Canada needs an intense discussion about developing a cleaner, greener economy

Graphic by Lev Krag for Green Stimulus series. L-R: Barbara Zvan, Stewart Elgie,Mike Kelland

Mike Kelland takes chances and his latest venture may be his riskiest one to date.

“This is my 10th company,” says the Ottawa-based software entrepreneur. “And some of them actually worked.”

Kelland is the CEO of an early-stage startup called Planetary Hydrogen. He’d like this endeavour to be his last — and greatest success.

His company produces hydrogen, a clean and powerful source of energy.

Many advocates and experts insist that if Canada is to reach its emission targets to cut greenhouse gases by 2030 and 2050, respectively, it must rely on clean power.

“It is a clean fuel,” says Kelland. “And for a lot of things that are difficult to electrify, you instantly have a decarbonized fuel source.”

“If you can get hydrogen in a clean way, it is a clean fuel,” Mike Kelland, CEO of Planetary Hydrogen.
“If you can get hydrogen in a clean way, it is a clean fuel,” Mike Kelland, CEO of Planetary Hydrogen.

He says his sales pitch is going well. The banks seem to be listening. When the Canadian economy emerges from what some economists have called a “self-induced coma,” Kelland will intensify the hunt for more cash.

Discussions about moving from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of power such as hydrogen will ramp up as consumers, governments and investors struggle with the best ways to shift to a greener economy.

“The Canadian industry is quite (well-) known globally,” says Mark Kirby, president and CEO of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association, an organization he calls the “voice of the sector.”

He says hydrogen could help cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 per cent, according to numbers crunched by governments within Canada and beyond.

The nature of the green-stimulus discussions could provide a blueprint for how consumers, governments and the private sector invest in a sustainable economy. 

“That’s not me, (but) numbers that have been developed globally, by the Canadian government, by the B.C. government, by the Quebec government, by others,” he says.

Kirby and Kelland are betting that hydrogen becomes part of a broader conversation about how Canada can power its way to greater prosperity by investing in a green and sustainable technology that will allow us to commute, heat our homes and travel without polluting the environment.

As parts of the economy are slowly and tentatively emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown, the federal government is making it clear it will continue to review the recovery and future economic activity through a green lens. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s marching orders to his cabinet ministers in his mandate letters are peppered with instructions: invest in “green and public transit infrastructure”; “exceed Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction goal”; “achieve net-zero emissions by 2050”; and “… move more electricity between provinces and regions supporting the electrification of Canadian industries.”

Ministers of Infrastructure and Communities, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Natural Resources Canada have been tasked with more specific instructions to think longer term about green stimulus.

The nature of the green-stimulus discussions could provide a blueprint for how consumers, governments and the private sector invest in a sustainable economy.

Canada’s National Observer intends to be an integral part of that discussion.

We are embarking on a project, funded by the Trottier and Ivey foundations, to search for answers, exploring what a green stimulus package for Canada might look like from the so-called “shovel-worthy jobs” that have been making headlines of late, to public policy and budgetary packages to incentivize a longer-term transition to cleaner growth.

Our series will include explanatory journalism, in-depth reporting, and opinion pieces by leading thinkers in the field, as well as interviews with key policymakers, environmental advocates, and federal leaders on how Canada can seize the moment to meet its climate goals while furthering economic recovery.

It is also important to stress that all of our journalism in this series is independent of any outside party, including the Trottier and Ivey foundations, and adheres to the editorial standards of National Observer’s ethics and guidelines and The Trust Project.

Defining ‘shovel-worthy’

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Catherine McKenna raised a few eyebrows last month when she talked to reporters about freeing up more than $3 billion for so-called “shovel-worthy” initiatives for provinces and municipalities to design projects to help communities develop pandemic-related measures, such as renovations to facilitate physical distancing in public and private spaces.

The shovel-worthy designation could be a derivative of the term “shovel-ready,” which became a feature of the Economic Action Plan that the Conservative government of Stephen Harper launched in its 2009 budget. The idea was to “quickly turn the economy around and create jobs.” This meant spending money on infrastructure projects deemed ready enough to begin digging and building right away.

“So, shovel-worthy? People ask me that,” said McKenna during a May 26 digital townhall conversation with the Surrey Board of Trade.

“… They could be projects that have an environmental benefit… that could go ahead quickly… With the COVID stream, we try to identify projects where you don’t necessarily need a huge lead time, where you might not have massive planning. So, if you’re… retrofitting a building, you wouldn’t have massive planning… Communities have projects that are ready to go.”

McKenna describes these small-scale projects, no more than $10 million, as “low-hanging fruit.”

There seems to be little disagreement about the need to get money immediately out the door to help citizens cope with a pandemic that will almost certainly be with us until there’s a vaccine.

Even the federal government’s top spending watchdog is on board.

“What we need, probably now more than ever, are investments that will facilitate the containment of the virus and a pandemic, which nobody thought of six months ago,” said parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux in an interview with National Observer.

The federal government’s shift to measures to stimulate longer-term green economic growth that creates jobs and protects the environment promises to be more complicated and subject to more debate and less consensus.

Spending more money

Infrastructure Canada is one of 14 federal departments and agencies delivering programs under the $180-billion Investing in Canada Plan. A portion of the plan has been set aside for “green” projects such as water treatment plants and clean power.

As of May 27, slightly more than $65 billion has been committed to 52,083, according to Infrastructure Canada’s most recent estimates provided to National Observer.

“Almost all of these projects are either underway or completed,” said department spokesperson Sabrine Barakat in an emailed response.

Despite the money already committed, there have been consistent complaints that successive governments have been too slow to make the cash available.

“What we found in our multiple reports over the years, is that the government’s initial plans… are always postponed,” said Giroux.

“They can never proceed in pushing money out the door… at the same pace as they initially think.”’

The reasons are many: too much red tape; the need to get buy-in from other levels of government; conflicting priorities; and politics.

However, the government is attempting to overcome these obstacles by expanding the definition of eligible projects, and approving money more quickly.

To date, the priorities from the provinces and cities have been large projects, including public transit, waste water treatment improvements, and renewal of water pipes, according to a National Observer analysis of the projects approved so far under the Investing in Canada Plan.

The challenge for the government is to ensure that projects yet to be submitted and approved create jobs and protect the environment in all sectors of the economy.

“(Former U.S. president Barak) Obama helped put the auto industry on a path to clean competitiveness. And we need to do that same thing here,” said Stewart Elgie, professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa, chair of the Smart Prosperity Institute, and a member of the recently formed federal Task Force for a Resilient Recovery.

Policymakers must avoid falling “prey to too much short-term thinking,” says Stewart Elgie, a member of the federal Task Force for a Resilient Recovery.

“As we invest to help our industries recover, we have to put them on a path to clean competitiveness because that is where the wealth and jobs of the future will be.”

Catherine McKenna’s December 13, 2019, mandate letter provides an interesting example of the shape that path could take. The federal minister must “work with provinces and territories to introduce new funding to help school boards and municipalities purchase 5,000 zero-emission school and transit buses over the next five years.

Making the pitch to investors

Governments and public institutions, such as transit authorities, can’t do it all. That’s in large part because they only have so much money and imagination. To make the available public dollars stretch even further, Ottawa will need to get more businesses to invest in charging stations for electric buses, for example, in addition to a host of other clean-energy initiatives.

Ottawa may lean heavily on the expertise of the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery that, in addition to Elgie, has drawn members from the public, private and charitable sectors. Though the task force’s primary goal will be advising the government on getting as many Canadians back to work as possible, suggesting clean-growth projects will also be central.

A key question when thinking about proposals the task force will eventually be reviewing is “does this make sense?” says task force member Barbara Zvan, a former chief risk and strategy officer for the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, who has been described as a “leading voice on sustainable investing and finance.”

“You have to come at it with the lens of ‘Will this help with getting to net zero by 2050 and help with our Paris (accord) targets? What kind of jobs are they creating?… Who gets those jobs? Are they better jobs than before?’ These are all the things we’ll be looking at,” Zvan said in an interview with National Observer.

Clean-tech sectors need more consultation and financing, says Barbara Zvan, a member of the federal Task Force for a Resilient Recovery.

Zvan has spoken to investors who complain about being mired in seemingly endless red tape that makes it too difficult to get their projects to market.

“What we heard from the clean-tech sector is the length of time it takes… (and) the rules that have to be written before they can do the controlled tests. How do you speed up development?”

Speed is definitely on the mind of Planetary Hydrogen’s Mike Kelland. He needs more cash from investors to buy equipment and production facilities. He wants to expand the company to 60 or 70 employees within the next three years.

“My mission is to see this thing go as high as it can, as big as it can, as fast as it can.”

While the pandemic has forced green-technology deliberations to take a back seat to the still-immediate need for economic stimulus, devising a longer-term strategy for transitioning to a low-carbon economy promises to be a more daunting challenge for consumers, businesses, investors, lawmakers and politicians.

It’s a conversation National Observer intends to help generate and sustain.

The law that could make climate change illegal

One of the most robust laws on climate change yet has been created in Denmark. Can legislation really make failing to act on climate change illegal?

Imagine this: it’s 2030 and a country has just missed its target for cutting carbon emissions, that was set back in 2020. People are frustrated, but several governments have come and gone since the goal was set. “Don’t blame us,” the current government says. “We didn’t take the decisions that led us here.”

The short-term cycles of government can be a real problem for climate change. Even if climate goals are laid down in law, there can often be few concrete measures to stop a succession of governments from taking decisions that collectively end up with them being missed.

But a new and ambitious climate law recently passed in Denmark tries to find a way around this problem, and some of the other common pitfalls of climate laws. It makes Denmark one of a small number of countries beginning to provide new blueprints of how government can genuinely tackle climate change. Its law could turn out to be one of the closest things yet to a law that would make climate change – or at least the lack of effort to stop it – genuinely illegal.

In January 2019, a petition was launched for a climate law that would bring Denmark in line with the Paris Agreement. After one week, it had been signed by more than 50,000 people – around 1% of Denmark’s population.

The demands of the petition failed to gain overall parliamentary support at the time, but became part of a growing climate movement that swept Denmark last year, along with much of the world. By the time Denmark’s election arrived in June, climate change had become a top election issue.

“The parties kind of overbid each other in their climate ambitions in order to win the election,” says Birgitte Qvist-Sørensen, general secretary of DanChurchAid, one of a group of NGOs behind the petition.

Theoretically, Denmark's new law means the government could lose its majority if it fails to meet its climate targets (Credit: Getty Images)

 

Theoretically, Denmark’s new law means the government could lose its majority if it fails to meet its climate targets (Credit: Getty Images)

Once in office, Denmark’s new government, a coalition of left-wing parties led by the Social Democrats, began work on an ambitious climate law, which came into force in June. It is one of the strongest laws of its kind in the world, because it avoids five big pitfalls of climate laws elsewhere.

1. An enduring solution

How can a climate law avoid the scenario of a country setting a goal 10 or 20 years into the future but failing to actually meet it?

Policies to cut emissions are needed years ahead of time to meet climate goals. “It’s about more than just setting a target,” says Tessa Khan, a climate lawyer with Dutch environmental law charity Urgenda. “It’s also about making sure that governments are taking the measures in the interim that are necessary to reach that target, and to make that a legally binding process.”

If you’re not on track, the parliament can say, ‘Well, sorry, you’re not on track so you don’t get a majority.’ In theory, that will lead to a government having to step down – Dan Jørgensen

The UK government, for example, has for years neglected the strong policies needed to set it on course to meet its climate targets in the next 12 years. “What we have [in the UK] is a case where the government can set a budget, come up with a plan which isn’t good enough, and then ignore that plan and not need to update it,” says Jonathan Church, a lawyer with the activist legal charity ClientEarth. “Actually, you need the legal weight of whatever law it is to be focused on when those actions are taken.”

The Danish law has several safeguards to this end. Every year, the government will need to find a majority parliamentary approval of its global and national climate strategies. “The government will be held to account every year by the parliament,” says Dan Jørgensen, Denmark’s climate and energy minister. “If you’re not on track, the parliament can say, ‘Well, sorry, you’re not on track so you don’t get a majority.’ In theory, that will lead to a government having to step down.”

Climate change rose quickly up the political agenda in Denmark in 2019, and an ambitious climate law followed in 2020 (Credit: Getty Images)

 

Climate change rose quickly up the political agenda in Denmark in 2019, and an ambitious climate law followed in 2020 (Credit: Getty Images)

Of course, if there were a drastic change to the parliamentary make up, this cross-party consensus system could fail. “Technically it’s a risk, but in reality [for Denmark], no,” says Qvist-Sørensen, noting that there are so many parties in the parliament that even a big change to one would leave a majority in favour of action.

But what happens when a new government comes in – will it be held to the same standard?

As governments come and go, laws often can too. Climate ambitions by one government can be at risk if a future government does not support them – as seen in the US when President Donald Trump entered the White House and reversed many of his predecessor’s environmental initiatives.

Denmark has tried to minimise this risk by negotiating cross-party support of its climate law. Eight of the 10 parties in the Danish parliament – who together make up around 95% of seats – ultimately voted for the law (members from two small parties voted against it).

“Even if we run into a financial crisis again, even if political parties change and climate won’t be as high on the agenda as it is right now, the law we’ve made now makes sure that the progress on fighting climate change will not stop,” said Jørgensen.

This cross-party support also helps to provide the market certainty needed for companies to invest in low-carbon technologies. “If the markets are to react they need to be sure it’s not just a good idea that’s in fashion right now,” said Jørgensen. “They need to be sure it will last.”

2. Fair share

Another key difference in Denmark’s new law is its evidence-based approach to what share of the global emissions cuts it is responsible for.

Global emissions will need to halve in the next 10 years to keep the world on track to limit temperature rise to 1.5C – a key aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement, which nearly all countries have signed up to. The goals behind climate laws claiming to be in line with the Paris Agreement must therefore be based on the science of what needs to be done, not what is deemed “possible” to do given current technologies.

Developing nations have historically contributed fewer greenhouse gas emissions, which is one factor considered when calculating each country's "fair share" (Credit: Getty Images)
Developing nations have historically contributed fewer greenhouse gas emissions, which is one factor considered when calculating each country’s “fair share” (Credit: Getty Images

Calculating the “fair share” of emissions reductions needed from each country is complex and varies depending on the method used for divvying out responsibility. Countries have acknowledged, though, that rich nations with more historic emissions should be required to cut their emissions faster than poorer countries who have emitted less. (Read more about who is really to blame for climate change.)

Countries with credible climate plans therefore need to make a genuine attempt to calculate their fair share. This is what Denmark has done, finding that it should reduce emissions 70% by 2030, based on 1990 levels. This legally binding science-based target is the backbone of its new law.

So far Denmark has reached just a 35% drop in emissions, so it has its work cut out over the next 10 years, including immediate action to reduce emissions now and support to development the tools needed to achieve deeper emissions reductions towards the end of the 2020s.

This means the new law is different in committing Denmark to stretching beyond its current capabilities. “With all the knowledge and technology we have today, no matter what we do, we cannot reduce [emissions by] 70% in 10 years,” says Qvist-Sørensen. “Here they’ve set a target that means that we don’t have all the answers yet.”

Denmark’s new law also aims for “net-zero” emissions by 2050, although its “fair share” to reach this target would actually be closer to a 2040 deadline, says John Nordbo, senior advocacy adviser on climate at humanitarian aid non-profit Care Denmark.

This view is shared by other Danish NGOs, but it is more important to focus on a target of 2030 says Qvist-Sørensen, as that goal will have more influence on the decisions being made now. “Hopefully politicians will scale up the ambition before this decade is over, and revise the year for climate neutrality,” she says.

3. Net zero

Global emissions will need to reach “net zero” around mid-century to stay on track for 1.5C, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Any greenhouse gas emissions still occurring in 2050 will need to be balanced out with the same amount of emissions removal from the atmosphere.

This concept of net zero emissions may have its challenges, but a vision for long term emissions cuts will always be an essential part of any credible climate target. A flood of new “net-zero” climate goals have been set in recent years, including by the UKFranceSwedenNew Zealand, the EU at large and states within the US including California and New York. Suriname and Bhutan have already achieved net-zero emissions.

Other countries have even earlier targets than Denmark’s goal for net zero by 2050. Norway, for instance, plans to become “climate neutral” by 2030. The catch? This target is not enshrined in law, and Norway plans to meet it by buying emissions “offsets” from other countries. Norway’s domestic emissions are actually higher today than they were 30 years ago.

Some countries, such as Bhutan, are already at net-zero emissions – or have gone past that goal to carbon-negative (Credit: Getty Images)

Some countries, such as Bhutan, are already at net-zero emissions – or have gone past that goal to carbon-negative (Credit: Getty Images)

This is an important caveat to any “net zero” climate target. Those who support using offsets say they allow emissions to be cut in the cheapest possible way, but others argue they unfairly allow rich countries to buy their way out of the climate problem, and that it is hard to guarantee offsets are permanent – newly grown trees can be cut down again at some point, after all – or would not have happened anyway.

So while the date of Denmark’s net zero target isn’t as ambitious as it could be, its promise to achieve all emissions cuts within its own borders helps to give it credibility. “We say that if all countries just bought credits, then we wouldn’t have the development that we need,” says Jørgensen. “We need technological advances. We need a system where rich countries can’t just buy their way out.”

Other countries have adopted a mixed approach to offsetting in other countries: Sweden, with a net-zero target for 2045, has said at least 85% of cuts will be within its own borders, but other measures can be used for the remaining 15%.

4. In it together

Climate change is a global problem – if it is not tackled everywhere, it will affect everyone. The modern world is also incredibly intertwined: products – and resultant emissions – made in one place are actually consumed in another, while sharing green technologies across borders can also help other countries reduce their emissions.

Many arguegovernments need to do more than cutting emissions strictly within their borders. “It’s of course quite arbitrary to only hold states and governments accountable for the emissions that their territory produces,” says Khan. “I think it’s really important to make sure that those aspects of greenhouse gas emissions aren’t omitted from any climate change law, and that countries are really politically honest about their full responsibility for the problem.”

Many countries skirt around this issue in their climate laws, but Denmark’s new law has a commitment to support other countries in cutting their emissions. It requires climate change to be integrated into foreign development aid and trade policy, and for the climate impacts of Danish imports and consumption to be considered.

“This means: what kind of climate funding do we give? How much money do we give to whom? Which bilateral co-operations have we got?” says Jørgensen. “We also acknowledge that okay, well, even if we reduce 70%, we are also a country that, on the negative side, imports a lot of goods from other countries that creates pollution, CO2 emissions. It’s a way of trying to institutionalise a part of a climate policy that’s difficult to set targets for.”

As well as contributing less greenhouse gas emissions, many developing nations, such as Bangladesh, are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change (Credit: Getty Images)

 

As well as contributing less greenhouse gas emissions, many developing nations, such as Bangladesh, are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change (Credit: Getty Images)

The details of exactly how this international dimension will work are now being negotiated in parliament. However, so far the law does not fully address the global pledge by rich countries to provide $100bn (£80bn) per year in climate finance to poorer countries, says Nordbo. The fair share of this for Denmark would be around five billion Danish Krone per year, he adds – around $700m (£560m). “The law doesn’t say anything about climate assistance at this level,” he says.

5. Green lens

Denmark’s law also has a safeguard to make sure positive climate efforts in one part of its government aren’t undermined by those in another.

Governments are notoriously bad at “green-checking” their decisions. Often some departments support investment in fossil fuels or road building even while others are pushing clean energy and transport. The UK government, for example, has had a climate change law in place since 2008, but has been criticised for not considering environmental impacts of its spending decisions and for funding fossil fuels abroad.

As climate change moves up the political agenda, an all-hands-on-deck approach is increasingly being prioritised. New Zealand’s government, for instance, said last year that all its major decisions will now be made through a climate change lens.

Denmark’s law likewise aims to ensure all policies support green sustainable development. It establishes a standing committee on “green transformation” to screen the sustainability of all policies, says Jørgensen. “We see this as a transformation of the Danish society that’s so big that it’s not just my ministry, it’s all ministries, including the foreign affairs ministry,” he adds. “They are also responsible for the global strategy that needs to be put forward every year.”

Denmark is also making efforts to include businesses and the public in its plans. A “public climate council” of 99 people will be invited to discuss potential climate plans. Thirteen “climate partnerships”, each led by a different sector, were tasked with coming up with solutions to reduce emissions in their industry. “So actually, [the government] have put the private sector to the test, but are also saying on the other hand that the private sector really wants to be put to the test,” says Qvist-Sørensen.

The partnerships ask each sector how they can contribute, “while also reminding them, a Social Democratic government is not afraid of using the taxation-toolbox”, tweeted Magnus Hornø Gottlieb, an advisor at Danish multinational power company Ørsted. The sectors, ranging from agriculture to aviation, recently gave their recommendations to the government. “Some of them are quite interesting, I must say,” says Qvist-Sørensen.

When laws fall short

Climate laws are becoming an increasingly common tool for countries to tackle climate change. But what if governments fail to create them in the first place? In this case, courts are proving to be a powerful mechanism to force governments to take action.

In one especially noteworthy ruling in 2015, a court in the Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years. The case, brought by Urgenda, was based on the legal obligations of the government to exercise a duty of care to Dutch citizens.

A number of climate lawsuits against governments have already been successful, such as Urgenda's landmark 2015 ruling, which was led by Roger Cox (Credit: Getty Images)

 

A number of climate lawsuits against governments have already been successful, such as Urgenda’s landmark 2015 ruling, which was led by Roger Cox (Credit: Getty Images)

This was the first time a court had ordered a government to reduce its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by an absolute minimum amount, says Khan, who joined Urgenda in 2016.

Since 2015, the number of climate litigation cases has skyrocketed. In March, a UK court of appeal said plans to expand Heathrow Airport were unlawful because they failed to take the Paris Agreement into account. Climate youth lawsuits have been launched in the USCanadaColumbia and South Korea for violations of their constitutional rights – and several have won.

Denmark itself also has a movement trying to get climate change into its constitution, says Qvist-Sørensen, which has only been changed twice in the past 100 years. This could open up the door for a parallel process to hold it to account alongside its climate law.

What the Urgenda case proved, says Khan, is that the impacts of climate change, whether already here or forecast to arrive, are illegal because governments have an obligation to protect their residents from harm to their livelihoods, health and housing.

So could climate change ever be made illegal? Protections could certainly always be strengthened, but in many ways we already have the commitments and tools needed to hold governments accountable.

As Khan puts it: “There are already a lot of laws that we could be using to address the climate crisis, that we just aren’t.”

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Massive 340,000-panel solar farm to take flight at Edmonton International Airport

UPLOADED BY: Gordon Kent ::: EMAIL: gkent@postmedia.com ::: PHONE: 7804295262 ::: CREDIT: Supplied ::: CAPTION: IKEA has installed solar panels on its Edmonton store as part of a move to use more renewable energy, one of the city's largest commercial rooftop solar installations. ORG XMIT: POS1808221549305116

Solar panels. FILE PHOTO

A massive renewable energy project roughly the size of 313 CFL football fields could be arriving in Edmonton by the end of 2022.

Edmonton International Airport announced Tuesday plans to build a 627-acre, 120-megawatt solar farm — enough energy to power 27,000 or 28,000 homes — on the west side of its lands as part of an agreement with European-based renewable energy company Alpin Sun. Solar power from the farm would feed into Fortis Alberta and the airport.

“We’re Canada’s largest airport by land size so we have the space to do something very special. … This will create jobs, provide sustainable solar power for our region and shows our dedication to sustainability.”

If approved by local, provincial, and federal regulators including NAV Canada, construction is expected to begin early 2022 and the farm would be operational by the end of the year. Building the project would create 120 jobs for a year, with up to 250 jobs at its peak.

EIA says the 340,000-solar-panel farm would generate 200,000 MWh a year, which could offset an estimated 106,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The farm would be separated into two lots, one with 367 acres, and 72 MW, and the second with 259 acres and 48 MW.

Tanni Doblanko, Mayor of Leduc County, welcomed the project.

SOURCE

By Lauren Boothby

Even if we start to fix climate change, the proof may not show up for 30 years

New findings put a brief emissions drop during the coronavirus pandemic into perspective.

Students march as part of the Global Climate Strike in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, in September. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The young climate activists clamoring today for rapid cuts to the world’s fossil fuel emissions could be well into their 30s or 40s before the impact of those changes becomes apparent, scientists said in a study published Tuesday.

As if curbing climate change wasn’t tough enough already, the new research finds that even if humans sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions now — cutting carbon dioxide, methane and other pollutants by at least 5 percent or more a year — it could still take decades before it’s clear those actions are beginning to slow the rate of the Earth’s warming.
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Headshot of Chris Mooney
Chris Moone  is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter covering climate change, energy, and the environment. He has reported from the 2015 Paris climate negotiations, the Northwest Passage, and the Greenland ice sheet, among other locations, and has written four books about science, politics and climate change.Follow
Headshot of Brady Dennis
Brady Dennis  is is a Pulitzer Prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, focusing on the environment and public health. He previously spent years covering the nation’s economy.Follow

Intense Arctic Wildfires Set a Pollution Record

High temperatures and dry soil mean ideal conditions for fires. Blazes in June produced more carbon emissions than any other fires in almost two decades of monitoring.

Credit…Yevgeny Sofroneyev/TASS, via Getty Images

Intense wildfires in the Arctic in June released more polluting gases into the Earth’s atmosphere than in any other month in 18 years of data collection, European scientists said in a report Tuesday.

These fires offer a stark portrait of planetary warming trends.

The Arctic is warming at least two and a half times faster than the global average rate. Soils in the region are drier than before. Wildfires are spreading across a large swath. In June, fires released 59 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide, greater than all the carbon emissions produced by Norway, an oil-producing country, in a year.

The last time fires in the Arctic were this intense or released such a large volume of emissions was last year, which itself set a record.

“Higher temperatures and drier surface conditions are providing ideal conditions for these fires to burn and to persist for so long over such a large area,” Mark Parrington, a fire specialist at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which issued the report, said in a statement.

Exceptionally high temperatures in Russia’s Far North are also a harbinger of an unusually hot year worldwide. Average global temperatures this June nearly matched the record for 2019, and this year as a whole stands to be among the five hottest years on record. Average temperatures in Europe in June were 1.3 degrees warmer than the average over the period between 1981 to 2010, according to European data.

Temperatures in Verkhoyansk, a Siberian town best known as a place of exile in the czarist era, hit a record 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38 degree Celsius, on June 20. In the Siberian Arctic, scientists said, the soil is drier than ever, and snow cover reached a record low in June 2020.

That data is consistent with a pattern of warming confirmed by other scientific reports. And Arctic warming has an effect elsewhere: Many studies, including one in 2018 by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that the persistent warming of the Arctic may be influencing extreme weather events around the world.

The scientists at the European Center noted that while fires are part of the ecology of the Arctic, the size and intensity of the fires in the past two years are “cause for concern.”

By releasing so much carbon dioxide, the fires are contributing to global warming. And scientists say the fires could also lead to more thawing of Arctic permafrost. Decomposition of the organic matter, like dead vegetation and animals, in this previously frozen ground would result in the release of more methane, another potent greenhouse gas.

Smoke from the Siberian fires seems to be spreading across the northern Pacific, reaching as far as the Pacific Northwest, scientists at the center said.

There are other fire seasons looming. In Brazil, with a government that seeks to open up more forest for industry as well as lax enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic, vast swaths of the Amazon have been cleared in recent months for agriculture, mining and logging. They are likely to be set ablaze in the season that starts in August, and those fires could spread across the Amazon, as they did last year.

The Brazilian Amazon has lost nearly 1,300 square miles of forest since January, a 20 percent increase in cutting from the same period last year, according to the Amazon Environmental Research Institute and the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. The resulting carbon emissions from that deforestation are equivalent to emissions from 25 million vehicles over a year. That’s not counting emissions produced by wildfires during Brazil’s dry season.

The Amazon fires of 2019, in addition to forest fires in Indonesia and the Arctic, drove up global fire-related annual emissions after years of steady decline.

By  is an international climate correspondent. She has also covered the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia for The Times and received the 2003 George Polk Award for her work in Congo, Liberia and other conflict zones. @SominiSengupta  Facebook

Bringing coal back

In a desperate economic moment, Alberta is abruptly reshaping a decades-old balance in the Rockies and Foothills, chasing opportunity in the volatile market of coal exports, at the risk of the very land that defines the province and its people.

Heavy equipment at work at the Teck Elkford Operations in British Columbia, just west of the Alberta border. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Now, turn on your heel and look to the east: past the Continental Divide, over the invisible border into Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass. There’s the distinctive, rounded peak of Crowsnest Mountain and, just beyond that, the Livingstone Range. The same, high-quality coal is locked away in these mountains, yet there are no operational mines here. The last one closed in 1983.

The difference dates back to 1976. That’s when the Progressive Conservative government of premier Peter Lougheed adopted its Coal Development Policy, which restricted open-pit mines across most of the province’s Rocky Mountains and Foothills. For the last 44 years, this policy protected some of Alberta’s most pristine and iconic landscapes. It also chased mining companies into neighbouring B.C., limiting potential livelihoods for thousands of Albertans.

Now, this long-standing tradeoff between environmental protection and economic opportunity is poised to change.

On June 1, the United Conservative government of Premier Jason Kenney rescinded the coal policy. The full implications of this are not yet clear, but there is growing tension — both nervous and excited energy — about what it will bring.

What is known is that the change happened suddenly, with virtually no public consultation but plenty of behind-the-scenes lobbying. And it didn’t happen in isolation. It came alongside a rapid-fire series of legislative changes that removed hurdles for industrial development, more broadly, during a particularly desperate economic moment.

Alberta has been struggling with persistent unemployment since the oil-price crash of 2015. Then COVID-19 hit, prompting warnings that joblessness could reach 25 per cent and the provincial deficit could balloon to $20 billion. Albertans are used to booms and busts, but are now grappling with the realization that the oil industry may have seen its last boom. This has only dialled up tensions in the perennial struggle between protecting nature and putting it to use.

Grassland, ranchland, foothills and snow-capped mountain peaks in southern Alberta. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Grassland, ranchland, foothills and snow-capped mountain peaks in southern Alberta. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Some residents of former mining towns in southwestern Alberta applaud the prospect of coal coming back, bringing high-paying jobs to a low-earning part of the province. Others worry about mountains being blasted apart near their backyards, throwing black dust into the air and toxic minerals into the water. And what’s playing out here is likely just a preview.

The next conflict over coal may come further north, in Bighorn Country. Just a couple of years ago, this part of central Alberta had been slated to become a new provincial park. Now it has seen some of the most stringent protections of the 1976 policy removed, opening the door for vast expanses of coal lease agreements to be turned into mines.

Even further north, near Hinton and Grande Cache, lies the only area where coal mines currently operate in Alberta’s mountains. The industry has been a boon, at times, leading new towns to spring from the ground up. But the caprice of the market has also seen towns abandoned or, as recently as 2018, dissolved.

At stake in all this is the land that has long defined this province and its people.

The Rockies, the Foothills, the Prairies.

These places are sacred to the Indigenous people whose ancestors first roamed them. They were the motivation for settlers to come West. The shimmering wheat fields, rolling hills and snowy peaks are emblems that adorn Alberta’s coat of arms and its provincial flag. They are fundamental to how we see ourselves and how we present ourselves to the world. The various uses to which we have put the land, the way we have treated it, the joys we find in it, and the energy-rich treasures we have found under it have shaped our history, economy and society.

Living in Alberta is a complicated balance of honouring the land, exploiting the land, protecting the land.

‘We were born from coal’

The earliest written record of coal in the lands that would become Alberta comes from 1793. That’s when Peter Fidler, a British surveyor with the Hudson’s Bay Company, noticed a seam of coal near the Red Deer River and recognized its quality.

“I brought some of this [coal] & put on the tent fire, which burnt very well without any crackling noise,” he wrote in his journal.

In 1874, an entrepreneur from New York City opened the first commercial coal mine on the banks of the Oldman River. The Blackfoot name for this land was Sik-ooh-kotoki or “place of the black rocks.” A larger mine opened in 1882 and the Town of Coalbanks was formed. It was later renamed Lethbridge. The names of nearby towns still speak to this history: Coaldale, Coalhurst, Black Diamond.

Drawn by the vast coal deposits in the area, Canadian Pacific Rail built its main line from Lethbridge westward through the Crowsnest Pass in 1897 and 1898. The town of Coleman was established in 1903 by the International Coal and Coke Company, the first of many “company towns” to come.

Coal miners in the Crowsnest Pass area in the 1940s. (Photo: Harry Rowed)

Coal miners in the Crowsnest Pass area in the 1940s. (Photo: Harry Rowed)

The growing transportation network, along with economic opportunity and inexpensive land, drew immigrants by the tens of thousands. Alberta, as we know it, was born.

Alberta’s fortunes have always been tied to natural resources and, with the gusher at Leduc in 1947, oil came to dominate. But coal carried on.

By 1975, according to historical records maintained by the Alberta Energy Regulator, a total of 2,342 mining projects had been undertaken in the province. About a third of these were small, exploratory projects that failed to produce any coal at all. Another tenth managed to haul only a tiny amount out of the ground. The rest — about 1,200 projects, in total — varied widely in scale and scope but, on average, produced just over a million tonnes of coal, each, over their lifespans, when you include two that are still in operation today.

By the 1970s, coal was still in demand, but the times were changing. There was a shift in society, with widespread social reforms and calls for environmental protection.

In 1976, Alberta decided the coal industry needed more regulation.

‘A restrictive policy’

In its throne speech that year, Lougheed’s government laid out its priorities. They included a vow to restrain public spending, a pledge to reform the criminal justice system and a promise to introduce an overarching “Coal Development Policy for Alberta.”

The policy had dual goals of increasing government royalties and protecting sensitive lands.

“No development will be permitted unless the government is satisfied that it may proceed without irreparable harm to the environment,” the policy reads. To that end, it established four categories of lands.

Category 1 (in red, below), where all coal development was forbidden, encompassed mostly the Rocky Mountains, spanning roughly 700 kilometres from the U.S. border north to what is now Kakwa Wildland Provincial Park.

Category 2 (in blue), where open-pit mines were off-limits, covered lands mostly to the east, including both mountains and foothills.

Categories 3 (green) and 4 (purple) generally trended further eastward, toward the plains, and saw fewer restrictions.

Coal lease agreements are indicated in grey.

(Coal data via Alberta Energy Regulator; parks data courtesy Wesley Barr.)

Some argued the policy would kill coal in Alberta. Headlines from the Lethbridge Herald in 1976 read, “Coal policy threatens profits, new mines” and “Watershed preservation top government priority.” Citing “industry sources,” one article said the policy “could destroy Alberta’s chances at grabbing a growing export market for coal, and that the province will lose out to British Columbia in the coming coal boom.”

“I think that the industry will consider it a restrictive policy,” energy minister (and later premier) Don Getty admitted in an interview with CBC Radio.

“And I think that if there are provinces more aggressive than this in attempting to attract coal development, you will find that some potential developments will leave our province and go elsewhere, yes.”

CBC Radio news items on The World at Six from June 21, 1976 about Alberta’s new Coal Development Policy.

Like the policy, subsequent coal development varied by geography.

Out on the prairies, where the policy didn’t apply, numerous coal projects were approved in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These mines extracted a lower-quality coal and often included adjacent power plants, which helped meet Alberta’s growing electricity demands. With some projects grandfathered in, mining of higher-quality coal — the kind required for making steel — also continued and even expanded in the mountains near Hinton and Grande Cache.

But down in Crowsnest Pass, the industry dwindled under the policy’s yoke. A proposed project just north of Blairmore at Grassy Mountain, which had already been partially mined between 1913 and 1958, was shelved and later abandoned. Existing mines shut down. The community that coal built hasn’t seen an active operation for the past 37 years.

The industry may have vanished in the province’s southwest, but when you add up all the mining across Alberta today, it still rivals that of B.C. Together, the two provinces account for roughly 85 per cent of Canada’s total coal production, but they mine coal for different purposes. While Alberta still relies heavily on coal for power generation, B.C. doesn’t burn it for electricity.

Rather, B.C. ships vast quantities of coal overseas, largely the steel-making variety. At roughly $6.7 billion, B.C.’s total coal exports last year were 20 times greater than Alberta’s.

Ships are loaded with coal at Westshore Terminals in Delta, B.C., in this file photo from Feb. 19, 2014, as seen from a National Aerial Surveillance Program flight. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

 

Ships are loaded with coal at Westshore Terminals in Delta, B.C., in this file photo from Feb. 19, 2014, as seen from a National Aerial Surveillance Program flight. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

But Alberta is weaning itself off coal as a power source. Generating stations are being converted to burn natural gas and the province is on track to completely phase out coal-fired electricity by 2030. So, if there’s any future for the coal industry in this province, it’s in those same international markets.

Which brings us back to Crowsnest Pass, where some residents look at the bustling mines just over the provincial border and wonder: Why not here?

“It’s difficult to look west and see the thriving communities of Sparwood, Elkford and Fernie, all flourishing because of the active coal mines surrounding their communities,” Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter wrote in a letter of support for a new mining project at Grassy Mountain.

“In order to prosper, this community is in desperate need of industry… Why not the industry that is literally in our backyards? We were born from coal in the ground and we can again prosper through this resource.”

The mayor wrote that letter in January 2019 hoping a single coal project, one that sits on a rare section of less-restricted Category 4 land in the Rockies, would go ahead.

A few months later, the political ground would shift, and the industry’s prospects along with it.

Digging into the coal lobby

When asked why the coal policy was unceremoniously rescinded by the current government, some critics, including the previous NDP environment minister Shannon Phillips, are quick with an answer: lobbying.

The filings in Alberta’s lobbyist registry offer a glimpse into what went down in the halls of power, and how it changed over time.

The online registry dates back to 2017 and a reading of all records that mention “coal” reveals a noticeable uptick in access for the Coal Association of Canada after the election of the United Conservative Party in the spring of 2019. Prior to that, there are no records of the coal association securing meetings with any cabinet ministers under the NDP government.

Robin Campbell’s name appears often in those documents. After serving as finance minister and environment minister under previous Progressive Conservative governments in Alberta, he’s now head of the coal association.

Just over a month after the UCP won the election, lobbying records show Campbell met with the new environment minister, Jason Nixon, to discuss “economic opportunities for the Province of Alberta as a result of proposed coal mining activity, primarily in the Eastern Slopes [of the Rocky Mountains].”

Three days later, the coal association met with the deputy energy minister to try and amend the 1976 coal policy to encourage development on those eastern slopes. Soon, records show there were meetings with the minister of Indigenous relations to discuss consultation, requests for a meeting with the premier, another get-together with Nixon and with his department, a meeting with the minister of red tape reduction and a presentation to the UCP’s energy caucus.

An example of the lobbying activity from the Coal Association of Canada. (Alberta Lobbyist Registry/Screenshot)
An example of the lobbying activity from the Coal Association of Canada. (Alberta Lobbyist Registry/Screenshot) 

The coal association then met with Energy Minister Sonya Savage by teleconference on April 30 to discuss the coal policy, among other topics. Just over two weeks later, the government announced, via a news release issued the Friday afternoon before the May long weekend, that it would rescind the 44-year-old policy.

Since that release, which trumpeted flexibility for industry, the continued protection of sensitive lands and the arrival of modern oversight to attract new investment, the government has declined interview requests about the coal policy.

In response to inquiries, its spokespeople have pointed to official statements saying all environmental regulations remain in place and the same regulatory processes applied to other industries will now be applied to coal.

But what the government didn’t highlight in its statements, and what it hasn’t discussed since, is the removal of those Category 2 prohibitions against open-pit mining in vast stretches of the Rockies and Foothills.

Requests for interviews with Savage and Nixon, specifically, were rejected. Alberta Energy spokesperson Kavi Bal responded with a reiteration of the government’s previous statements, along with a letter of support for the changes from the Piikani Nation in southern Alberta. Asked whether there was any consultation with any other organizations, Bal did not reply.

On June 3, Savage did tweet about the coal policy being rescinded. “We will continue to protect environmentally sensitive and recreational lands along Alberta’s Eastern Slopes while addressing the continued and growing demand for high quality metallurgical coal,” she said, referring to the steel-making type of coal found in the mountains.

Campbell, with the Coal Association of Canada, also did not respond to an interview request for this article, but did speak with CBC News shortly after the policy change was announced. At that time, he celebrated the government’s new direction, which he said would clear the way for more coal projects in areas where it was previously difficult to mine.

“For example, around Rocky Mountain House, we have a couple of projects that were on Category 2 lands. This now allows them to move forward,” he said. “It allows them to go out and raise money in the international community. And it allows them to start building an operation, which is going to create jobs.”

While it was possible in the past for companies to apply for an exemption to the coal policy’s restrictions, Campbell said it was cumbersome and rescinding the policy outright would remove a major barrier to investment. He said “at least a half a dozen” companies are currently looking at developing mines on lands where it would have been previously prohibited and “there will be more.”

“Coal’s not going away,” he said, “as much as some people like to think it is.”

II.

Stewards of the land

Drive west along Highway 533 from Nanton, and the flat prairie begins to undulate.

Small rock outcroppings start to dot the rolling hills, hinting at the larger mountains in the distance. Along the barbed wire fences that flank the road, numbered bird houses have been installed at regular intervals, part of a successful effort to coax bluebirds back to the region after a long absence.

Behind the fences, the ranchlands are filled with more than cattle. A mother moose and her two calves glance back at the highway before cresting a hilltop. Around the hillside, 100 cows roam with calves of their own.

A bluebird on a fence post, and a mother moose with two calves behind the fence on ranch lands along Highway 533 in southwestern Alberta. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)
A bluebird on a fence post, and a mother moose with two calves behind the fence on ranch lands along Highway 533 in southwestern Alberta. (Robson Fletcher/CBC) 

This is the Alberta of postcards. It’s also the Alberta of industry.

Turn south along Highway 22, at the entrance to Chain Lakes Provincial Park, and soon you’ll pass the Burton Creek Compressor Station, where massive pipelines rise from the ground so the natural gas that flows through them can be boosted along its journey.

It’s not that this area is free from development, says Kevin Van Tighem, it’s that the man-made and the natural have found a way to co-exist. It’s one part of the province where he thinks Alberta has got it right, managing to mix a variety of land uses without any one interfering too much with any other. But the balance is delicate.

Van Tighem is a former Banff National Park superintendent who now splits his time between Canmore and a home in this part of southwestern Alberta. He finds himself spending more and more time out here.

“How could you not,” he says, gesturing toward the mountains upstream from the steep embankments of the Oldman River, “with all this?”

Van Tighem speaks for residents and business owners in the area who have banded together to form the Livingstone Landowners Group, a grassroots organization advocating for a nuanced approach to local development. Like most of rural Alberta, there’s a conservative bent to the politics out here, but one that is especially rooted in conservation. Van Tighem admits his own politics tend to veer further left than most of his neighbours, but says protecting this land is an issue that cuts across ideological lines.

He says ranchers who have been making a living from this land for generations want that to continue for generations to come. They consider themselves stewards. They don’t oppose using the land, but they don’t want it used up.

In the past, the Livingstone Landowners have advocated against what they saw as reckless use of all-terrain vehicles in the area. They have lobbied against the “industrial creep” of expanding transmission lines that connect the growing banks of wind turbines near Pincher Creek to the electrical grid, fragmenting the landscape.

And recently, they have partnered with environmental non-profits Yellowstone to Yukon and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to oppose what all three groups see as one of the biggest threats to the harmony of this land: new coal mines.

“The folks down here are not terrifically interested in open-pit mining being right adjacent to where they’re trying to make a living by grazing cattle,” says Phillips, the former NDP environment minister and current MLA for Lethbridge-West.

Phillips says the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, a land-use policy that encompasses most of southern Alberta, provides some protection for those who don’t want to see the balance disturbed. She says the plan has its flaws but gets a lot right, too — high praise for a policy conceived by a previous, PC government. She holds her harshest criticism for the current government’s handling of the coal file.

“It’s astonishing that this government, this UCP government, thought they could do an end run around that planning and around the communities down here with this rescinding of the coal policy,” she says.

Continue south on Highway 22, though, and you’ll reach the Crowsnest Highway. Head west from here, into the pass, the historic heartland of coal, and you’ll find mixed feelings about the potential for a renaissance.

Dusting off the past

For nearly four decades, the coal industry in Crowsnest Pass has been relegated to museum exhibits and abandoned mine shaft tours.

Once the largest coal-producing region in the province, the highway now runs along a flat, sparsely treed plain between mountains where small towns like Bellevue, Blairmore and Coleman are separated by long stretches of land dotted here and there with rusting remnants of the former glory days. Off the main road and up into the mountains, you can find the rubble of abandoned coal towns like Lille, wiped from the map except for the ruins of an old hotel and some crumbling coke ovens.

But this is where the next era of open-pit mining in Alberta could first come to pass.

A highway monument welcoming visitors to Crowsnest Pass pays tribute to the area's coal-mining heritage. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)
A highway monument welcoming visitors to Crowsnest Pass pays tribute to the area’s coal-mining heritage. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

A number of Australian companies are betting on it, led by Riversdale Resources. Its proposed Grassy Mountain project would pick up where an abandoned coal mine left off decades ago on a 1,500-hectare site just north of Blairmore. This is a small and rare section of Category 4 land right in the heart of the Rockies, so the project was subject to fewer restrictions under the 1976 coal policy.

The company has been seeking federal and provincial approval since 2014 for the project, which it estimates could dig up four-million tonnes of steelmaking coal annually over the 23-year lifespan of the open-pit mine, creating nearly 400 full-time jobs at peak production.

In anticipation of the mine’s approval, Riversdale is already seeking to fill high-level positions in Crowsnest Pass. As of June, it had eight active job postings, including for an HR administrator, a project engineer, a senior mining engineer, and a head of marketing and sales. The sales position comes with an advertised salary of $150,000 to $200,000 plus an annual performance bonus of up to 50 per cent.

This, in a community where the median income is less than $35,000.

Other Australian coal companies have been watching closely, as they ramp up exploration and draw up plans for mines of their own. Companies like Atrum Coal.

“I would say the industry is looking to the success of Riversdale’s project, because it’s the first in the Crowsnest Pass area,” Atrum Coal’s then-CEO Max Wang told the Calgary Herald in 2018.

“There are quite a number of global investors, mostly from Australia, interested in that region … but they are very much looking to the success of Grassy Mountain.”

And now, Atrum is even more interested. In May, it welcomed Alberta’s decision to rescind the 1976 coal policy, saying it represented a significant step forward for the company’s Elan project, which sits on former Category 2 lands, where open-pit mining used to be banned.

The company is hoping to build two mines in the Livingstone Range, just north of Grassy Mountain. Its lease agreements in this area cover an area roughly twice the size of the City of Vancouver.

In central Alberta, meanwhile, Australian-backed Ram River Coal Corporation is considering the feasibility of a mine in the heart of Bighorn Country, with the company completing a technical review of the project in 2017. Its leases, too, are on former Category 2 lands.

But those projects aren’t as far along as Grassy Mountain, which just completed the required environmental impact assessment and is set to go to a public hearing later this year. This is the mine on most people’s minds in Crowsnest Pass. This area has struggled economically even during Alberta’s oil booms, so it’s not hard to understand why the prospect of a major new employer coming to town has many excited.

The last time census takers came around here, the median income was $34,554, or 19 per cent less than a typical Albertan’s. Today, just seven per cent of the municipality’s property tax base comes from industry, according to Mayor Blair Painter, with the remaining 93 per cent falling on homeowners. He wants to see that balance shift and believes the best chance is a return to the coal-mining roots that created the community more than a century ago.

“We are a poor community,” the mayor wrote in his letter of support for the Grassy Mountain project.

“Most of the residents who earn a decent income in Crowsnest Pass do so by driving to work at the Teck Resources mines across the border. However, secondary incomes are hard to find in this area. Most jobs are at minimum wage and are few and far between.”

A monument outside the Bellevue Underground Mine honouring the miners who died in an explosion in 1910. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

 

A monument outside the Bellevue Underground Mine honouring the miners who died in an explosion in 1910. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Now, interpretive guides take visitors underground, teaching them about the miners who started digging the sprawling network of tunnels back in 1901. The tour just scratches the surface of that network. Unmaintained tunnels stretch for more than 240 kilometres, in total, beneath Bellevue and the neighbouring community of Frank.“There really isn’t much of the past here that isn’t on top of mining,” says Brandy Gregory, the historic mine’s general manager. “There are underground mines everywhere. There were actually 16 operational mines at the time, when ours was in existence.”

A resident of Crowsnest Pass for the past 21 years, Gregory says the community is “very quiet” and businesses struggle to stay afloat. Tourism helps, as do the mining jobs a short commute away in B.C., but she’s eager to see the Grassy Mountain project go ahead on the Alberta side of the border and, ideally, more coal mines after that.

“It’s great to actually see the projects coming here instead of going somewhere else,” she says. “All these other communities are growing but we have this teeny-tiny, beautiful little historic community that could be expanding and, instead, it’s being lost because we don’t have the industry or the funding to keep it alive.”

Riversdale, the company behind the Grassy Mountain project, didn’t reply to a request for comment. But Gregory says it has been a positive presence in Crowsnest Pass already.

“Riversdale really goes out of their way to support the community,” she says. “They are actually one of our biggest sponsors.”

Ask around town, though, and you’ll find a diversity of opinion. A half dozen residents who preferred not to attach their names to their comments said the community is far from unanimous in support of active coal mining returning to the area. The main concerns are environmental: the potential impact on tourism, water and the landscape.

To see why there’s both excitement and worry in Crowsnest Pass, you just need to drive a little further west, across the B.C. border, and pull over in Sparwood.

The price of prosperity

Coal mining has brought prosperity to this community of roughly 4,000 people in the Elk Valley. The median income here is $44,309, according to the last census, which is 34 per cent higher than that of a typical British Columbian. Men living in Sparwood enjoyed an especially high median income of $88,101.

But the land has paid a price.

“I think the Elk Valley is a great example to see when something goes wrong, there’s no going back,” says Katie Morrison, conservation director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association’s southern Alberta branch.

“The impact can be so great that it’s just not worth the risk for such an important landscape.”

Teck Resources is the major player in the valley, employing thousands of people at its five mines dotting the Elk and Fording rivers. For years, the mines have been leaching selenium into those rivers, setting off disputes with U.S. officials and decimating rare fish populations.

A fly fisherman casts on the Kootenai River near the Montana-Idaho border on Sept. 19, 2014. The U.S. government has expressed concern over pollution from mines upstream in B.C., after research that shows contaminants in a river south of the border came from Canada. (Rich Landers/Associated Press)

 

A fly fisherman casts on the Kootenai River near the Montana-Idaho border on Sept. 19, 2014. The U.S. government has expressed concern over pollution from mines upstream in B.C., after research that shows contaminants in a river south of the border came from Canada. (Rich Landers/Associated Press)

Teck installed a $600-million wastewater treatment facility at one of the mines in an effort to address the problem back in 2014, only for the new facility to unintentionally release nitrite, ammonia, phosphorus and hydrogen sulfide into the creek it was meant to protect. When fish carcasses turned up downstream, Teck was ordered to pay $1.4 million in fines.

Despite pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into water treatment efforts, the problem continues to dog the mining company. In March, Teck agreed to purchase a new drinking water well for Sparwood when selenium concentrations in one of its three existing wells started to exceed provincial guidelines. That’s after the town had taken to installing cameras around a nearby mine after residents complained about coal dust clouds repeatedly settling over the area.

The grizzly bear population also declined by 40 per cent over an eight-year stretch in the Elk Valley, which researchers suggest is in part due to increased human-wildlife interaction around the mining towns. Given the Elk Valley and Livingstone Range are two sides of the same continental divide, scientists say there’s a good reason to expect similar environmental issues in southwestern Alberta if coal mining is permitted at a similar scale.

And the concerns extend beyond southern Alberta. Coal leases stretch hundreds of kilometres to the north in Alberta’s Rockies and Foothills, cutting through grizzly and elk ranges. The headwaters of the North and South Saskatchewan rivers, which provide water for much of the Prairies, pass through land claimed by coal companies.

“Any project, no matter what, comes with some degree of risk,” says Petr Komers, a Calgary-based environmental consultant. “So if you create a mine in the headwaters of what people drink in Edmonton, there is some amount of risk — it’s not zero — that something will occur.”

And things have occurred. Things like the Obed Mountain mine spill.

On Oct. 31, 2013, an earth berm at the open-pit coal mine near Hinton failed and an estimated 670 million litres of slurry from a tailings pond was released. It poured into two nearby creeks, then the Athabasca River, carrying high levels of mercury, lead and cancer-linked hydrocarbons along with it. The plume of contaminants was tracked for weeks as it travelled more than 1,000 kilometres, eventually reaching Lake Athabasca. Years later, scientists were still trying to determine the full extent of the environmental damage. The company pleaded guilty to several federal and provincial charges and was ordered to pay $4.5 million in fines.

Back in Crowsnest Pass, the proposed coal projects have also raised alarm among the local tourism industry, which has experienced its own resurgence since the 1980s.

Shane Olson, owner of a local fly fishing shop, sees his own work as diametrically opposed to mining. The two cannot successfully coexist, he said in a letter to the joint provincial-federal panel overseeing the Grassy Mountain project.

“There are a small but passionate, persistent, and ever growing group of Albertans that make a living off the land without having to dig up, cut down or otherwise compromise our natural beauty,” he wrote.

“If I don’t have clean water I don’t have fish for clients. If I don’t have fish for clients I don’t have a job.”

And it’s not just people making their living in nature who are worried.

Parks and recreation

In the wake of the coal policy being rescinded, environmental groups and outdoor recreationalists began inspecting other recent policy decisions under a new light.

In particular, there’s renewed skepticism about the government’s plan to remove 164 sites from the provincial parks system. When you plot those sites on a map, about a third of them lie in swaths of land previously protected by the coal policy.

If you look even closer, some are directly in the path of a proposed coal project.

Atrum Coal has the rights to a nearly contiguous 40-kilometre stretch of leases in the Livingstone Range. Those leases completely encircle two provincial recreation areas set to be removed from the parks system — the Oldman River North and Racehorse Creek sites — and encroach within 100 metres of a third: Honeymoon Creek.

Racehorse Creek Provincial Recreation Area is home to 38 campsites operated by Alberta Parks. It is set to be delisted from the provincial parks system. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)
Racehorse Creek Provincial Recreation Area is home to 38 campsites operated by Alberta Parks. It is set to be delisted from the provincial parks system. (Robson Fletcher/CBC) 

It’s unclear whether there’s a direct connection between the coal policy being rescinded and the parks being delisted, but critics note both policy changes came out of the blue for most Albertans, who were caught unaware either was even being contemplated.

When it announced the coal policy rescission in May, the government said it would leave it up to the Alberta Energy Regulator to approve new coal projects on a case-by-case basis. Then in June, the government introduced new legislation that would allow the provincial cabinet to impose deadlines on the AER, with the goal of speeding up decisions. This comes on the heels of major budget cuts to the regulator, which has been forced to lay off hundreds hundreds of employees as a result.

Katie Morrison, with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association, worries about the cumulative effects of asking the regulator to take on more responsibility with fewer resources and tighter timelines.

“It’s all very concerning and, I think, all adding up to a bigger, more concerning picture of how this government views the environment and public land management,” she says.

Since the coal policy was rescinded, the AER has received new applications for coal exploration programs and exploratory drilling permits, some seeking to drill as deep as 400 metres, on dozens of sections of former Category 2 lands just north of Crowsnest Pass.

The nearby Piikani First Nation has officially supported the Grassy Mountain project, but other Indigenous groups have expressed concern about the lack of consultation before the coal policy was rescinded.

“We have treaties in Alberta,” says Marlene Poitras, the Alberta regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

“We have Treaty Six, Seven and Eight — that’s the whole province. And governments have a duty to consult with First Nations and, in this case, it wasn’t carried out adequately.”

The approach to killing the coal policy stands in contrast to how it was created. After announcing its plan in the March 1976 throne speech, Lougheed’s government spent months consulting with industry, considering alternatives and crafting the details, before the policy was finally adopted in July.

Prior to even announcing the plan, the provincial government had commissioned a study about how new mines might affect tourism in southwestern Alberta. Thousands of people fishing along the banks of the Livingstone and Oldman rivers were interviewed, and the report concluded there was an “overwhelming opposition to coal mining” among these recreationalists.

Avi Lewis: Obama helped pave the way for Trump, and the same dynamic is at play here

As the NDP gets ready to pick Tom Mulcair’s successor, Lewis sees real left-wing ideas ‘submerged’

Avi Lewis. (Photograph by Michael Klein)

It was way back in the spring of 2016 that the federal NDP voted at a convention in Edmonton to dump Tom Mulcair as leader. But that wasn’t the only dramatic moment at the convention. Party delegates also voted there to formally study the Leap Manifesto, which calls for nothing less than a radical overhaul of capitalism, largely to wean the economy off fossil fuels.

Leap’s demand for no new pipelines was bitterly opposed by the Alberta NDP, and the radical tone of the manifesto overall was regarded with deep suspicion by some experienced NDP strategists. As the NDP leadership race enters its stretch run, with the final “showcase’ for contenders in Hamilton, Ont. on Sunday, we spoke with Avi Lewis, the Toronto-based activist and journalist who is Leap’s most prominent proponent.

Q: Are you satisfied with the degree to which the Leap Manifesto has been debated since the NDP voted to study it?

A: I think there are many different NDPs. I think it is a very live subject at the grassroots, and I think the party establishment has made it pretty clear that they’d rather talk about anything else. That schism between the base of the party and the people who are used to running things behind the scenes is actually the fault line that runs through the party’s present and future.

In other words, there’s a lot of talk about democratizing the party, of listening to the base, but the implosion of Mulcair’s tack to the right in the last election, that disaster and a lot of what happened in Edmonton, spoke to a very clear message. I mean, just dispassionately from the outside, that the supporters of the NDP want it to be a left-wing party. And that hasn’t gone anywhere.

READ: Hamilton has shed its rust. Can the New Democrats?

Q: What’s the evidence for the grassroots interest you mention?

A: It’s reflected in the fact that NDP riding associations are holding these Leap discussions on their own. There are NDP for Leap groups popping up. There’s a fantastically interesting group called Courage which is an attempt to push the NDP to the left in the way that Momentum helped push Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership within the Labor Party. There are all of these currents coming from below. And meanwhile the people who are the pragmatists, the centrists who are used to running the party, are trying to figure out a way to navigate these currents.

Q: Let me see if I can frame a question that gives some sympathy to those pragmatists. They must feel like they’re up against a Liberal party that commands a fair amount of affection on the left. Justin Trudeau’s government is trying to impose a price on carbon, they’re fighting to change taxation of small businesses so rich people can use those rules to their advantage. Isn’t all that bound to be appealing to the centre-left and even the left-left?

A: You may have described a handful of people somewhere, but that’s not the reality that I see. I would frame it very differently. I think Trudeau rode a wave of progressive energy to power, and has systematically betrayed and walked back almost every significant promise that he made to harness that progressive energy for his historic victory.

The opportunity for a party that does believe in genuine recognition of Indigenous land rights and of a process of justice before reconciliation can take place, a party that really believes in electoral reform and making it fair so that the government reflects the will of the people, that really wants infrastructure to be built that takes us rapidly towards a renewable economy in the face of climate catastrophe, that stands up to Trump instead of sucking up to Trump—there’s a huge appetite for that and the Liberals are incredibly vulnerable. And that’s precisely the electoral opportunity for the NDP, if the party can summon itself to seize it.

READ: The Liberals’ plans for Indigenous reconciliation are just beads and trinkets

Q: Let’s say that you’re right about that big opportunity. Has the NDP already missed the boat by not having that kind of debate during this leadership race, or is it possible that the new leader could somehow grab that momentum after winning?

A: I think what you’re seeing is a party that really is having submerged debate precisely along those lines. I think what’s striking about all four leadership candidates—with the exception of Niki Ashton, who is playing more overtly to the left—is that they’re all trying to thread the needle between the expectations of the Ottawa bubble and the fear of being portrayed as outside the politically acceptable by the guardians of the mainstream—and I regret to include you in that class John—

Q: I’m totally mainstream.

A: —and navigate the tension between the asphyxiating boundaries of what’s considered politically acceptable in this country, and the genuine desire and the energy around a much more ambitious left-wing platform. So I think that’s not happening in the leadership debate, and I think it would be healthy if it did.

But I know that it’s happening within the party. I keep getting invited to NDP riding association meetings where they want to have these debates. They’re not getting support from the party central, but they are determined to have them anyway. So I think the Leap has become a manifesto that NDP candidates dare not speak its name.

READ: In looking for a winner, the NDP mostly avoids divisive debate

Q: So does that mean the vote to study Leap at the Edmonton convention didn’t amount to much?

A: What happened on the floor in Edmonton—and I was there and watched that vote unfold—really was I think significant, and had a profound effect that I didn’t expect on the dimensions of this leadership race. Like if you think back to Edmonton it was like pipelines were going to be the big divider. Mulcair, like Trudeau, like all politicians, felt the need to pick a pipeline to cheer for, and just say that they were against the others. Of course, except for those politicians who loved every pipeline they saw.

In fact all of the candidates have come around to being pretty clearly anti-pipeline. I think Charlie Angus is the closest to supporting one, but he clearly doesn’t feel that within the party that’s a popular enough position to actually come out and say what he may believe. At least, he sent a lot of mixed signals. But Jagmeet Singh came right around. He was equivocating and he clarified his position. So on pipelines, which are an unreasonably inflated part of our political debate, but actually do point to fundamental issues of our economic future, you’ve seen the effect of the Leap.

Q: In that respect only?

A: In other ways, too. Niki Ashton’s environmental justice platform. The centering of Indigenous rights is something that the NDP has been strong on for a long time. Guy Caron’s flagship policy is a universal basic income. I don’t think there’s anything universal or basic about his proposal, it’s another tax credit, but the language there is also in the Leap Manifesto.

Q: Let me ask you something about the international context. I think a lot of progressives in the U.S. would say to a Canadian, “We have this terrible problem with Donald Trump, but your guy Justin Trudeau seems cool.” In an era when Trump and Brexit stand as a warning of what can happen, isn’t Trudeau a lesson for progressives about the need to find alternatives that can win with voters?

A: Sure, there’s no question, I think, that Justin Trudeau could win the nomination of the U.S. Democratic Party right now. Sure. But those folks aren’t nearly as informed as we are in Canada about the genuine dimensions and failures of his policy approach.

The United States had eight years of Barack Obama. He made it incredibly clear that he was a right-wing Democrat. He cited Ronald Reagan lovingly in every stump speech for the last six months of the presidential 2008 campaign. And he made it clear that he was going to be a business-friendly Democratic president, and that he was not going to rock the neoliberal boat. And he didn’t.

And people fell into the cleavages in American society. Working people sleeping in their cars and working three or four jobs. The forgotten people that Donald Trump harnessed so successfully in that ugly right wing populism that emerged. That was the direct legacy of the failed neoliberal experiment of the Obama years.

You have frankly a business-friendly inequality-producing economic model that has an incredibly appealing progressive face on it. And that’s what we got in Canada right now. We’re going to see all of these same dynamics to play out in Canada if we think that progressivism is a veneer that can be pasted on right-wing economics.

Q: To circle back to the NDP, I take it you think the party is susceptible to what you see as a kind of shallow progressivism?

A: What we need to do is explode that narrow, narrow box of what’s politically possible and introduce the political possibility for solutions which are just vastly more ambitious.

SOURCE

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Let’s Put Democracy back in the NDP

ALIGNING THE PARTY WITH THE WILL OF THE MEMBERS AND THE ENERGY OF MOVEMENTS WILL MAKE IT A MORE EFFECTIVE FORCE FOR CHANGE

The rise of America’s NDP

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaks to members of the media while standing beside a truck plastered with campaign posters after greeting voters in Astoria, Queens on Jun. 23, 2020, on primary election day in New York. (CP/AP/Kathy Willens)

In this Trump-saturated time, one of the most underreported U.S. stories is that of the growing influence of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, an accelerating trend that is fundamentally re-shaping politics south of the border.

Though Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get a lot of attention, their relatively recent success is part of a much broader ideological and generational political shift. Everywhere you look these days, Democrats who identify as “progressive” (what the rest of the world would call a social democrat) are successfully competing against more conservative Democrats — many of whom are long-term corporate-financed incumbents – for their party’s nomination. In the past week, for example, novice Jamaal Bowman unseated 31-year New York Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel and in Kentucky, progressive Charles Booker came out of nowhere to nearly beat heavily favoured centrist Amy McGrath.

In perhaps the most telling sign of the growing influence of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, Joe Biden has populated his key policy committees with progressive thinkers, a marked departure from the “freeze them out” approach taken by the Clinton campaign in 2016.

These recent victories have been decades in the making. When Bernie Sanders and a handful of colleagues founded the party’s Progressive Caucus in 1991, it was a marginal faction both within the Democratic tent and the landscape of American politics writ large. By the time it had its C-SPAN debut a few years later, it counted a mere dozen members in its ranks. Today, that number has swelled to an astonishing 95, making up more than 40 per cent of the Democratic caucus and nearly a quarter of the entire House of Representatives. Whereas the leftward edge of the party was represented by relatively moderate figures like Howard Dean less than two decades ago, today it counts unapologetic progressives like Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, and Ro Khanna.

This represents an astonishing turnaround in a country where the progressive movement has historically struggled to secure a lasting foothold in a traditionally two-party system dominated by liberals and conservatives.

Progressively-minded Canadians knew the feeling all too well in the early decades of the 20th century, and their frustration eventually gave birth to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and its successor the New Democratic Party (NDP). Though social democrats have yet to form government at the federal level, the legacy of their longstanding presence in Parliament is immediately felt by every Canadian who needs to see a doctor, every worker who gets laid off, and every pensioner who wants to retire in security. If Canada’s health care system and social safety net are more universal and robust than their U.S. equivalents, the electoral success of Canadian progressives — and the good ideas they inject into our political debates — can rightly take the lion’s share of the credit.

America’s electoral system, of course, has long precluded similar efforts at building a third party. But in recent years its progressive left has discovered that this may not be the fatal impediment many believed. Indeed, through a combination of creative organizing and insurgent primary challenges, the American progressive movement is now flexing its muscles like never before.

One important template has been the Working Families Party (WFP), which has demonstrated that progressives can operate both within and outside the traditional structures of the Democratic Party to rack up big electoral wins and policy victories — even in a hostile climate. Groups like Justice Democrats and Our Revolution have shown the same.

Another sure sign of progressive strength is the recent creation of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, an invaluable facilitator and policy shop that is working hard in spite of Sanders’s defeat to seize the current moment and make sure progressive ideas are heard in the critical months ahead.

There is a little-known Canadian connection to these recent U.S. progressive successes. Dan Cantor, one of the founders of the WFP, told me that in the early 1990s, when U.S. progressives were trying to get a WFP precursor called “The New Party” off the ground, he and a team of organizers spent a week in Ottawa learning from the NDP. “That early training from the NDP as to how to create and grow a social democratic political party was really helpful to us at a critical moment,” Cantor said.

Cantor and the WFP have recently returned the favour by hosting an event with U.S., legislators for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh the last time he was in New York City. Reflecting on the three-decades-long journey of U.S. progressives since that Ottawa visit, Cantor is bullish at the prospect of further gains. “Our goal isn’t to kick the corporate wing out of the Democratic Party,” he said, “but rather to make them junior partners like we were for so long. After many years of building, we’re finally pulling the Democratic Party to the left. If you think we’re making huge gains now, just wait to see the next round of primaries in 2022.”

With the ongoing crisis of COVID-19, a possible recession, and the most decisive electoral moment in recent history looming on the horizon, there has never been a better moment for American progressives to flex their muscles.

Our American friends are finally building an NDP of their own. And their country will be far better for it.

SOURCE

Rick Smith is the executive director of the Broadbent Institute.

Climate protesters highlight Barclays’ shameful history

Rebels unfurl their banner and cover the glass of Barclays London headquarters in fake oil 

CLIMATE activists staged a mock crime scene outside Barclays HQ yesterday to call out the firm on its history of “criminal” investments from the slave trade to fossil fuels.

Environmentalists gathered outside the bank’s HQ in Canary Wharf to deliver a letter to CEO Jes Staley to demand that Barclays cease bankrolling the fossil fuel industry and commit to transparency over its dealings.

The British multinational bank is the top banker of carbon-intensive companies in Europe with investments of $85bn (£67bn) between 2015-2018, according to a 2019 report.

Activists donned “forensic scientist” costumes and marked outlines of bodies with tape outside the London HQ to represent the “ongoing investigation” into Barclays’s “crimes.”

Protesters also held banners reading “slavery, apartheid, ecocide.”

Former banker and Extinction Rebellion activist Chidi Oti-obihara said: “Barclays has a history of not being open about its inhumane and exploitative financing, repeatedly downplaying its huge role in the slave trade, and it is now downplaying its role in global ecocide.”

Barclays has been criticised again in recent weeks for its historical links to slavery, having merged with the Colonial Bank in 1925 which invested in the slave trade.

The bank also continued to do business with apartheid era South Africa when most other firms had stopped.

Protester Jess Maddison urged the bosses of Barclays to “alter their ways” and “invest in our future instead of our demise.”

Unlike other European banks which have adopted stricter policies on climate change, Barclays has invested $24bn (£19bn) in companies expanding the extraction and use of fossil fuels.

The bank is also under growing pressure to back out of its major role in the fossil fuel industry from its shareholders, and leading investment group The Investor Forum.

Yesterday’s protest was organised by a coalition of environmental groups including Extinction Rebellion UK, Stop Ecocide, Sunrise Project and Urgewald.

SOURCE

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It’s time to grieve the world we’ve lost to climate change—and start to move on

There’s no turning back, but there is hope.

Fighting for a better world means fighting our own despair as well. Pixabay

The following is an excerpt adapted from THE FUTURE EARTH by Eric Holthaus.

We’ve all experienced profound loss in our lives—a bad breakup, incurable diseases, tragedies that feel like the world is crumbling in on top of us. What might it mean for an entire country or society or civilization to walk together, hand in hand, through stages of grief and loss and depression and mourning, at the same time? What would it be like to anticipate not only our own death but The End, the apocalypse? That’s what it’s like to be alive in the world these days.

Beyond the forthcoming technological advances that will occur during this climate emergency is a revolution in human psychology—the way we view ourselves and our place in the grand order of things. Rising seas, mass migrations, and escalating extreme weather events mean the idea of humanity’s dominion over the natural world is about to get turned on its head. “If we don’t demand radical change,” activist and author Naomi Klein said, “we are headed for a whole world of people searching for a home that no longer exists.”

Individually, each of us will have to go through a grieving process for the loss of a world we believed in our bones would always be there. Collectively, to help mourn and accept this loss, we will have to share with one another alternative visions of a shared future, stories about how climate doom is not inevitable, and what the future Earth might look like if we do what is required—and still entirely possible—to hold off the greatest threat to our very existence.

What you’re feeling right now is not unique to you. And just because others might not be feeling it yet doesn’t diminish the intensity of your experience. You are not alone in bearing this existential dread, this fear of the future, this hopelessness. But just as important, this feeling does not have to define you. In fact, your energy, your emotion, your desire to right this wrong, is a critical part of the solution. It is precisely because you care and want things to change that you feel this way.

Cover of The Future Earth.
Cover of The Future Earth.Harper Collins

 

In January 2017 I started counseling for climate-related anxiety. To this day, I struggle with how to focus my attention and energy to fight climate change. But I can tell you that part of the answer is just talking about it, and to know you are not alone. Drawing from the science of psychotherapy, I believe it is possible to spontaneously and emergently solve problems in our lives—and in society—simply by talking about them. The physical act of speaking changes the way your brain works and causes you to think differently. And if we ever needed to think differently, it’s right now.

In the hundreds of conversations I had while researching this book, I kept coming back to one inescapable conclusion: as long as we are still here, it means we haven’t yet lost the fight. And that realization gives me a glimmer of hope.

I’ve come to accept the fact that we’re entering a scary time of profound change. I’m not going to push for any specific radical lifestyle changes or for any revolutionary new political campaigns in response. That’s not my place. Instead, I’m going to encourage all of us to explore possible futures based on the latest science and continue to have faith that the conversations themselves could be transformative. It’s likely that you—yes, you—have an idea that I’ve never thought of. It could be your idea that winds up making all the difference. Our time requires us to listen to the people who have been ignored and unheard because what they have to say is inconvenient to the people in power. This problem affects all of us, and so the future will require the creativity of all of us.

SOURCE

Excerpted from THE FUTURE EARTH by Eric Holthaus, reprinted with permission from HarperOne an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2020.