Two opportunities to take action to protect Ontario

Stop the giant Hamilton gas pipeline – sign the petition

Image result for enbridge gas pipeline in hamilton ontario

Enbridge Gas is proposing to build a giant pipeline through Hamilton, including through an ecologically important wetland, to increase imports of fracked gas from the United States into Ontario.

This pipeline is designed to allow a huge increase in use of polluting gas-fired generating plants in Ontario with an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 400% by 2025.  This is above and beyond the major climate impact of producing fracked gas.

Sign the petition to stop the pipeline

There is no need for this pipeline. Ontario can keep its lights on without increasing its greenhouse gas pollution by expanding its energy efficiency programs and by contracting for low-cost water power from Quebec.

To learn more about Enbridge’s destructive proposal, click here to read our 2-page factsheet about the proposed Hamilton Pipeline.

Sign the petition to oppose Enbridge’s fracked-gas pipeline.  You can modify the petition message by clicking on “Read the petition” and editing the comments.  A copy of your message will be sent to Environment Minister Jeff Yurek and to Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly. HERE

Action to take before Jan 27th:

Stop BWXT’s Toronto licence renewal in West End Toronto

BWXT admits that “airborne particles can expose members of the public via inhalation”
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, according to York University Environmental Studies Professor Mark Winfield is “The poster child for an industry captured regulator.”
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission staff have recommended the factory be given a ten- year operating license renewal. Here’s our chance to say NO.
BWXT is now applying for a ten year licence renewal with flexibility to conduct uranium processing in both Toronto and Peterborough which would conceivably allow them to relocate to Peterborough and decommission the Toronto facility within the next ten years. While it is encouraging that they are making exit plans, the people of Peterborough are organizing to block this incursion and they are experienced in their opposition.
The public is invited to share their thoughts at a public hearing, March 2-3 at the Casa Do Alentjo Community Centre, 1130 Dupont Street (Dufferin and Dupont). The deadline to indicate you will make your voice heard is January 27.
Register by e-mailing: 

BWXT filters most of its emissions, the smallest particle are what escapes their HEPA filters.

BWXT does its own uranium emissions estimates and claims to have released 46.2 grams of uranium over the past 5 years.

According to physicist Dr. Gordon Edwards, here are the stats on how many particles of uranium are in each gram of uranium released from BWXT at 1025 Lansdowne 
This means BWXT releases approximately
7,160,000,000,000,000 particles a year
19,616,438,356,164 particles a day
817,351,598,173 particles an hour
1,362,256,636 particles a minute
227,042,110 particles a second

By processing half of all nuclear fuel used in Canada, releasing 227 millions particles per second is unacceptable.

Similar to the cancer causing potential of inhaling just one single asbestos fibre breathing in just one particle of alpha radiation emitting uranium can cause cancer. According to Dr. Gordon Edwards, “The highly insoluble and carcinogenic dust particles lodge in the lungs and become a ‘body burden’ that will remain inside the lungs, irradiating the highly sensitive lung tissue for many years.”

“The people living around there are at risk,” says Dr. Helen Caldicott, “If you happen to inhale one particle of uranium into your lungs you get a very high dose to a small volume of cells which can induce cancer.”

The BWXT is broadcasting massive amounts of uranium particles over millions of people.  Those who live, work, and go to school in the wind path of the uranium emissions are most at risk.

If you live, work, or study or party in this neighbourhood you are an impacted person from an impacted community.

What you can do: 

Inform neighbours & make your voice heard
Contact your elected officials: 
Ana Bailao, City Councillor
Marit Stiles, Member of Provincial Parliament 416-392-7012
Julie Dzerowicz, Member of Parliament
Stephanie Donaldson, School Trustee
Tell them you expect them to participate in the public hearing, and state in clear terms that the uranium plant must be shut down. 

Demand they take action to protect your health


Attend our community meeting on:
Tues. Jan. 21, 7 p.m.


1900 Davenport at Davenport Perth Community Centre
Why now?
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission staff have recommended the factory be given a ten- year operating license renewal. Here’s our chance to say NO.
The public is invited to share their thoughts at a public hearing, March 2-3 at the Casa Do Alentjo Community Centre, 1130 Dupont Street (Dufferin and Dupont). The deadline to indicate you will make your voice heard is January 27.
Register by e-mailing: 
join the facebook group

The public is invited to share their thoughts at a public hearing, March 2-3 at the Casa Do Alentjo Community Centre, 1130 Dupont Street (Dufferin and Dupont).

The deadline to indicate you will make your voice heard is January 27.

Register by e-mailing: Those of us who live outside the GTA or unable to attend, you can request to make your intervention over the phone or you can email your concerns to before Jan. 27.

They will go on file for all to read. And then if you don’t show up at the hearing, they’ll just pass over you.

Also, please consider signing this petition and following/supporting their face book group working to stop this dangerous plant in the GTA.

‘What cost are human rights worth?’ UN calls for immediate RCMP withdrawal in Wet’suwet’en standoff

Experts say the world is watching to see if Canada heeds a call from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until ‘free, prior and informed consent’ is obtained from Indigenous peoples

Wet'suwet'en Coastal GasLink January 2019 Barricade

Police climb over a barricade to enforce the injunction filed by Coastal GasLink pipeline at the Gidimt’en checkpoint near Houston, British Columbia on Monday, January 7, 2019. The pipeline company was given a permit but the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, which has jurisdiction over the territory in question, has never given consent. Fourteen people were arrested. Photo: Amber Bracken

1990, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip was at a Lil’wat Nation blockade to stop clear-cut logging and the expropriation of Mount Currie reserve land when he got a taste of how far governments in Canada are willing to go to prevent Indigenous people from protecting their lands.

“The sniper team came in in two Suburbans and went up onto the hillside and one of the Lil’wat Mount Currey band members came riding across the creek on his horse, quite panicked and warning us that there was a sniper team being deployed in the trees,” Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, told The Narwhal.

“We had witnessed the Suburbans coming in, but he actually saw the sniper team disembark and take up positions,” Phillip recalled. “I know that to be a standard tactic on the part of the RCMP.”

As tensions escalate in the stand-off between Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and Coastal GasLink — with the company posting a 72-hour injunction notice allowing the RCMP to arrest anyone blocking access to its work site as early as Friday — Phillip said there’s “an urgency” for Canada to heed a call from the United Nations and immediately halt pipeline construction on Wet’suwet’en lands and territories.

“It’s a precarious situation,” Phillip said, pointing to a recent article in The Guardian disclosing the RCMP was prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders in the dispute over construction of the 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline to ship fracked gas to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat.

LNG Canada project, Kitimat B.C. 2017

The site of the LNG Canada project in Kitimat B.C. in 2017. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

UN says projects need ‘free, prior and informed’ consent

In a move Phillip called a “significant development,” the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued a triple-barrelled decision calling on Canada to immediately suspend work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Site C dam until “free, prior and informed consent” is obtained from Indigenous peoples.

The committee urged Canada to immediately cease the forced eviction of Wet’suwet’en peoples who oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline and Secwepemc peoples opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline, to prohibit the use of lethal weapons —  notably by the RCMP — against Indigenous peoples and to guarantee no force will be used against them. It also urged the federal government to withdraw the RCMP, along with associated security and policing services, from traditional lands.

In a two-page decision statement, the committee said it is alarmed by the escalating threat of violence against Indigenous peoples in B.C. and disturbed by the “forced removal, disproportionate use of force, harassment and intimidation by law enforcement officials against Indigenous peoples who peacefully oppose large-scale development projects” on their traditional territories.

Coastal Gaslink Pipeline RCMP Gidimt'en arrest

Police make an arrest January 2019 while enforcing the injunction filed by Coastal GasLink at the Gidimt’en checkpoint near Houston, B.C. Photo: Amber Bracken

“It’s somewhat frustrating and embarrassing that the UN has to chide the government of Canada and the provincial government with respect to what the rule of law is in this country in regard to Indigenous land rights, Indigenous human rights,” Phillip said.

“I think it’s a reflection of the ongoing arrogance of the Trudeau government, that somehow the Trudeau government feels it’s above the law and can just simply flout the law.”

As word of the UN decision spread, Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage called the United Nations an “unelected, unaccountable” body that has no business criticizing Canada’s energy megaprojects.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the country’s largest oil and gas lobby group, issued a press release saying the UN committee’s two-page decision statement “reflects an embarrassing ignorance of Canadian law.”

‘If we think back to the Holocaust, all of that was legal under German law’

But Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said the whole point of the 18-member committee is that it’s comprised of unelected human rights experts appointed by UN member states.

“We want them to be there as objective, non-partisan, non-political experts who are going to look very closely at the situations that are brought to their attention, such as these three serious human rights concerns from Canada, and make the right assessments and make the right decisions entirely free from political influence,” Neve said in an interview.

Indigenous rights scholars point out the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination — whose implementation is monitored by the committee — holds signatories, including Canada, accountable to international human rights law.

They also note that the United Nations, with its overarching focus on human rights, was created in the wake of the Holocaust and other atrocities to ensure increased global scrutiny of human rights in individual countries, and that Canada championed the convention and was one of the first nations to sign on.

” … the process that was followed in Canada is failing … “

University of Manitoba law professor Brenda Gunn said Canadian law should not be used to try to protect or excuse actions cited by the UN committee.

“If we think back to the Holocaust, all of that was legal under German law. What this system is designed to do is to have people outside the state judging standards against something other than domestic law, to ensure that domestic law isn’t violating rights,” said Gunn, a Metis lawyer who provided technical assistance to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People with regards to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“What this committee is saying is that the process that was followed in Canada is failing to uphold Canada’s international human rights [obligations]. You wouldn’t expect this person to need to know Canadian law. All they need to know is the facts of what happened and compare that to their expertise of what is required under international law.”

Potential for ‘deep stain on Canada’s global reputation’

UBC professor Sheryl Lightfoot, a Canada Research Chair in Global Indigenous Rights and Politics, said the UN committee is pointing out that Canada’s law, policy and practice for consultation with Indigenous communities do not meet global human rights standards.

Canada has reported to the UN committee “regularly, routinely and enthusiastically” since 1970, the year after the convention was entered into force, noted Lightfoot, a citizen of the Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe who is senior advisor to the UBC president on Indigenous affairs.

“The one area that Canada stumbles on is once the CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] casts its eye on Indigenous peoples’ human rights,” Lightfoot said in an interview.

“Canada is normally held up as a role model standard on this particular issue of eliminating racial discrimination.

This is one of the few times, and the notable times, where Canada is on the receiving end of negative news.”

The UN committee decision comes as Canada vies for a coveted seat on the UN Security Council, a bid Gunn said will fall under increased global scrutiny if Canada fails to follow the committee’s recommendations.

“While we may not hear public chastising of Canada in any international forum, there will be many conversations happening in the various lounges at the UN, and elsewhere, where states that Canada was counting on for support will be saying ‘well, what about this recent decision … how do we support a seat on the security council when Canada’s record on human rights continues to be questioned?’ ”

Lightfoot said a lack of action could  “create a deep stain on Canada’s global reputation.”

The committee decision follows landmark legislation passed by the B.C. government in November to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). The federal government has also promised to pass legislation to harmonize Canadian laws with UNDRIP by the end of this year.

Roland Willson, chief of West Moberly First Nations, called the decision a “validation for us.”

West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation are awaiting trial dates to determine if the Site C dam unjustifiably infringes on their constitutionally protected treaty rights, as the nations claim in civil actions filed two years ago.

Among many other impacts, the Site C hydro project will destroy Indigenous burial sites and other places of spiritual and cultural importance — including traditional hunting and fishing grounds — and poison fish with methylmercury.

West Moberly Chief Roland Willson

West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson has been a vocal opponent of the Site C dam. Photo: Jayce Hawkins / The Narwhal

Site C dam called ‘cultural genocide’

Willson said West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations met with Gay McDougall, a U.S. lawyer who is the vice-chair of the UN committee, last year in Vancouver

“It’s not mass genocide that’s happening here. It’s cultural genocide,” Willson told The Narwhal.

“Ms. McDougall said to us, ‘Genocide is genocide. They’re destroying your culture and your culture is who you are as a people. So they’re killing you as a people’ … Our discussion with her verified that we’re right.”

Willson called it a “crime” to destroy the last tract of Peace River Valley available to Indigenous people to engage in traditional practices when there are cheaper and less destructive ways to produce power.

 “…The thought of [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump threatening to destroy Iran’s cultural sites, everybody’s up in arms about that, saying that should be considered war crimes,” Willson said.

“Well here they’re making a decision to destroy what’s left of an intact ecosystem, a vital piece of our culture.”

Article 32 of UNDRIP says governments “shall consult and cooperate in good faith” with Indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions, in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of “any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources” — particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

Site C construction. Peace River. B.C.

Construction of the Site C dam on the banks of the Peace River. Photo: Garth Lenz / The Narwhal

In a 2019 letter to the UN committee, a copy of which was obtained by The Narwhal, the federal government said it approached the Site C project “in a manner that is consistent” with obtaining free, prior and informed consent, a claim Willson called “hogwash.”

Willson said the federal government only met once with West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations about the Site C dam, for about 20 minutes.

The meeting, with former Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, took place in Vancouver several months after the election of the Trudeau government in the fall of 2015, Willson said, describing the session as “our one avenue to talk about everything.”

Nations ‘conceded’ instead of consenting

“Conceding is far from consenting,” Willson said. “Every nation in Treaty 8 was opposed to Site C.”

But after the project — championed for decades by BC Hydro — received final B.C. government approval in December 2014, “some of the nations conceded to BC Hydro,” Willson said.

“Their decision was not free,” he said. “It wasn’t prior. It was after the fact.”

A letter Willson sent to the UN committee two months ago said many affected Indigenous peoples have not consented to construction of the Site C project, including Blueberry River First Nation, Prophet River First Nation and Fort Nelson First Nation.

“Not a single Indigenous group supported Site C before Canada had issued all major approvals, and some groups that signed an agreement on the project afterwards stated publicly that they had never consented,” Willson wrote.

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark infamously vowed she would push the Site C project past the point of no return, the letter noted.

“There was never any intent by Canada or British Columbia to consider alternatives offered by Indigenous peoples,” Willson told the committee.

The chief also questioned the notion that First Nations were given “informed” details about the Site C project.

“Bogus estimates about future energy demand were used during consultations by the Province of British Columbia and BC Hydro to manufacture a need for the dam and to disregard less impactful alternatives such as wind and solar,” he said.

“These estimates have now been debunked by the B.C. Utilities Commission, British Columbia’s own independent utilities regulator.”

‘What cost are human rights worth?’

Asked about the economic cost of suspending the three projects, Lightfoot said, “what cost are human rights worth?”

“That’s the question for Canada,” she said. “The CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] is trying to bring to Canada’s attention that when dealing with human rights you have to consider all people’s human rights and consider them equally.”

Gunn said major resource projects like the Site C dam and the TransMountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines will continue to experience delays and court challenges until Canada does a better job of engaging and working with Indigenous peoples. The current situation doesn’t lead to greater certainty for anyone, she pointed out.

“It just leads to more divisions and more problems.”

Neve said the UN committee has made it clear on a number of occasions it is deeply concerned that industrial projects such as the Site C dam and Coastal GasLink pipeline are proceeding in ways that violate the rights of Indigenous people.

“It is unconscionable for Canada to just shrug our shoulders and ignore that,” Neve said. “It’s time to do what the UN is asking us to do.”

It’s not the first time the UN committee has called on Canada to suspend the Site C project, which would flood 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries in the heart of Treaty 8 traditional territory if the dam is completed in 2024 as scheduled.

In September 2017, the committee recommended that Canada immediately suspend all permits and approvals for the publicly funded $10.7 billion project, which will produce an average of 680 megawatts of electricity.

The committee also advised Canada to end “the substitution of costly legal challenges as post facto recourse in place of obtaining meaningful free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples.”

The UN committee issued a second rejoinder in December 2019 when it again cited a “lack of measures taken to ensure the right to consultation and free, prior and informed consent” for the Site C dam. It warned that construction without such consent would infringe on Indigenous peoples’ rights protected under the international convention.

The Narwhal reached out to Global Affairs Canada for a response to the UN committee’s decision. Global Affairs Canada — whose email signature touts Canada’s bid for a UN Security Council seat  — put us in touch with Heritage Canada.

Heritage Canada said it hoped to have a response for January 8, but no response was received by publication time.

Phillip said the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs will request a meeting with federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett to discuss the decision.

“We’ll be speaking not only to the government of Canada but also to the provincial government and Premier [John] Horgan with regard to the CERD [Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination] report and its implications vis a vis Bill 41,” Phillip said.

He said the union doesn’t accept the notion that Bill 41, B.C.’s new UNDRIP legislation, will only apply to new resource projects.

“We don’t buy that. The law is the law.” SOURCE

Wet’suwet’en threatened with eviction from their territory

The situation is escalating in Wet’suwet’en unceded territory in northern British Columbia this week as they face eviction by the RCMP if they do not remove any obstacles that would prevent workers from getting to construction sites for a Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The Wet’suwet’en need you to act in solidarity with their defense of traditional territory in the face of development projects that have not received the free, prior and informed consent of their people.

ACT NOW in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en: 

1. Sign our partner RavenTrust’s letter to Coastal GasLink reminding the executives of the rights of Indigenous Peoples that are to be respected, and urging them to respect the eviction order from the Hereditary Chiefs.

2. Visit the Wet’suwet’en Supporter page and take action to support the land defense. There is plenty of information on how to visit the camp, fundraise, write letters to law-makers, and resources for education and solidarity work with your neighbours.

In December 2019, The UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination recognized that Canada did not obtain the consent needed to begin construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Committee instructed Canada to immediately halt construction and suspend all permits and approvals for the project, and urged Canada to withdraw RCMP and security and policing forces from the traditional territories.

Nevertheless, on December 31, 2019 a BC Supreme Court judge extended an injunction against the Wet’suwet’en, saying construction of the natural gas pipeline has been harmed by their defense camps. The hereditary Chiefs reject the Court’s decision based on their inherent, constitutional and human rights to govern their traditional territory under their own governance and legal systems and have once again ordered Coastal GasLink off their lands.

Thank you for speaking out today in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en.

Image result for logo amnesty internationalIn solidarity,

Ana Nicole Collins
Indigenous Rights Advisor
Amnesty International Canada



Andrea Horwath calls Doug Ford war on environment expensive and dangerous

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in Ottawa on Aug. 20, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Premier Doug Ford should allow the province’s auditor general to investigate his government’s abrupt cancellation of a $230-million partially built wind farm, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday.

The Nation Rise Wind Farm near Ottawa was three months away from completion when Environment Minister Jeff Yurek revoked its approval last month. Yurek cited concerns over local bat populations, a claim that clashes with analysis from independent scientists and Ontario government experts.

“Mr. Ford, the ball is in your court. If you believe this decision is not a waste of public money, and you did not use bogus evidence to justify it, let the auditor general prove it,” Horwath said.

Nation Rise, a 100-megawatt project, had already passed scrutiny from the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal when it was cancelled. Sixteen of its 29 turbines were partially or completely constructed.

A year ago, the Progressive Conservative MPP for the area, Jim McDonell, said halting the project at this stage could cost $1 billion. He also compared that scenario to the previous Liberal government’s gas-plants scandal, which cost roughly the same amount and played a significant role in that party’s fall from power.

Sensing a weak point for a government that has made cost-cutting central to its mandate, the official Opposition NDP and the Green party have pounced on the comparison.

The NDP wrote to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk in early January to ask her to probe the cost of cancelling Nation Rise. Lysyk agreed to audit the cost of the cancellation in her annual report, but that wouldn’t be released until December 2020. A special investigation would be faster, Horwath said.

“Mr. Ford has not come clean about how much it will cost Ontarians to rip it down,” she added.

So far, the government has spent $231 million to cancel about 750 renewable-energy projects approved under the previous government’s Green Energy Act. Most of that money was spent to axe another partially constructed wind farm ⁠— White Pines, which was smaller and further away from completion than Nation Rise.

It’s “ridiculous” to tear down renewable-energy projects in the middle of a climate emergency, Horwath said.

“Mr. Ford, the ball is in your court. If you believe this decision is not a waste of public money, and you did not use bogus evidence to justify it, let the auditor general prove it,” said Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. #onpoli

“Doug Ford’s war on the environment is putting us all in danger, and everyday Ontarians are footing a massive bill for it,” she said.

“The devastating bushfires that continue to rage in Australia should be a wakeup call about the urgency to take action.”

The company behind Nation Rise, EDP Renewables, isn’t currently seeking compensation from the government for the $230 million in capital it has sunk into the wind farm. But the company has filed an application to ask a judge to overturn Yurek’s decision, alleging it was “politically motivated” and the minister lacked the proper legal authority, National Observer first reported.

Andrew Buttigieg, a spokesman for Yurek, declined to comment: “As the matter is now under judicial consideration, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

The premier has previously said he would “tear up every wind turbine in this province” if he could. SOURCE

Climate Emergency: A 26-Week Transition Program for Canada

A- emergency

This is a work of imagination. But the urgency of the crisis is real, the need for the suggested programs is real, and the data included in these proposals is real. A printable 40-page PDF of this paper is available


What could the government of Canada do if its Ministers, MPs and civil servants really understood the severity of the climate emergency, and the urgency of the need? This paper shows how we could target a 65% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 100% by 2040. It proposes 164 new policies and programs, financed by $63 billion a year in new investments, without raising taxes or increasing public sector borrowing. The new programs and policies are announced every Monday morning between January 6th and the end of June. To learn what they are, read on.

I thank Warren Mitchell, editor of The Energy Mix, Scott Sinclair, CEO of SES Consulting, and Elizabeth Sheehan, President of Climate Smart Business Inc. for their advice and suggestions. Suggestions for corrections and improvements are welcome.

January 6th, 2020.

This is a joint statement from the Prime Minister and all Ministers in the new Liberal Cabinet. The commitments made below represent additions to our December 2019 Ministerial Mandate letters.[1]

We face an existential climate emergency, as 1,248 governments have declared, representing 800 million people.[2] As a world, we are not on track: we have yet to bend the curve of our ever-increasing carbon emissions. The goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C is rapidly slipping out of reach.[3] The consequences are already proving catastrophic, as we see from the wildfire inferno that is currently destroying a huge area of Australia, including much of the wildlife in the affected regions.

As your government, we will treat the emergency with the utmost urgency. We will work with the provinces, First Nations, businesses, labour unions, local governments, universities and anyone who will help us to achieve a transformational ramping up of efforts on every front.

The last time there was the current level of 410 ppm[4] of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere, three million years ago during the Pliocene, modern humans didn’t exist. The global average surface temperature was 2°C warmer than it has been during the last 10,000 years of our ancestors’ life on Earth, and the ocean sea-levels were up to 23 metres higher.[5] 23 metres– not centimetres.

In April 2019, a scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada found that our country is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, that Northern Canada has warmed and will continue to warm at more than double the global rate, and that Canadians will end up with 10 times as many deadly heat waves and twice as many extreme rainstorms if nothing is done to reduce our climate pollution.[6] The steady increase in global emissions is pushing the climate towards dangerous and unpredictable tipping points, nine of which have already become active, including changes in the Arctic sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet, the Boreal forests, the northern permafrost, the North Atlantic circulation, the Amazon rainforest and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.[7]

Next year (2020) is the year of truth. The year when we must move decisively to an economy that really starts to reduce investments in fossil fuels. – Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

In December 2019 Mark Jacobson and his team of researchers at Stanford University released a report showing how a transition to a world powered by 80% wind, water and solar energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050 is possible for 143 countries, including Canada.[8] Their analysis shows that globally, the use of renewables combined with the electrification of transportation and heat:

  • Reduces global energy demand by 57% due to the efficiencies of electric vehicles and heat pumps.
  • Reduces energy costs by 61%.
  • Reduces private costs from $17.7 trillion a year to $6.8 trillion a year.
  • Reduces the full social cost (private costs + healthcare costs and mortality + climate costs) by 91%, from $76 trillion a year to $6.8 trillion a year.
  • Creates 28.6 million more long-term full-time new jobs than are lost in the transition.
  • Uses just 0.65% of the available land area in the 143 countries (0.17% for the footprint of solar and wind equipment and 0.48% for the spacing between wind turbines).

The private financial saving of $10.9 trillion a year is equivalent to 12% of global GDP.[9] The Business As Usual future, by contrast, will cost $76 trillion a year in combined private, social and climate costs, representing 87% of global GDP, imposing a massive drain on the global economy. Canada faces the additional risk of multi-billion dollars of stranded financial assets, a risk that Mark Carney recently put as up to 80% of all coal assets and up to half of all developed oil reserves.[10]

The message is clear: the transition to 100% renewable energy is the most effective solution to the climate crisis, and will bring enormous financial and healthcare benefits  to Canada and the world, while generating more new jobs that it destroys.

In the Cree language, Tansi Neestow means ‘Hello brother’. It reminds us that we have a responsibility to each other. Our responsibility today is both to each other, as fellow Canadians, and to our Earth, that gives us everything. To all fossil-fuel workers workers and your families, we make this pledge: that we will care for you and protect you as we make this transition, enabling the changes to bring security and new opportunities for all.

In October 2019, a clear majority of Canadians voted for parties that support ambitious climate action, and this we will deliver. To this end, every Monday morning until the end of June we will announce new policies and initiatives to address the climate emergency. MORE

Algae: Carbon capture of a different sort

(Pond Technologies)

Think algae is just that stinky gunk that litters some shorelines?

It’s so much more, according to Steve Martin, CEO of Pond Technologies, who describes himself as the “guy who has the crazy idea that we can grow algae off of the industrial emissions and help to save the world.”

For about a year, Martin and a small crew have been running a demonstration algae plant out of a small tent at his company’s cement factory in St. Marys, Ont., about 170 kilometres west of Toronto. He pointed out that cement is the most manufactured product in the world, used to build things like hydroelectric dams.

“We see a smokestack and we say, ‘Look, that’s evil, that’s got to go,'” Martin said. “For a tonne of cement, you make a tonne of carbon dioxide. So we need to find a way to use that, and luckily, nature has provided algae.”

Pipes from the smokestacks at the cement plant run to Pond’s tent, transporting CO2 into a giant, 22,000-litre tank known as a bioreactor. The algae then does what it does best, according to project manager Tim Everett: It gobbles up the CO2.

The result is about 20 kilograms of a thick green paste produced daily. “It really is almost a limitless byproduct,” said Everett, a mechanical engineer.

The team then uses that paste to cook up a series of green superfoods, including chlorella and spirulina, as well as feed for farm animals.

Martin admitted the technology isn’t new, and Pond Technologies isn’t the only one doing it. But he thinks their methods are the most advanced, and he’s hoping to make a serious dent in carbon emissions.

“The potential is enormous,” he said. “If we put this technology on just 10 per cent of the industrial emitters in North America, we are a long way to meeting the goals of CO2 reduction.”

Still, some say the technology is expensive and its use limited.

“It’s kind of like using a mop to clean up water on the floor while the tap is still running. We need to be thinking of ways to turn off that tap,” said Sarah Buchanan with Environmental Defence, a watchdog group based in Toronto.

She said carbon removal technologies are helpful in a limited way, but the focus should be on clean alternatives that can produce energy without any carbon pollution. “The only silver bullet solution, really, is we have to stop burning fossil fuels. There’s a lot of great renewable clean technologies that can help us do that.”

Martin agrees, but he believes his project can play a vital role.

“I would say it’s not an a la carte menu, it’s a buffet,” he said. “We have to do it all.” SOURCE


E-bikes, not electric cars, may hold the key to greener transportation

(Francois Mori/Associated Press)

Gregor Macdonald, a Portland, Ore.-based journalist and author of the ebook Oil Fall, has been chronicling the way electric cars have been disrupting the petroleum industry, which of course relies heavily on people driving gasoline-powered vehicles.

But Macdonald admits he slept on a development that might have an equally significant effect on oil demand and, consequently, carbon emissions.

“I consider myself to be someone who’s very on top of these trends, and I have nearly missed the e-bike explosion because it’s happening so fast,” said Macdonald. “It’s blown up in the last 12 to 18 months.”

Suffice to say Macdonald is now up to speed on the e-bike surge. These devices — which still have pedals, but also contain a rechargeable battery and can hit speeds of 25 km/h — have seen tremendous growth in recent years. In a report released in December, market research firm Deloitte said it expected global sales of 130 million e-bikes between now and 2023.

That outlook is a lot more bullish than the one for electric cars. For example, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, whose projections are generally seen as more optimistic than those of other research firms, sees the number of electric cars worldwide hitting the 130 million mark closer to 2030.

Electric cars have long been viewed as the most effective way to decarbonize the transportation sector, but Macdonald believes people are waking up to the benefits of a smaller, stealthier ride. For one thing, they’re cheaper: Whereas the lowest-priced electric car is about $30,000, a new e-bike is in the $1,000-$5,000 range.

Macdonald said a typical adult rider can get a range of about 30-40 kilometres on a single charge, which makes e-bikes well-suited to the average daily commute (provided the weather is nice). If you get a slightly larger e-bike with a bit of storage, you can transport your groceries and even other people.

“It’s not that [e-bikes are] going to replace cars wholesale, but they’re going to replace trips made by cars,” said Macdonald. “A $3,500 [US] e-bike is going to allow many families to think about going from two cars to one car.”

Another reason e-bikes are gaining traction is that many people have abandoned the notion that bikes are purely meant for exercise, said Darnel Harris, executive director of Our Greenway, a Toronto-based mobility advocacy group.

“As much as we talk about health and the importance of health, society-wise … we gravitate towards a comfortable ride that’s safe and practical,” he said. In the past, the default solution would have been a car. But e-bikes provide another option to get around without breaking a sweat.

While some people have expressed concern that the rise of e-bikes and other modes of low-speed transport are making bike lanes more crowded and precarious, Harris said it really comes down to how they are regulated.

Not surprisingly, Europeans have something to teach us. Harris said bike lanes in the Netherlands are built for “more than 20 different devices,” including bikes, scooters and even a wheelchair-friendly vehicle that looks like a Smart Car.

Harris said the key is recognizing that “we shouldn’t really be building bike lanes. We should be building mobility lanes for different types of low-speed devices — which the Dutch have done for decades.” SOURCE

The climate crisis is our biggest public health threat

Jane Philpott and Samantha Green: To tackle a global climate catastrophe, we should study how society has successfully faced other health crises

A woman and child wearing masks march in Ottawa as part of a Global Climate Strike, protesting against climate change and inaction, on Sept. 27, 2019. (Justin Tang/CP)

Jane Philpott is a medical doctor and former Member of Parliament. From 2015 to 2019, she served as federal Minister of Health, Minister of Indigenous Services and President of the Treasury Board. Samantha Green is a Toronto family physician and a Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment board member. 

The climate crisis makes us worry about the future for our children and grandchildren. As wildfires ravage Australia, we witness the dangers for the planet and its populations. Climate change is the biggest health crisis of this century. As family doctors, we see its impact on patients. Candace, for example, has severe asthma, and lives alone in Toronto Community Housing. She cannot afford an air conditioner and gets short of breath on extreme heat alert days. She fears dying alone in a hot apartment.

In 2018, the International Panel on Climate Change declared we have about a decade to avoid warming more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. More than 1.5 degrees of warming would be catastrophic for human health and the planet.

Canada is responsible for 1.6 percent of global emissions. This sounds small but we are the top emitter per capita at 21 tons per person per year. The global benchmark for a sustainable climate is less than two tons per person, per year. With this crisis at hand, we should study how society has successfully faced other threats to population health.

MORE: Can the courts legislate action on climate change?

For example, doctors responded to AIDS by doing more than treating individual patients. They joined activists and people living with HIV to challenge government inaction. In 1989, doctors joined with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and Toronto’s AIDS Action Now! to seize the stage at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal. They demanded access to experimental medications and ethical clinical trials.

AIDS is still a difficult global problem with no single solution. A cure is yet to be found. Mitigating the crisis is not simple and HIV/AIDS is not solved. Each day some are infected with HIV and others die of AIDS-related illnesses. But treatment is available. AIDS-related deaths have decreased more than 55 per cent since its peak in 2004.

There are lessons to take from AIDS that are applicable to the climate crisis. First, it takes multiple strategies, many people, collaboration, time, and patience to solve complex problems. Climate scientist Edward Maibach says we need “simple clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted voices” to cause change. It took sit-ins, civil disobedience, careful research, meticulous advocacy and activism from artists and human rights campaigns to awaken the world to AIDS.

MORE: The Tory climate plan unplugged

Second, like AIDS, the climate crisis is complex and seems impossible to solve. In the ’80s and ’90s, there was extreme despair around AIDS. Millions were dying. There was no treatment and no political will to find solutions. But activists worked relentlessly to find and disseminate a treatment. They had no choice. People involved in climate change work also experience hopelessness. Greta Thunberg has been successful leading the climate strike movement because it brings hope to people frozen with despair. People start to believe the crisis can be mitigated.

Finally, there are co-benefits in taking action to solve complex problems. The AIDS response contributed to the empowerment of the LGBTQ community. It sparked a broader patient-rights movement. It highlighted the connection between public health and marginalization. The parameters of medical research shifted. Prior to AIDS, condoms were seen simply as a form of contraception. Now they are widely used to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Solving the climate crisis will likewise bring co-benefits. Decreasing use of fossil fuels not only decreases emissions, it improves air quality and decreases pollution-related harms. Ontario depended on coal for 30 per cent of its electricity. It closed all six of its plants in 2014 resulting in a decrease in smog-alert days and fewer asthma exacerbations.

MORE: The climate crisis: ‘Yes, we should be scared.’

Investment in active transportation also has co-benefits. People who cycle to work have a 50 per cent decreased risk of heart attack and a lower incidence of depression and dementia. Investing in bicycle and transit infrastructure will improve the health of our planet and individuals. A plant-based diet decreases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and some cancers.

What can individuals do about the climate crisis? Talk to friends, family, neighbours, and politicians about it. Live a more climate-neutral life—decrease car and air travel, decrease meat consumption; turn off air conditioners. We don’t have to be perfect, but we can be better.

The biggest emissions come from the oil and gas industries, but these can decrease with technical innovation and better government policy. So, get politically engaged. A price on carbon is an important start. Ask political parties if they will invest in fossil fuels and pipelines, or renewables.

Political representatives will act on climate change when they hear from the public and their constituents that climate change matters.  SOURCE

A staggering 1 billion animals are now estimated dead in Australia’s fires

The number of kangaroos, koalas, and others killed keeps skyrocketing. Here’s where the eye-popping estimate comes from.

A kangaroo jumps in a field amid smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma, Australia, on January 4, 2020. Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

As fires continue to rip through Australia, some devastating numbers are emerging: At least 24 people killed. More than 15.6 million acres torched. Over 1,400 homes destroyed. And, according to one biodiversity expert’s count, an estimated 1 billion animals killed.

That last number is staggeringly huge, and has begun to make the rounds on social media. You might be wondering: How are so many animals dying? And how do we know the number of animals killed?

The bushfires, exacerbated by climate change, have since September swept through vast swathes of Australia — we’re talking about an area bigger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined — affecting a mix of rural and suburban areas.

Many wild animals and some farm animals have been killed directly by the flames. We can see the evidence with our own eyes: Distressing images of burned kangaroos and koalas, and videos of dead animals on the sides of the roads, have circulated online over the past week.

Other animals have not been burned alive but have faced death due to the destruction of their natural environment, which they rely on for food and shelter.

Initially, the number of animals killed was put at 480 million, an estimate that came from Chris Dickman, a biodiversity expert at the University of Sydney, last week. A statement from that institution explained how he arrived at the number.

Anwen, a female koala, recovers from burns at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, Australia, on November 29, 2019.  Nathan Edwards/Getty Images 

In 2007, Dickman co-authored a report for the WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund) on how land-clearing affects Australian wildlife in the state of New South Wales (NSW). To calculate the impact, he and the other authors first mined previously published studies for estimates of mammal population density in NSW. Then they multiplied the density estimates by the areas of vegetation approved to be cleared.

Using this simple formula, Dickman was able to calculate that approximately 480 million animals had been killed since the bushfires in NSW started in September.

Some experts suggested that estimate was too high. Sadly, there are three reasons to believe the true loss of animal life is much greater — more like 1 billion.

First, the 480 million number applied to NSW alone, and the bushfires have since spread to the state of Victoria. Second, the number included mammals, birds, and reptiles, but did not include insects, bats, or frogs. Third, the 2007 report “deliberately employed highly conservative estimates in making their calculations,” according to the statement.

That’s why Dickman now estimates the real number of animals lost in the fires is at least 1 billion.

“The original figure ― the 480 million ― was based on mammals, birds, and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It’s over 800 million given the extent of the fires now ― in New South Wales alone,” he told the Huffington Post.

If we also count bats, frogs, and invertebrates (and given their environmental impact, there’s good reason to think we should), Dickman said it’s “without any doubt at all” that the number of animals lost tops 1 billion. “Over a billion would be a very conservative figure.”

Stuart Blanch, an environmental scientist at WWF Australia, also said 1 billion was a modest estimate given how far the fires have recently spread, according to HuffPost.

How the fires became so deadly for animals

At this point, you might be asking yourself: Can’t animals just run away from a raging fire? Can’t birds just fly away?

In many cases, particularly for birds, the answer is yes. “Certainly, large animals, like kangaroos or emus — many birds, of course — will be able to move away from the fire as it approaches,” Dickman told the BBC. But he added that “it’s the less mobile species and the smaller ones that depend on the forest itself that are really in the firing line.”

Koalas are a good example. An estimated 8,000 of them have died from the fires, ecologists say. That’s almost one-third of all koalas in NSW, which forms their main habitat.

“It may well be up to 30 percent of the population in that region [was killed], because up to 30 percent of their habitat has been destroyed,” explained Sussan Ley, Australia’s environment minister.

WWF is currently collecting donations to restore koala habitats.

Other animals may have fared better — reptiles, for example.

“Although it is hard to find estimates of how well reptiles survive fires, in similar areas of Australia the majority of these reptiles live in the soil,” said Colin Beale, an ecologist from the University of York. “Soil is a very good thermal insulator and burrowing reptiles can certainly show very low mortality even during intense fires.”

Some ecologists, including Beale, say Dickman’s estimates may be inflated. Although it’s plausible many animals have been affected by the fires, the proportion of them that actually died may be smaller.

Let’s hope so. The truth is, it’s hard for anyone to know the precise impact of the fires at this stage, not least because many animals that survive the flames will likely die later due to lack of food, water, and shelter.

Regardless of the exact numbers, this is a crisis for biodiversity in Australia, which is home to some of Earth’s most distinctive animals, like marsupials. Around 244 species of mammals are found only in Australia. What’s more, according to the University of Sydney’s statement, “Some 34 species and subspecies of native mammals have become extinct in Australia over the last 200 years, the highest rate of loss for any region in the world.”

The current loss of Australian animal life is a serious tragedy by anyone’s count. It adds to the terrible human toll: two dozen people killed, and thousands more evacuated. Fires are expected to keep raging for another month.

To help with the evacuations and firefighting, the government announced this weekend that it’s deploying the military. Experts say the deployment is on a scale not seen since World War II. As Defense Minister Linda Reynolds put it, “It is the first time that reserves have been called out in this way in living memory.” SOURCE


White House update of key environmental law would exclude climate change

Steel drill pipe at sunrise on an oil lease near Midland, Tex. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Steel drill pipe at sunrise on an oil lease near Midland, Tex. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

The Trump administration will instruct federal agencies to no longer take climate change into account when measuring the impact of major infrastructure projects, according to two senior administration officials — a sweeping overhaul of one of the nation’s most consequential environmental laws.

The proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act are aimed at speeding approvals for pipelines, oil and gas leases, highway construction and other kinds of development. The law, which was last updated in 1978, has proved one of the most potent stumbling blocks to President Trump’s push to accelerate oil, gas and coal extraction across the country. SOURCE


The Tragedy of Germany’s Energy Experiment

The country is moving beyond nuclear power. But at what cost?

Credit…Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock

HAMBURG, Germany — Are the Germans irrational? Steven Pinker seems to think so. Professor Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, told the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel recently that if mankind wanted to stop climate change without stopping economic growth too, the world needed more nuclear energy, not less. Germany’s decision to step out of nuclear, he agreed, was “paranoid.”

My country has embarked on a unique experiment indeed. The Merkel government has decided to phase out both nuclear power and coal plants. The last German reactor is scheduled to shut down by the end of 2022, the last coal-fired plant by 2038. At the same time, the government has encouraged the purchase of climate-friendly electric cars — increasing the demand for electrical power. And despite efforts to save energy in the past decades, Germany’s power consumption has grown by 10 percent since 1990.

Skeptics fear that the country is on a risky path. Sufficient renewable energy sources might not be available in time to compensate for the loss of fossil and nuclear power. Though renewables account for around 40 percent of Germany’s electricity supply, there are limits to further expansion, for reasons that are political rather than technological.

In some rural parts of Germany, people are fed up with ever growing “wind parks”; more citizens are protesting new — and often taller — wind turbines in their neighborhoods. And there is growing resistance to the new paths needed to transport electricity from coasts to industrial centers. According to official calculations, close to 3,700 miles of new power lines are required to make Germany’s “Energiewende,” or energy revolution, work. By the end of 2018, only 93 miles had been built.

The plan risks more than a shortfall in supply. It could also prevent the country from dealing with climate change. By shutting down nuclear plants faster than those for coal, Germany may consign itself to dependence on fossil fuels, and all the damage to the climate they cause, for longer than necessary. Nevertheless, Germans’ opposition to nuclear power endures: 60 percent of them want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
Paranoia is not exactly the right word to describe the attitude behind these figures, though. Rather, it is the very German trait of freezing when faced with a dilemma. For a nation that is as keen as ours to do what would undoubtedly be considered good, choosing between two evils — here, nuclear power and climate change — is a nearly insurmountable task.
Nuclear energy, to start with, is ultimately not safe, and the Germans have always been particularly uneasy with it. After the nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the “Atomausstieg,” the exit from nuclear energy once and for all. Why? Because, as Ms. Merkel put it back then: “The residual risk of nuclear energy can be accepted only if one is convinced that — as far as it is humanly possible to judge — it won’t come to pass.” After Fukushima, Ms. Merkel, a trained physicist, was no longer able to believe that a nuclear disaster would not occur. That there was a catastrophe even in a high-tech country like Japan made her change her mind.
But what about the near-certain catastrophic consequences of the second evil, climate change enhanced by coal-fired plants? Ms. Merkel recognized recently that “climate change is happening faster than we had thought a couple of years ago.” At the same time, she had to admit that Germany was struggling to fulfill the promises of the Paris climate accord: Despite new hopeful figures, the targeted 40 percent reduction of carbon emissions by the end of 2020 may not be met. One could argue that knowledge about the severity of climate change has deepened since 2011 and that countries should do everything they can to shift away from fossil fuels — yet there’s no sign that Ms. Merkel might change her mind about scrapping nuclear.

A return to nuclear appears to be completely unthinkable for the Green Party, the probable future coalition partner of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats. The Greens have their roots in the antinuclear movement of the early 1980s: Resistance against nuclear power is in the party’s DNA. But so is the fight against climate change.

Confronted with these competing convictions, the Greens seem to have no good answer. When Annalena Baerbock, the co-leader of the party, was asked on national television if the country should stick with nuclear power longer to allow a quicker shutdown of coal plants, she rejected the idea emphatically. “No one in this country wants nuclear waste buried in his neighbor’s garden,” she said.

That is certainly true. It is also true that nuclear energy enriches companies while shifting the risk of atomic waste and technological failure onto society. But this calculus is true for heavily carbon-dioxide-emitting coal power, too.

The tragedy about Germany’s energy experiment is that the country’s almost religious antinuclear attitude doesn’t leave room for advances in technology. Scientists in America, Russia and China believe that it is possible to run nuclear power plants on radioactive waste — which might solve the problem of how to store used fuel elements, one of the core arguments against nuclear. Certainly, these so-called fast breeder reactors have their dangers too. But as we transition to a completely renewable energy supply, wouldn’t they be a better alternative to coal and gas plants?

By shutting down its entire nuclear sector in a rush, Germany loses more opportunities than dangers. It forfeits the capacity to connect to a technology that might prove the safest and most climate-friendly mankind has yet seen. At the very least, using Germany’s existing nuclear plants would make an expeditious move away from fossil fuels possible.

Is it irrational not to do so? Maybe, maybe not. But letting this chance slip away could turn out to be one of the gravest mistakes of the Merkel era. SOURCE