Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes are moving online, due to coronavirus

Greta Thunberg and young activists. Where are the old ones? (Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

 Greta Thunberg and young activists. Where are the old ones? (Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s no longer safe for groups of people to gather in public places.

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has achieved global fame for her Fridays for Future protests, now held weekly in cities around the world by similarly inspired youth. And wherever Thunberg herself shows up, even bigger crowds gather, such as the February rally in Bristol, England, that attracted ten thousand people.

In light of the spreading coronavirus, however, Thunberg has now told her fellow protesters (and 4.1 million Twitter followers) that the large group gatherings need to stop in order to reduce risk of contagion. She tweeted on March 11, “Now the experts urge us to avoid big public gatherings for a better chance to #flattenthecurve and slow the spreading of the coronavirus.”

‘Flatten the curve’ refers to lowering the rate of infection to spread out the epidemic. As explained by the Centers for Disease Control, “This way the number of people who are sick at the same time does not exceed the capacity of the healthcare system.” Thunberg’s advice aligns with that of numerous other organizations, businesses, and governments that have also canceled group gatherings and events.

Thunberg went on in a series of tweets: “We young people are the least affected by this virus but it’s essential that we act in solidarity with the most vulnerable and that we act in the best interest of our common society… So keep your numbers low but your spirits high and let’s take one week at [a] time.” Instead, Thunberg recommended joining in digital strikes on Fridays. People can post pictures of themselves holding signs, using the hashtags #DigitalStrike and #ClimateStrikeOnline, until the situation improves and in-person strikes can resume.

Greta Thunberg

We can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis and we must unite behind experts and science.
This of course goes for all crises.

Now the experts urge us to avoid big public gatherings for a better chance to and slow the spreading of the Coronavirus. 1/4

View image on Twitter

Both crises require immediate attention and drastic action, and the coronavirus response is demonstrating that we do have the ability to rally as nations and take unprecedented measures in times of great uncertainty. Hopefully we will learn lessons from this experience that can then be applied to keeping greenhouse gas emissions below the 2-degree Celsius limit set at the Paris Convention in 2015. SOURCE

Put down that veggie burger. These farmers say their cows can solve the climate crisis

Reitz, South Africa (CNN)Danie Slabbert points toward the cattle that brought his farm back to life. Down the slope ahead of him, 500 black Drakensberger and mottled Nguni cows graze cheek by jowl.

The Free State farmer gestures with his giant shepherd’s crook.
“If cattle are part of nature, like they are now, then my cows are keeping the system alive,” he says. “How could you think that meat is the problem?”
Calls for plant-based diets to save the planet from the climate crisis are growing louder. But there is another, quieter, revolution reshaping the agricultural world. Farmers like Slabbert and their supporters say that what people eat is not as important as how they farm. They believe cattle and cropland could help save the planet.
“I have become a steward of this land and the cows are the key,” Slabbert says.

Mimicking the migration

Before settlers arrived with their guns and wagons, this part of what is now South Africa’s Free State province was an immense grassland. More than 30 species of grass anchored the rolling plains; fodder for millions of migrating antelope.

Danie Slabbert walks along a low voltage wire that keeps 500 cattle grazing in a dense herd to replicate bison or antelope herds. The high-intensity grazing helps with natural fertilizing and grass health.

Danie Slabbert walks along a low voltage wire that keeps 500 cattle grazing in a dense herd to replicate bison or antelope herds. The high-intensity grazing helps with natural fertilizing and grass health.
Over time, the wild herds were shot out and much of the plains became corn and potato fields.
There is still plenty of grassland here, or veld, as South Africans call it. Farmers such as Slabbert are looking back to those immense herds to recreate the natural cycle.
“What we are doing is trying to mimic nature,” he says, explaining that 200 years ago, huge herds of animals would have moved over this veld, avoiding predators in their tightly packed groups.”
Slabbert says he has rejuvenated the land by drastically increasing his cattle herd. He hems the animals into a rectangular patch of grassland with a low-current wire. For several hours, they eat all of the grasses they can find before the wire lifts, and the cattle rapidly move into a new section.
They are always moving, never selectively eating, just like a migratory herd. The method is called ultra-high density grazing. “These cattle are replenishing the land,” Slabbert says.

Five hundred cows and a few oxen graze in tight formation in a penned off part of Danie Slabbert's veld. The cows must eat all the grass, allowing better grasses to survive. Counterintuitively, though well proven with multiple studies, the more cattle he has in this system (to a point), the better the soil and grassland health.

Five hundred cows and a few oxen graze in tight formation in a penned off part of Danie Slabbert’s veld. The cows must eat all the grass, allowing better grasses to survive. Counterintuitively, though well proven with multiple studies, the more cattle he has in this system (to a point), the better the soil and grassland health.
As they eat, the cows do what livestock do. Slabbert kneels down, pulls apart a pile of cow dung, and tenderly picks out a beetle. It lies dormant for a second, then uncurls its legs and strolls across his hand.
“These guys are one of the heroes of the story,” he says, as he gingerly places the dung beetle into its hole. The small insects break up the dung, the big ones haul the natural fertilizer deeper into the soil.
Conventional thinking says that cows are bad for climate change. After all, livestock contribute to around 14% of all global emissions. Researchers at UC Davis estimate that a single cow can belch around 220 pounds — roughly 100 kilograms — of methane each year. There are more than a billion cows on the planet, so that is a lot of (greenhouse) gas.
But cows didn’t evolve to sit in feedlots getting fat. Their wild relatives were out in the grassland in large numbers, just like on Slabbert’s farm.
Researchers at Texas A&M University led by Professor Richard Teague found that even moderately effective grazing systems put more carbon in the soil than the gasses cattle emit. Around 30% to 40% of the earth’s surface is natural grassland, and Teague says the potential for food security is immense.
“We studied farms and ranchers that had the highest soil carbon, and, with no exception, they managed their land following the principles where they were trying to do exactly what the bison did. They were trying to improve their land and their profits,” Teague said.

It’s all about the soil

The key to climate sustainable agriculture is the soil, because soil has an extraordinary ability to store carbon. There is more than three times as much carbon in the world’s soils than in the atmosphere, and scientists say that with better management, agricultural soils could absorb much more carbon in the future.
Even a change of a few percentage points would make a huge difference to the battle against the climate crisis. There is an upper limit to how much carbon soils can carry, but it can take decades to get to that point.
Plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and then put it in the soil through their roots. More carbon is stored in the ground through organic matter and microorganisms. Taking CO2 out of the atmosphere is important, because humans put so much of the greenhouse gas in, for example through burning fossil fuels.
But to be able to store carbon, soil needs to be alive and left relatively undisturbed.
For decades, farmers across the world have ploughed their fields, pumped them with fertilizers and sprayed herbicides. Soil doesn’t need to be alive with modern agriculture; it became a medium for inputs. But it also lost its carbon along the way.
Many farmers and scientists say that the chemical revolution came at a cost and they want to bring the soil back to life. They believe that living soil harnesses sustainable yields and will help the planet.
And to do that, they must combine cattle with crops.
In North America and in South Africa commercial agriculture, crop farming and cattle ranching are generally done by different farmers on different land.
The key to regenerative farming is combining the two. Slabbert never ploughs his corn fields or leaves them fallow, so he is able to keep the carbon in the soil. The corn is tightly packed — he doesn’t need to get in there to spray.

In this farming system, the corn is tightly packed. The fields can look less uniform, but the yields are often strong.

In winter, his cattle herds will come here too and eat the residual corn, depositing natural fertilizer as they go. Slabbert has reduced his fertilizer and chemical input costs drastically, but his yields stay strong.
This begs the question, why isn’t everyone doing it?

Stacked against their favor

For one, shifting away from chemicals takes time. It can also lead to reduced yields in the short term.
The pressure to produce more crops has transformed the agricultural land. Large swathes of land are now used to grow just one crop at a time.
In production terms, that recipe has worked. In the US alone, agricultural production grew by 170% between 1948 and 2015 according to the US Department of Agriculture.
But while it leads to higher yields in the short-term, multiple studies show that ploughing, fertilizing and using chemical pesticides on the soil dramatically inhibits its long-term health.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that in 2015, US farmers used 22 million short tons of fertilizer for plant production, or around 44 billion pounds (nearly 20 billion kilograms).

A tiny Dung Beetle crawls over Danie Slabbert's hand. "These are one of the heroes of the story, he says. By limiting pesticides, natural biological systems that include dung beetles, earth worms and micro-organisms help rejuvenate soil health.

For Art Cullen, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist reporting from the heart of Iowa’s corn country, the industry servicing agriculture is the problem itself. Cullen has spent a career living among, listening to and reporting on farmers. The editor of the Storm Lake Times, his writing has challenged powerful industrial agricultural interests in the state.
“What is really preventing the change, is all the money that is lined up. There is a lot of money invested in the agri-chemical supply chain,” says Cullen.
He says there has historically been little incentive for companies to embrace farming that limits chemicals and rejuvenates soil. And in the US, farmers are subsidized by the government to plant more corn and other crops than the market demands.
“We can actually solve the climate crisis by sequestering carbon in the soil and paying farmers to do it. And if you say to a farmer that you will pay him a dollar more to plant grass and sit on his butt, then he is going to take that deal every time,” he says.
Cullen says that strategy depends, in part, on who occupies the White House, but he says market forces will eventually drive widespread change in North America just as natural forces are driving change in Southern Africa.
“We cannot ignore this issue much longer. Nature is demanding that we change,” he says.

Surviving the crisis.

Farmer Danie Slabbert stands in one of his corn fields. The corn is tightly spaced, and he grows a cover crop under the corn that rises when the corn is harvested. In the winter, cows graze on the remaining plants. "Using the livestock is about closing cycles," he says.

Unlike in the US, South African farmers don’t get any subsidies to speak of. They need to make their farms work or they will be out of a job.
In the area where Slabbert farms, temperatures are rising at a rate double of the global average. Severe droughts in recent years have wiped out multi-generational farms and livelihoods.
“In Africa especially, we are feeling the heat. So climate change is an issue for us. I am not really a biologist or a scientist, but I can see the change in my short lifetime,” says Slabbert.
Research has shown that when droughts hit, regenerative farmers often survive while others go under. Their land retains water better and grazing systems make the grass more robust.
Slabbert’s farm is better at surviving climate change. And on a global scale, farming like this could help solve climate change.
“We need to go back to our roots as farmers and as people connected to the land and soil,” he says. “Change is very difficult and it will take time. But change will happen — it will have to happen.” SOURCE

Every day matters: Guardian Stops Accepting Fossil Fuel Ads

It said the decision was based on the efforts by the industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments.

The British newspaper had said in October that it would stop referring to “climate change” and use terms like “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead.

Credit…Shutterstock

LONDON — The Guardian newspaper said it would stop accepting advertisements from oil and gas companies, making it the latest institution to limit financial ties to fossil fuel businesses.

The announcement highlights how the risk of climate change is increasingly recognized and discussed in the business world, just days after climate change took center stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world,” said Anna Bateson, the acting chief executive, and Hamish Nicklin, the chief revenue officer, in a statement on Wednesday.

The British newspaper said in October that it would stop referring to “climate change” and use terms like “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead. “We need to tackle it now, and every day matters,” said Katharine Viner, the editor in chief, at the time.

The Guardian is owned by a charity, the Scott Trust, which has already shifted its investments away from fossil fuel investments. Fossil fuel-related investments now represent less than 1 percent of its fund, the newspaper said. The Guardian Media Group has also committed to getting its emissions down to net zero by 2030.

The Guardian and its Sunday paper, The Observer, rely on advertising for about 40 percent of their revenue, but the statement did not say how much came from fossil fuel extractors.

The executives conceded that the company could have taken bigger steps to put pressure on the companies that advertise with them.

“Of course we know some readers would like us to go further, banning ads for any product with a significant carbon footprint, such as cars or holidays,” wrote Ms. Bateson and Mr. Nicklin in their blog explaining the reasons behind the decision. “Stopping those ads would be a severe financial blow, and might force us to make significant cuts to Guardian and Observer journalism around the world.”

Greenpeace, which had petitioned for an end to oil companies advertising in the media, said that other media, arts and sports organizations should follow suit.

“For too long fossil fuel giants like BP and Shell, who are causing our climate emergency, have been able to get away with green wash advertising while investing 97 percent of their business in oil and gas,” said Mel Evans, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, in a statement. “Oil and gas firms now find themselves alongside tobacco companies as businesses that threaten the health and well-being of everyone on this planet.”

Advocacy group 350.org, which works to raise awareness about the danger of climate change, urged other media companies to follow The Guardian’s lead.

350.org Europe@350Europe

Speaking of which…

Join us and over 90,000 others in calling for a : https://act.350.org/sign/fossilfreefacebook/ 

We want a Fossil Free Facebook

We want fossil free newsfeeds.

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350.org Europe@350Europe

And we think @Reuters should go next. They’ve already signed on to the @CoveringClimate Now initiative and this should be their next step.https://act.350.org/sign/reuters/ 

Reuters, ban fossil ads!

Following the Guardian’s historic move, we call on Reuters to stop advertising coal, oil and gas. Sign now >>

act.350.org

The chief executives of major European oil companies have reacted to the criticism by saying they are working to reshape their companies into producers of energy that generates lower amounts of greenhouse gases, but that this shift will require decades, the cooperation of governments and a range of industries, and acceptance by consumers.

“We cannot go faster than society, we cannot sell what customers don’t want,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

Mr. van Beurden characterized the move to lower-carbon energy as “a system challenge of unimaginable proportions that can only be done if we have collaboration at levels not yet displayed.”

Mr. van Beurden said that Shell was slowly building a portfolio of lower-carbon energy sources like natural gas and electric power generation, but he conceded that the industry had work to do to make clear to the public that it was working seriously on solutions for climate change.

“The sector needs to do more to explain how it is serving society,” he said.

As the climate crisis melts our ice, our way of life could change in unexpected ways

Ice skaters on the Rideau Canal in 2017. As the climate crisis accelerates, traditions like this are likely to become rarer. Photo by Alex Tétreault

In Japan, a once-annual Shinto ceremony that revolved around the freezing of a lake is no longer possible most years.

In Minnesota, ice fishing competitions that feed local economies are expected to get cancelled more often as the climate crisis accelerates.

And in Canada, ice roads that serve as a lifeline for isolated Indigenous communities in the North are opening weeks later than they once did.

As our planet warms, the loss of freshwater ice in winter threatens to fundamentally alter our way of life, endangering spiritual practices, cultural traditions and livelihoods, found a study published earlier this year.

“Winters are warming rapidly, and we’re already seeing direct changes on the way that we use our environment,” said Sapna Sharma, a co-author of the study and associate professor at York University who studies the impacts of climate change on lakes.

“I think there’s still a disconnect on what the climate crisis means to us as individuals, what we’re losing and how that might affect our well-being.”

The study, published in the October 2019 edition of the journal Limnology and Oceanography, attempted to quantify how the loss of inland ice would affect people, using case studies from across the northern hemisphere.

Much of this work attempted to assign numbers to these impacts: Minnesota’s annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza brings in an estimated US$1 million per year, for example. And the opening of ice roads in northern Canada have been delayed by as much as three weeks, which tightens the time window within which residents can use the routes for inexpensive travel to see loved ones and get items they need.

But the study also notes that “many human uses related to lake and river ice, such as a loss of sense of place, are more difficult to evaluate empirically and to assign a dollar value.”

Though icy winters are part of Canada’s cultural identity, Sharma said, we have to start thinking about our sense of place in the world will shift along with the climate. MORE

Jane Fonda speaks to CBC’s Susan Ormiston

Actor Jane Fonda tells CBC’s Susan Ormiston who inspired her to protest again and what she learned from her earlier agitating years.

Image result for cbc: Jane Fonda speaks to CBC's Susan Ormiston

WATCH THE VIDEO

Jane Fonda talks protest, arrest — and why she wants another night in jail

‘It’s quite an experience to know that you are powerless’

Jane Fonda is arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers during a Fire Drill Friday climate change protest Nov. 1. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Jane Fonda’s hoping for an unusual birthday present — another night in a Washington, D.C., jail.

The award-winning actress and businesswoman has decamped to Washington from Los Angeles to protest against climate change.

“I decided I needed to leave my comfort zone and put my body on the line, engage in civil disobedience and risk getting arrested because we need to step up with bolder actions. It’s a real crisis,” she told CBC’s Susan Ormiston.

Fire Drill Fridays were inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. Since Sept. 27, Fonda has joined a group of protesters engaging in civil disobedience; she’s been arrested four times and jailed once, overnight.

“It’s quite an experience to know that you are powerless, that you have been handcuffed and that you were completely in the control of the police,” she said.

“Because I’m white and famous, I’m not going to be treated badly.”

She said her jailers couldn’t believe she was there voluntarily. She admits the power of protest will not change policy overnight but she brings “celebrity,” which is important, she says, to motivate others to act on their convictions and get out to protest the climate crisis.

Watch an excerpt of Susan Ormiston’s interview with Jane Fonda:

Jane Fonda has been arrested four times in recent weeks for protesting climate change. “I’m following in the steps of young people,” she tells The National’s Susan Ormiston. 2:09

Jane Fonda has been arrested four times in recent weeks for protesting climate change. “I’m following in the steps of young people,” she tells The National’s Susan Ormiston. 2:09

Fonda is no stranger to activism. Over 50 years she’s demonstrated for women’s and Indigenous rights, and against the Iraq war and Alberta’s oilsands.

She was first arrested in the early 1970s for her opposition to the war in Vietnam. She was dubbed Hanoi Jane after posing with the North Vietnamese and later apologized. But back then, she was seen as a disruptor and was apprehended crossing into the U.S. from Canada.

“You know, the more they attacked me, the more I dug in my heels. If they thought I was some soft Hollywood starlet daughter of Henry Fonda and they could bully me, no, I wasn’t gonna let them get me. I just kept going,” she told CBC.

Does she still feel that way?

“Oh yeah,” says Fonda, “Only see, now I’m old and so I feel even more capable of standing up.”

She just might celebrate her 82nd birthday this Saturday locked up again.

As Western premiers blow smoke on carbon tax, youth organize for climate justice

Image: Spence Mann
Image: Spence Mann

Justin Trudeau’s re-election has unleashed political outrage in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is talking about Alberta’s being “betrayed” while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe sent a letter to Trudeau demanding the cancellaiton of the federal carbon tax, support for various pipelines, and a renegotiation of the formula for equalization payments.

I’ll withhold detailed comment on equalization payments, other than to say that for many years, Saskatchewan was a “have-not” province that relied heavily upon them. But let’s look more closely at Moe’s letter as it relates to the carbon tax and pipelines. Moe’s strident demands are likely based upon the election results in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the Conservatives won 47 of 48 seats. On the other hand, parties supporting a carbon levy won almost two-thirds of the seats and popular vote across Canada.

It is significant, too, that the results in Alberta and Saskatchewan were not monolithic. In Alberta, 28 per cent of those casting ballots voted for the Liberals, NDP or Greens, and these parties all support a carbon tax. In Saskatchewan, 34 per cent of the electors voted for those three parties. If we had purely proportional representation rather than our flawed first-past-the-post electoral system, parties other than the Conservatives would have 10 seats in Alberta and five in Saskatchewan. So Kenney and Moe cannot say that they are speaking on behalf of all their constituents.

 Carbon tax haters are delayers and deniers

Kenney, Moe and others constantly repeat the mantra that the carbon tax will be a “job killer” and according to Doug Ford will lead to a recession. But these claims have been challenged. In a February, three independent experts, including the highly respected Don Drummond, concluded: “Economists are virtually unanimous in the view that carbon pricing reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the economy.” British Columbia, Quebec and California are all using some form of carbon tax and their economies are humming along.

If Moe and others are opposed to a carbon tax, what is their suggestion, if any, for a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? There’s the rub. While Moe, Kenney, Ford and Andrew Scheer rail against the carbon tax, or demand that various pipelines be built, they usually avoid any mention of the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes the world’s best climate scientists, has been issuing reports for years. The IPCC reports of late are increasingly urgent in tone. The IPCC now says that global carbon dioxide emissions will have to fall by 45 per cent in 2030, and to reach a net of zero by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage.

The Trudeau government — implausibly, many suggest — has promised that it is on course to meet those targets and that a carbon tax is the rightful centerpiece of that effort. Ottawa believes the tax will encourage a market shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources of energy.

The strategy of the tax’s opponents has shifted from denying the reality of climate change, which is no longer credible, to tactics of delay. During the election campaign, Conservatives said they would require large polluters to pay into a research and development fund for green technology. That plan appeared suspiciously akin to what was being proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil industry’s main lobby, which has a close relationship with Andrew Scheer. Tellingly, the proposal contained no associated targets or timetables for reducing emissions, and was described by one analyst as simply “a plan to expand fossil fuel production.”

Support on the street

While premiers Moe and Kenney attempt to delay, there is growing support on the street for climate action. On September 27, hundreds of thousands of people — 500,000 in Montreal alone — marched in climate strikes that took place in 200 Canadian cities and towns. Many of the organizers were youth, and they were participating in a global day of action to demand that our political leaders do more to confront the climate crisis. These youth organizers are looking to the future. Premiers Moe and Kenney are staring into the rear-view mirror.

Youth lawsuit draws attention to climate crisis

 

Youth litigants at press release.
Children shouldn’t have to march in the streets or take their governments to court. But in times of crisis people have to do what they can to get the many available and emerging solutions implemented.(Photo: Robin Loznak)

Children and teens are at a disadvantage. They can’t vote and have little say in many plans and policies that will determine their futures. The political decisions made today will affect their lives profoundly.

Scientists worldwide have warned we only have a decade to get emissions down substantially or face the well-known consequences of rapidly accelerating global heating. The costly effects are already being felt — from contaminated air and water to increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events to melting permafrost and species extinction.

With no real say in the political process, children and youth are taking to the streets worldwide, demanding that those in power do more to address this very real crisis. The message appears to be getting through. Climate disruption and plans to deal with it became a key issue in the recent Canadian election.

But instead of doing everything possible to ensure these young people have a secure, healthy future, governments here and elsewhere continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure, arguing — as they have for decades — that we can’t get off fossil fuels overnight. It’s kind of like an addict who really isn’t ready to quit.

A group of young people has decided marching isn’t enough. The 15 youth, ranging in age from seven to 19, and hailing from Vancouver Island to the Northwest Territories to Nova Scotia, are taking the federal government to court “to protect their charter and public trust rights from climate change harms,” claiming the federal government’s failure to take actions consistent with the scientific evidence violates their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and for failing to protect essential public trust resources.

Since climate change disproportionately affects youth, they’re also alleging that government’s conduct violates their right to equality under section 15 of the charter. The youth are supported by the David Suzuki Foundation, Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, and Our Children’s Trust and represented by law firms Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation.

They aren’t seeking money. Rather, they’ll ask for a Federal Court order requiring Canada’s government to prepare a plan to redress charter and public trust doctrine violations by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making a sufficient contribution to preventing, mitigating, and redressing dangerous climate change.

As 13-year-old Sáj Starcevich from Saskatchewan says, “The planet is dying. The animals are dying. We will all die if we don’t act. As an Indigenous vegan, I fight for Earth and her inhabitants. The youth have to step up because no one else has. We need you to join us to end this climate crisis.”

A gradual transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation would have been possible had we taken the climate crisis seriously even in the 1980s, when scientists including NASA’s James Hansen were sounding the alarm. But, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points out, we”ve now pumped so many greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere that we’ve locked in many inevitable consequences.

To prevent runaway impacts, we have to cut emissions immediately and protect and restore forests, wetlands and other natural systems, including oceans, that sequester carbon.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for a long time, while gases like methane remain for less time but have a greater effect on rising global temperatures. Everything we pump into the air now will remain for decades, causing the planet to continue heating for years. To prevent runaway impacts, we have to cut emissions immediately and protect and restore forests, wetlands and other natural systems, including oceans, that sequester carbon.

As adults, we’ve helped create this mess through rampant consumerism and lack of attention to the problems our pollution is causing. We owe it to the children to help clean it up, to push for the kinds of changes the scientific evidence calls for. We can’t leave it to the youth, because by the time they grow up, Earth could well have reached the tipping point for climate catastrophe.

Children shouldn’t have to march in the streets or take their own governments to court. But in times of crisis — which this surely is — people have to do what they can to get the many available and emerging solutions implemented.

Let’s listen to the kids and leave them a brighter future! SOURCE

VIDEO: Pressure mounts for Liberals to act on climate change as activists gear up


More than two dozen young people are facing a month-long ban from Parliament Hill after staging a climate-change protest in the House of Commons on Oct. 28, 2019. (The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he heard loud and clear the message Canadians sent in the federal election for him to be bolder about climate change action.

Now young Canadians want him to prove it.

Twenty-seven youth with the group Our Time were arrested in the House of Commons on Monday morning after attempting to stage a sit-in to demand a Canadian “green new deal” be the first priority of all 338 MPs elected last week.

They had 338 letters to deliver to the new MPs that listed demands including a cut to emissions in line with international scientific consensus, respecting Indigenous rights, creating good new jobs and protecting the most vulnerable people.

Image result for Amara Possian,Amara Possian: “I support organizations that are building a just and caring society.”

Amara Possian, a campaign manager with Our Time, said in a recent blog post that the first 100 days of a new government are a critical time as the government lays out its plans and priorities. With the Liberals held to a minority, they will need support from other parties to pass legislation and stay in power, which many environment groups see as leverage to push the Liberals to do more on climate change.

 

Niklas Agarwal, a 24-year-old recent geography graduate from Toronto, said minority governments have given Canada progressive programs like universal health care, and feels a minority government can deliver a green new deal in Canada.

“This is a generational crisis and I’ve never felt the urgency of anything else in my life,” said Agarwal, clutching the trespassing ticket that bars him from returning to Parliament Hill for the next 30 days.

The protesters gained access to the House of Commons by joining a regular visitors’ tour, then sitting down on the floor once and refused to move. Within minutes, Parliamentary security officers forced them to leave. Some protesters were dragged out by their arms, while others were lifted up to their feet and forced to walk out. MORE

The idea of a green new deal comes mainly from Democrats in the United States who introduced resolutions in Congress last winter. The NDP co-opted the term in its campaign rhetoric, and the Green Party described their climate change plan, named “Mission: Possible,” as Canada’s green new deal.

Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, said the term “green new deal” may not take hold in Canada because it is too aligned with the United States. But he said if you look at where the Liberals, NDP and Green platforms align on climate change, there are “the makings of an agenda” that cuts emissions deeper and faster, and supports affected Canadian workers through the transition.

In particular, the parties aim to cut emissions in line with what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is needed to keep the world from warming much more than 1.5 C compared to pre-industrial times. Investments in public transit, planting trees, encouraging electric vehicle use and investing in clean energy technologies are all among their common platforms.

Woynillowicz said he expects the Liberals to move quickly on their promised bill to legislate a fair transition for energy workers because that could help generate some good will in western Canada for climate action. Beyond that, the promised legislation to set five-year emissions targets and report publicly on progress would also be expected early, said Woynillowicz.

 

The climate crisis and the failure of economics

Why our economic model fails to explain how we got here on climate.

Climate change protesters block a street in Washington, DC, with the Capitol building in the background. One protest sign reads, “End oil subsidies now.”
Climate change protesters block traffic during a protest to shut down DC on September 23, 2019, in Washington, DC.  Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The first intro-to-economics class often starts with the question: why are diamonds expensive and water cheap? After all, we need the latter to survive.

The answer, of course, is scarcity, a concept at the core of economics. Diamonds are rare and water literally falls from the sky. Were there no scarcity, we wouldn’t need economics. But given that scarcity exists, we have a price system to signal the economic value of stuff — how much of it there is and how badly we want it.

And yet, there’s a key area where prices fail us every day. They fail us every time you fill up your gas tank: Fossil fuels are severely underpriced.

What do I mean by that? I mean that fossil fuels are imposing costs on our environment, our economy, and our future that are not being captured by their price.

That underpricing has consequences. Energy costs are so low and so unresponsive to the environmental challenge we face that they send us a signal to literally keep cruising along, ignoring the pressing reality of climate change.

How is it that a discipline fundamentally based on scarcity has failed to accurately price in the damage we’re doing to our most important, scarce resource: the environment? Naomi Klein writes that the climate crisis is “born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless.”

But I don’t think the economic model fails because it denies scarcity and embraces limitless nature. It fails because of its interaction with two things in particular: 1) our tendency to focus on the present at the expense of the future; and 2) the toxic cycle of profit and influence that distorts policy making and blocks the accurate pricing of carbon.

This diagnosis matters because we need to either unjam the model and attach a sustainable price on carbon or recognize that politics as currently practiced won’t allow us to do that, in which case we’ll need to figure out other, bolder ways to fight climate change. The Green New Deal may well play a role in that alternative vision.

When price sends the wrong signal

One can’t overestimate the centrality of price signaling in market economics. The work of two of the most towering figures in the field — Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman — was largely premised on respecting the information in market-formed price signals and critiquing government actions that allegedly distorted such signals. In this framework, minimum wages, for example, are a huge problem as they distort/inflate the price of low-wage labor. Taxes on wages or capital similarly distort behaviors to work and invest.

But the real world shows the theory has often been found wanting. There are literally hundreds of places, both here and abroad, where minimum wages appear to have little distortionary effects on labor markets. Most recently, Trump’s big tax cut for the rich hasn’t led to anything close to the investment boom its proponents promised. To be sure, most card-carrying economists, myself included, still believe prices convey useful information. It’s just that a ton of empirical research reveals that life is a lot more complicated than the simple theory suggests.

When it comes to the environment in general and fossil fuels in particular, the price system isn’t merely failing to work. It’s sending wrong signals, and fatefully so. This is not because fossil fuels themselves are scarce. It’s because their price fails to reflect their contribution to global warming. One recent study put the gap between what fossil fuels (not just gas, of course) do cost and what they should cost, given the environmental damage they inflict, at over $5 trillion, or more than 6 percent of global GDP, per year.

Over the last decade, energy costs grew on an annual basis at a mere 1.4 percent, a touch slower than overall prices, which were up 1.5 percent per year. Last month, the average price of a gallon of gas was $2.59; 10 years prior, in September 2009, that price — in nominal terms — was an almost identical $2.55.

How can that be? Given the increasing awareness of the urgency of climate change over the past 10 years, fossil fuel costs should be higher and they should be growing faster than overall prices, signaling their contribution to global warming.

Why is the price system failing so miserably in such an important facet of our lives and our children’s lives?

Discounting the future

One hint to the answer is embedded in that phrase: “our children.” Whenever you hear a plea made on behalf of a future concern — or, in the case of climate, a present concern that is expected to worsen as time proceeds — recognize that you’re bumping up hard against our unfortunate bias toward the present.

In some ways, discounting the future makes sense. A dollar a year from now will have less buying power than a dollar today because of inflation.

That’s how too many of us appear to think about the future of the environment. And by so doing, we’re unmotivated to spend more now to stave off destruction later, a preference expressed in the resistance of policy makers and elected officials to enact policies to fight climate change.

Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg put not too fine a point on this shortcoming in her speech to the United Nations last month: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

Those “fairy tales” to which Thunberg refers are often told by long-term economic projections that typically leave out the costs of climate change. MORE

Maxime Bernier attacked Greta Thunberg’s autism. Naomi Klein says autism made the teen a global voice of conscience

Climate activist Greta Thunberg marches with climate protesters outside the United Nations last week.

Maxime Bernier wants us to think he is sorry. The leader of the extremist People’s Party of Canada had tweeted that Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is “clearly mentally unstable. Not only autistic, but obsessive-compulsive, eating disorder, depression and lethargy, and she lives in a constant state of fear. She wants us to feel the same.”

Facing a ferocious backlash, he has since backpedalled, calling the 16-year-old “a brave young woman” who unfortunately is a “pawn” of the climate movement.

Author Naomi KleinThunberg is nobody’s pawn. I have rarely met anyone — child or adult — who better knows their own mind. And this is not despite her autism; it may well be because of it. In fact, a big part of what has made Thunberg suach an inspiring figure, is the fact that she is living proof that diversity — in her case neurodiversity — is absolutely key to the survival of our species.

Every person with autism is different, but there are some traits that many with the diagnosis share in common. As Thunberg has said, people with her type of autism tend to be extremely literal and often have trouble coping with cognitive dissonance, those gaps between what we know and what we do.

Many people on the autism spectrum are also less prone to imitating the social behaviours of people around them and instead forge their own unique paths. This can make them intensely vulnerable to bullying.

“For those of us who are on the spectrum,” Thunberg says, “almost everything is black or white. We aren’t very good at lying, and we usually don’t enjoy participating in this social game that the rest of you seem so fond of.”

Many people on the spectrum also have a powerful capacity to focus on a particular area and to not be distracted. This is often a gift, but it can also be painful, as it was in Thunberg’s case. She turned her laser-like focus on the climate crisis, including the failure of politicians to do what is required to protect a habitable planet. The fact that other people around her seemed relatively unconcerned about the urgent need for transformative action did not send her reassuring social signals, as such signals do for children who are more socially connected. The lack of concern terrified her even more.

According to Thunberg, the only way she was able to cope was to find ways to reduce the cognitive dissonance between what she had learned about the climate crisis and how she lived her life. If she desperately wanted powerful politicians to put our societies on emergency footing to fight climate change, then she needed to reflect that state of emergency in her own life.

So, at age 15, she decided to stop doing the one thing all kids are supposed to do when everything is normal: go to school. Every Friday, she skipped class and stationed herself outside of Sweden’s parliament with a handmade sign that said simply: “School Strike For the Climate.”

“Why,” Thunberg wondered, “should we be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything whatsoever to save that future?”

The rest is history — the speeches at United Nations conferences, at the European Union, at TEDx Stockholm, at the Vatican, at the British Parliament.

To the rich and mighty at the annual World Economic Summit in Davos she said: “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

Videos of her went viral. It was as if by yelling “Fire!” on our warming planet, she had given others the confidence to believe their own senses and smell the smoke coming in under all those tightly closed doors. And so, children around the world began taking their cues from her — the girl who takes social cues from no one — and started organizing student strikes of their own every Friday. (They have now called on people of all ages to join them, starting on Sept. 20.)

Thunberg’s voyage from “invisible girl,” as she described herself, to global voice of conscience is an extraordinary one, and it has a lot to teach us. In a way, she is asking those of us whose mental wiring is more typical — less prone to extraordinary focus and more capable of living with moral contradictions — to be more like her. And she has a point.

During normal, non-emergency times, the capacity of the human mind to rationalize, compartmentalize, and be distracted are important coping mechanisms. It’s also extremely helpful to unconsciously look to our peers and role models to figure out how to feel and act — those social cues are how we form friendships and build cohesive communities.

When it comes to rising to the existential threat of climate breakdown, however, these traits are proving our collective undoing. They are reassuring us when we should not be reassured. They are distracting us when we should not be distracted. And they are easing our consciences when they should not be eased.

In part this is because pretty much every aspect of our economy would have to change if we were to decide to take climate change seriously, and there are many powerful interests that like things as they are. Not least the fossil fuel corporations, which have funded a decades-long machine of disinformation, obfuscation and straight-up lies about the reality of climate change. SOURCE