-fed meat, we would need several new planets on which to produce it.

Farmfree production promises a far more stable and reliable food supply that can be grown anywhere, even in countries without farmland. It could be crucial to ending world hunger. But there is a hitch: a clash between consumer and producer interests. Many millions of people, working in farming and food processing, will eventually lose their jobs. Because the new processes are so efficient, the employment they create won’t match the employment they destroy.

RethinkX envisages an extremely rapid “death spiral” in the livestock industry. Only a few components, such as the milk proteins casein and whey, need to be produced through fermentation for profit margins across an entire sector to collapse. Dairy farming in the United States, it claims, will be “all but bankrupt by 2030”. It believes that the American beef industry’s revenues will fall by 90% by 2035.

While I doubt the collapse will be quite that fast, in one respect the thinktank underestimates the scale of the transformation. It fails to mention the extraordinary shift taking place in feedstock production to produce alternatives to plant products, of the kind pioneered in Helsinki. This is likely to hit arable farming as hard as cultured milk and meat production will hit livestock farming. Solar Foods thinks its products could reach cost parity with the world’s cheapest form of protein (soya from South America) within five years. Instead of pumping ever more subsidies into a dying industry, governments should be investing in helping farmers into other forms of employment, while providing relief funds for those who will suddenly lose their livelihoods.

Another hazard is the potential concentration of the farmfree food industry. We should strongly oppose the patenting of key technologies, to ensure the widest possible distribution of ownership. If governments regulate this properly, they could break the hegemony of the massive companies that now control global food commodities. If they don’t, they could reinforce it. In this sector, as in all others, we need strong anti-trust laws. We must also ensure that the new foods always have lower carbon footprints than the old ones: farmfree producers should power their operations entirely from low-carbon sources. This is a time of momentous choices, and we should make them together.

We can’t afford to wait passively for technology to save us. Over the next few years we could lose almost everything, as magnificent habitats such as the rainforests of Madagascar, West Papua and Brazil are felled to produce cattle, soya or palm oil. By temporarily shifting towards a plant-based diet with the lowest possible impacts (no avocados or out-of-season asparagus), we can help buy the necessary time to save magnificent species and places while these new technologies mature. But farmfree food offers hope where hope was missing. We will soon be able to feed the world without devouring it.

SOURCE

How We Cut Our Electricity Usage by 85%

You read that right: 85%. My family of four uses, on average, 4.7 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day. Our electric bill never tops $32 per month. In the past we used just over 30 kWh/day, which is about average in the U.S., although there is huge variation. In our state, the average is over 36 kWh/day.

…Our journey started when our roommate moved out and took his clothes washer and dryer with him. I was seven months pregnant with my first child. I did not want to spend a huge chunk of change on white goods. I did not want to drive the production of more appliances, or pay to run a dryer, or heat up the house and the planet while wearing out my clothes faster.

We bought an Energy Star front-loading washer, but not the matching dryer. Even though we live in a very humid area. Even though I was planning on cloth diapering (eventually I cloth diapered two at once without a dryer). It’s not perfect. About twice a year when it rains for weeks or the cat pees on something, I take an almost-but-not-quite-dry load to the laundromat on my way somewhere else, and give it 75 cents’ worth of time in their dryer.

The rest of the time I hang our clothes on my handmade rack. Washer and dryer together use about 13% of household electricity, but the dryer uses over 9/10ths of that, so with one little change we reduced our impact by at least 10%. (Check out this graphic to learn about energy usage in your house.)

I like hanging clothes. It doesn’t take long. It’s a nice moment to quietly think, write something in my head, plan the garden or answer questions from small children. The clothes usually smell better, and they last much longer. I never get behind on the laundry because I don’t suffer from the illusion that I can do eight loads in a day if it piles up, which means, check it out: I never have to spend a whole day doing laundry! How cool is that! I just do a load whenever it’s nice enough, and it nearly always works out fine. If you think you can’t possibly swing it, you could still give it a try and find out for sure. A clothesline is cheap, and you don’t even have to get rid of the dryer, just pause for long enough to get the knack of hanging. I know somebody who hang dries even though she has ten children.

It’s the same deal all over our house. We choose to give a few extra minutes of our time or a little bit more thought and management in exchange for huge reductions in electricity usage. Flip that around: Americans use huge amounts of electricity to shorten daily tasks by a few minutes, or make them very slightly more convenient. All those negative impacts to the planet and our collective future, just to gain a few minutes, a smidge more convenience. If I chose that, I could think of no reasonable way to explain it to my children, who will have to live in that degraded future we all make by our choices today.

After we got rid of the dryer, we replaced the inefficient light bulbs. In a typical house these might be using 12% of power, while equivalent LEDs use 1/10th as much or less. Then we corralled the energy vampires, which waste up to 13% of total usage. The big computer screen we use for a TV is on a switch. It can be turned all the way off during the 22 hours a day it’s not in use, instead of continuing to draw power. We have just one of these because we’ve gotten rid of most of the machines that don’t truly serve us, but many houses have dozens of devices in this category. And if you have a leaky house, it’s worth another 10% to seal up cracks and add some insulation if you can afford to, especially in the ceiling. It’ll pay you back over time.

So, let’s add that all up. In a house that uses the average 30 kWh/day, these easy changes that don’t cost much in time, money or convenience could potentially save: 3 kWh/day on lighting, 3.9 on standby energy vampires, 3 on heating and cooling by reducing leakage, and 3 on the dryer. Converting those kWh/day to carbon and pocketbook savings, that’s 3.5 fewer tons of carbon put into the air every year, and a 43% reduction in the electric bill.

Close to half the electricity usage in an average house is heating and cooling, and after the cracks are sealed it’s not quite as easy to make more change there. Most of us are stuck with the houses we have and the systems already in place, but there is wiggle room. Lots of folks zone heat, warming just the rooms they’re currently in or just the ones that are used most often. Personal experience with my wood stove has taught me that a house that is different temperatures in different rooms and at different times of the day is much more comfortable than one that is 67 degrees everywhere always. Many people turn down their thermostats at night and in the winter. I know a family who does just fine heating to 65 degrees during the day and 55 at night. MORE

Stanford Study Says Renewable Power Eliminates Argument for Using Carbon Capture with Fossil Fuels

coal power plant

:Cheshire coal power plant,Ohio. Credit: Peggydavis66CC BYSA 2.0

New research from Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson questions the climate and health benefits of carbon capture technology against simply switching to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Carbon capture technology is premised on two possible approaches to reducing climate pollution: removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere anywhere in the world, an approach generally known as direct air capture, or removing it directly from the emissions source, such as the smoke stack of a fossil fuel power plant.

Jacobson’s study, published last month in the peer-reviewed journal Energy and Environmental Science, concludes that carbon capture technologies are inefficient at pulling out carbon, from a climate perspective, and often increase local air pollution from the power required to run them, which exacerbates public health issues. Replacing a coal plant with wind turbines, on the other hand, always decreases local air pollution and doesn’t come with the associated cost of running a carbon capture system, says Jacobson.

Not only does carbon capture hardly work at existing plants, but there’s no way it can actually improve to be better than replacing coal or gas with wind or solar directly,” Jacobson said in a Stanford press release. “The latter will always be better, no matter what, in terms of the social cost. You can’t just ignore health costs or climate costs.”

Jacobson’s findings support an April analysis by Clean Technica, which found that “wind and solar are displacing roughly 35 times as much CO2 every year as the complete global history of CCS [carbon capture and storage].”

Carbon capture technologies are still in their early stages and are far from being ready to scale up globally while renewable power is already economical, with forecasts for further price drops and huge growth.

As Clean Technica’s Mike Barnard concluded, “CCS is a rounding error in global warming mitigation.”

Today, wind and solar, combined with battery storage, are cheaper than coal for power generation. The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a nonprofit that supports the transition away from fossil fuels, predicts that by 2035 even the glut of natural gas now flooding the world at record low prices won’t be able to compete with renewables for power generation.

Just this week the CEO of Australian power company Alinta said he expected to close one of its coal plants well ahead of schedule. His reasoning was simple. 

“Given my 25 years of industry experience, I’d certainly be backing renewables, pumped storage and battery over [high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power] and carbon capture and storage,” Alinta CEO Jeff Dimmery told The Business Program in Australia.

Oil and Gas Companies Love Carbon Capture … and Carbon Taxes

The oil and gas industry has been a vocal supporter of carbon capture. The part that these fossil fuel companies presumably find so attractive is that it involves burning hydrocarbons — the product they sell — but in a way that theoretically doesn’t contribute to the climate crisis.

ExxonMobil asks on its website, “What If We Could Stop Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Power Plants?” It then goes on to suggest that carbon capture could make this possible. However, Exxon fails to acknowledge a simple, economical, and achievable way to stop the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants: use renewable sources. We have the answer to Exxon’s question, but the company probably won’t like it.

Carbon capture technology is also the basis of the mythical concept of “clean coal,” which purports that coal can be burned for power and all of the carbon from its combustion could be captured and stored somewhere for the long term, instead of being released into the warming atmosphere. While carbon capture and storage has been a failure on a commercial basis for coal plants (and still yields the toxic impacts of mining and burning coal), the global coal industry is still pushing this concept. 

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Last year, Reuters surveyed 10 major power companies and found the vast majority have no plans to install carbon capture technology, despite the many tax incentives Congress has offered.

Carbon capture is definitely interesting, it just hasn’t made economic sense just yet,” Spencer Hall, a spokesman for utility Rocky Mountain Power, explained to Reuters.

At this point, carbon capture isn’t economically viable but remains a favorite option pushed by the fossil fuel industry. It’s not unlike another policy designed to reduce carbon emissions — a carbon tax.

California has one of the largest cap and trade programs in the world. Much like a carbon tax, cap and trade programs are designed to use market incentives to lower carbon emissions from sources within a certain area. A new report by ProPublica finds that California’s cap and trade system has failed to achieve its goals, and one of the main reasons is that oil industry lobbyists have worked hard to make the system favorable to their interests — while ignoring the climate consequences.

Any plan to reduce carbon emissions via financial incentives for the oil and gas industry are at risk of this same fatal flaw. MORE