Climate change: The Trillion Tree Solution

Photo by Jim Bradbury

I’ve got a confession. Like a lot of people, I suffer from a mild version of what botanists call “tree blindness.” Sure, I can tell an oak from a gingko, but most of the hundreds of varieties of trees that grow here in Northern California remain, to me, just trees.

I couldn’t help but think about how we take trees for granted when I read about new research that found that planting a lot more of them could reduce climate pollution. Scientists examined areas around the globe where we could reforest and figured out that, even after you exclude agricultural and urban lands, we have room for another 1 trillion trees. For reference, the planet currently has about 3 trillion — which is only about half of what existed before human civilization. What’s more, adding back 1 trillion trees, it’s calculated, could capture up to 25% of global annual carbon emissions.

That’s important because in addition to slashing carbon emissions, we must find ways to remove and store the excess carbon that’s already in our atmosphere. Plenty of smart people are trying to develop economically feasible, scalable technologies to do just that, and we should all be (pardon the expression) rooting for them. Meanwhile, though, behold the tree, which has been efficiently accomplishing this task for millennia. All we have to do is stop destroying the ones we already have (which should be priority number one) and get seriously ambitious about planting new ones.

To be clear, reforestation alone won’t be enough to solve the climate crisis. It can, though, be one of our single most effective strategies, provided we do it responsibly (by avoiding monoculture forests, for example, and by scrupulously respecting the rights of indigenous people). In fact, whenever possible, reforestation should be part of a broader effort to restore whole ecosystems.

Like the trees themselves, reforestation is a solution that has been hiding in plain sight. There’s nothing technologically difficult about planting trees, but to be effective as part of a climate strategy it will require massive and multinational ambition. Unfortunately, although many countries around the world have begun reforestation efforts, even the most ambitious ones have a long, long way to go. According to the Trillion Tree Campaign, China is currently in the lead, with about 2.4 billion planted, and India’s not far behind, with 2.1 billion. The US? Currently in 10th place, with around 300 million trees planted. That’s progress, but the reality is that we have room for 1,000 billion trees, and we need them as soon as possible. Instead, we’re still losing billions of trees each year, including in some of the places where we need them most, such as the Amazon rainforest.

Once again, the real challenge of the climate crisis isn’t a lack of solutions. Whether it’s 1 trillion trees or 100% clean, renewable energy, the solutions are right in front of us. The question facing humanity is whether we are prepared to recognize and implement those solutions intelligently, equitably, and rapidly. What do I see when I look at a tree now? A marvel of nature, a reason for hope, and a call to action. SOURCE

RELATED:

These countries are planting millions of trees to combat climate change and stop deforestation.

WASTE ONLY: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World

Image result for the intercept: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World
A portion of plastic bottle found on Mothecombe Beach at the mouth of the Erme Estuary in South Devon, England, on May 30, 2019.Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

THE STUDENTS AT Westmeade Elementary School worked hard on their dragon. And it paid off. The plastic bag receptacle that the kids painted green and outfitted with triangular white teeth and a “feed me” sign won the students from the Nashville suburb first place in a recycling box decorating contest. The idea, as Westmeade’s proud principal told a local TV news show, was to help the environment. But the real story behind the dragon — as with much of the escalating war over plastic waste — is more complicated.

A week after Westmeade’s dragon won the contest, the APBA got its own reward: The plastic preemption bill passed the Tennessee state legislature. Weeks later, the governor signed it into law, throwing a wrench into an effort underway in Memphis to charge a fee for plastic bags. Meanwhile, A Bag’s Life gave the Westmeade kids who worked on the bag monster a $100 gift card to use “as they please.” And with that, a minuscule fraction of its vast wealth, the plastics industry applied a green veneer to its increasingly bitter and desperate fight to keep profiting from a product that is polluting the world.

In this Nov. 2, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a black footed albatross chick with plastics in its stomach lies dead on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The remote atoll where thousands died is now a delicate sanctuary for millions of seabirds. Midway sits amid a collection of man-made debris called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along the paths of Midway, there are piles of feathers with rings of plastic in the middle - remnants of birds that died with the plastic in their guts. Each year the agency removes about 20 tons of plastic and debris that washes ashore from surrounding waters. (Dan Clark/USFWS via AP)In this photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a black footed albatross chick with plastics in its stomach lies dead on Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on Nov. 2, 2014. Photo: Dan Clark/USFWS via AP

At stake for them [the plastics industry] is not just the current plastics market now worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually, but its likely expansion. Falling oil and gas prices mean that the cost of making new plastic, already very low, will be even cheaper. The price drop has led to more than 700 plastics industry projects now in the works, including expansions of old plants and the construction of new ones by Chevron, Shell, Dow, Exxon, Formosa Plastics, Nova Chemicals, and Bayport Polymers, among other companies, according to a presentation from the regulatory affairs director of the BASF Corporation at the plastics industry conference.

The growing output of new cheap plastic further undermines the industry’s own argument that recycling can resolve the waste crisis. It’s already impossible for most recycled plastic to compete with “virgin” plastic in the marketplace. With the exception of bottles made of PET (No. 1) and HDPE (No. 2), the rest of the waste is essentially worthless. Around 30 percent of both types of plastic bottles were sold for recycling in 2017, though some of those may have wound up being landfilled or incinerated. The recent fossil fuel boom makes it even cheaper to make new plastic and thus, even more difficult to sell the recycled product. This, in turn, makes the plastics companies’ push for recycling that much more implausible — and their battle to kill efforts to limit plastics production even more desperate. MORE

RELATED:

Tofino and Ucluelet mayors react to court’s decision on Victoria’s plastic bag ban

David Suzuki: Fracking is neither a climate solution nor an economic blessing

Getty

The rush to exploit and sell fossil fuels as quickly as possible before the reality of climate disruption becomes too great to deny or ignore has generated some Orwellian rationalizations. Somehow a bitumen pipeline has become part of Canada’s plan to tackle the climate crisis. Another fossil fuel, fracked gas, is being touted as a climate solution.

It’s twisted logic that exposes a lack of honesty, imagination, and courage from many of those we elect to serve us. Pipeline proponents say we need the money to fund the transition to green energy. That’s like saying we have to sell cigarettes to fund lung cancer research. It’s also premised on the idea that “we can’t get off fossil fuels overnight”—something I’ve been hearing since I started talking about climate change decades ago, during which we’ve done little to get off them at all.

Natural gas, which now almost always means liquefied fracked gas, is being vaunted as a climate remedy because it burns cleaner than coal. In Canada and the U.S., governments are so intoxicated by the dollars that they’re helping industry build as quickly and massively as possible. As research in Canada and the U.S. shows, it’s not a climate solution; it’s another way to keep fossil fuels burning.

Natural gas is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas about 85 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. It’s responsible for about a quarter of atmospheric warming, and emissions are rising. Scientists estimate about 40 percent is from natural sources, while 60 percent is human-caused—from agriculture, landfills, coal seams, and oil-and-gas-industry leakage. Even some natural emissions are indirectly caused by human activity. For example, human-caused global heating is causing permafrost to melt, which releases methane.

Research by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University revealed methane pollutionfrom B.C.’s oil-and-gas industry is at least 2.5 times higher than reported by industry and government. Studies in Alberta and the U.S. reached similar conclusions.

New research from Global Energy Monitor, a U.S. nongovernmental organization that tracks fossil-fuel development, found even greater problems with the recent fracking frenzy. Its report, The New Gas Boom, found that the 202 LNG terminal projects being developed worldwide—including 116 export terminals and 86 import terminals—represent warming impacts “as large or greater than the expansion of coal-fired power plants, posing a direct challenge to Paris climate goals”. Canada and the U.S. account for 74 percent of these developments.

The report also questions the long-term viability of this gas rush, cautioning that many developments could become “stranded assets”, given rapidly falling renewable-energy costs. It points out that because only eight percent of terminal capacity under development has reached the construction stage, “there is still time to avoid overbuilding”.

Beyond its climate impacts, fracking comes with a range of environmental and health problems, including earthquakes, contaminated water, excessive water use, and health issues. A recent review of more than 1,500 scientific studies, government assessments, and media reports by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility concluded that fracking contaminates air and water with chemicals that can cause serious health problems—especially in children, pregnant women and other vulnerable people, as well as industry workers—including cancer, asthma, and birth defects.

MORE

RELATED:

B.C. government quietly posts response to expert fracking report

Province avoids investigation of human health impacts of fracking, despite independent scientific review warning of unknown risks to air and water

The Koch Brothers and the Tar-Sands

I encourage you to read the entire article by John McMurtry. This is the BIG STORY never investigated by Canada’s media — one that should definitely influence how you vote.

Big Lies and Ecocide in Canada

As we know, big lies can run free across borders with few people joining the dots. For example, no media has been reporting that China’s growing dispute with Canada is based on Canada’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s unilateral embargo against Iran. This is what politicians called ‘the rule of law’. In fact, it is assisting the US takedown of China’s superior IT competition – Huawei – for not obeying the illegal US embargo.

One lie builds on another. Repetition institutionalizes it. Then that becomes the truth that sells. As explained long ago by Edward Bernayes, the founder of public relations, democracy is “the manufacture of consent.” What he did not say is that only system-supporting lies may be on offer.

So, the imprisonment of Huawei’s vice-chairwoman and CFO Meng Wanzhou, continues as justified by ‘the rule of law’ and China is at fault for not recognizing it. Official Canada again reverts to type. It attacks the designated US Enemy, in junior partnership with its global corporate command.

Yet this time there is a new twist. Canada is attacking itself on all levels without knowing it. China has imprisoned two Canadian citizens and blocked long-standing major agriculture imports to our increasing public humiliation. The US, the actual cause of the problem, has done nothing to resolve it, and all the while, a deeper self-destruction of Canada unfolds to serve US Big-Oil demands.

The usual leaders of Canada’s branch-plant culture in politics, media news and ‘expert’ commentary just continue their barking.

Great Canada

A US Big-Oil backed juggernaut of Conservative provincial governments and the federal Opposition have been advancing for months in a campaign to reverse longstanding parliamentary decisions, environmental laws, climate action initiatives, Supreme Court directions, and First-Nations negotiations, with the goal of bringing down the current government of Canada. Yet no-one in public or media circles has joined the dots.

Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits are world famous as surpassing Saudi Arabia oil-field capacities in total barrels of potential yield. Great Canada! Yet few notice that over two-thirds of the entire tar-sands operations are owned by foreign entities sending their profits out of Canada, and that almost all its raw product is controlled for US refining and sale from which Canada is cut out.

What is particularly kept out of the daily news is the incendiary fact that the infamous, election-interfering and oft-EPA-convicted Koch brothers – who are behind Trump’s destruction of the US Environmental Protection Agency – have a dominant stake in the Alberta tar-sands as well as the massive BC-pipeline with its toxic sludge heading to tidewater while new colossal tankers plough through and pollute the BC coast.

Koch-owned industries have already extracted countless billions of their now $100-billion fortune from the Alberta tar-sands and have deployed their well-known voter-manipulations to change the balance of power in Canada as they have done in the US.

The objective is the same in both cases – ever more tax-free, publicly subsidized and state-enforced control by US Big Oil of Alberta’s massive oil resources with no public or government regulations or interferences in the way. This is called the ‘free market’. MORE

 

 

We Can’t Get Beyond Carbon With Gas

In B.C., Andrew Weaver, the leader of the Green Party, has said he will never support natural gas. This leaves John Horgan and the NDP with its support of a massive gas development with a dilema, especially when the federal NDP does not support natural gas development.


Photo by iStockphoto.com/Yerbolat Shadrakhov

Everyone knows the telltale smell of a gas leak. Except, because fossil gas is almost odorless, the smell that alerts us to danger actually comes from an added compound (tert-Butylthiol).

Unfortunately, there’s no malodorous chemical to warn us about the dangers of relying on fossil gas as an energy source. Yet, as The New York Times reported last week, utilities have a decision to make as they replace polluting coal plants: adopt clean, renewable energy or build plants that burn fossil gas.

It’s crucial that they make the right choice. That’s why the second goal (after finishing the job of eliminating coal-fired power) that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg listed when he announced his $500 million Beyond Carbon initiative last month was this: “We will work to stop the construction of new gas plants.”

What makes it so important that we stop the so-called gas rush? After all, an unfortunate number of people (including some who know better), still claim that fossil gas “burns cleaner” than coal, as if that somehow makes it palatable. I’m sorry, but even if fossil gas were less polluting than coal (which it isn’t), saying that it “burns cleaner” is like insisting that a switchblade “kills quieter” than a machine gun. Either way, you’re still pumping daisies. Exactly how you ended up there is kind of beside the point.

Here’s where the stubborn reality of math kicks in: In order to prevent a worst-case-scenario climate disaster, we can’t afford to even use all of the fossil gas reserves that we already know about — much less find and extract new ones. What’s more, even if the entire world were to swear off coal right now, burning gas in its place would still leave us in a very bad place. Again, exactly how we got there will be beside the point.

Yet instead of backing away from disaster, fossil fuel companies (with shameful assistance from the Trump administration) actually want to frack more shale gas — and build the pipelines, power plants, and export terminals that go with it.

That’s far Beyond Foolish. But the kicker is that it’s not even necessary. It’s already more economical to use wind, solar, and storage instead of gas for large-scale power generation in many places, and that will soon be true everywhere. Already, cities like Los Angeles are stopping new gas plant construction in favor of renewable energy. So instead of investing in gas infrastructure that will be obsolete economically and technologically before the paint is dry, we need to be doing the opposite: developing a plan for replacing fossil gas everywhere in a way that’s both fast and fair — and by “fair” I mean it shouldn’t put any unjust economic burden on low-income and frontline communities.

Done right, the transition to an energy economy based on electricity from clean, renewable power will not only avoid a climate catastrophe but also bring about a healthier, more prosperous future. That’s the ultimate overarching goal of moving beyond carbon, and it’s why the Sierra Club and our allies are working hard every day to stop fracked gas. And when the valve on that last gas pipeline finally is closed? The only odor left will be the sweet smell of success. SOURCE

RELATED:

Canada to collaborate with California on vehicle emissions standards

Canada has agreed to collaborate with California on vehicle emissions standards, setting the stage for a split with Washington if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken the national standards for fuel economy in the United States.

OTTAWA—Canada has cast its lot with California on vehicle emissions regulations, setting the stage for a split with the U.S. federal government if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken rules that dictate the fuel economy of vehicles sold in North America over the coming years.

In a joint conference call with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new agreement to collaborate with the state on regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the two jurisdictions.

The deal comes as the United States federal government considers whether to weaken national vehicle emissions standards that have been in harmony with Canadian regulations since 2011. The prospect has alarmed environmentalists who consider the standards a key climate achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency, and has raised concerns of a regulatory rift in an auto industry that has been integrated across the Canada-U.S. border since the 1960s.

“It looks like there will be two standards in effect in the U.S. That’s certainly not anybody’s first choice. Competitiveness is incredibly important, and I think having an integrated market with one standard would be preferable,” McKenna said Wednesday.

“But, you know, look — if there are two choices in the U.S., our focus is really how about how do we get meaningful cuts to climate pollution.”

The federal governments in Canada and the U.S. have worked together on vehicle emissions rules for more than a decade. Since 2011, regulations for emissions from new automobiles and light trucks have been aligned, creating a uniform standard for those vehicles across the Canada-U.S. auto industry.

Those standards were set to increase each year until 2025, so that new models would have to keep getting more fuel efficient. McKenna said Wednesday that, according to the current standards, a new light duty vehicle in 2025 will need to burn 50 per cent less fuel than a 2008 model.

McKenna said Wednesday’s agreement with California is meant to ensure emissions standards continue to get more stringent every year, but she and Newsom did not rule out the possibility that the U.S. federal changes could match their ambitions and still allow for a regulatory harmony across the two countries. They said 13 other U.S. states have signalled they intend to stick with California on stricter standards, even if the Trump administration pulls back on the federal regulations. MORE

RELATED:

The Canadian government is making smart investments in electric vehicles

Climate Irony in Alberta: Version 2.0

The proposed Ecocide Act under the Rome Statute would hold those with principal responsibility  (ie. politicians, corporate executives, financiers, etc) accountable before the International Criminal Court if they knew or ought to have known that their actions would cause ecocide. 

Climate Irony in Alberta: Version 2.0, Below2C

In his recent Opinion piece in the Tyee, Mitchell Anderson sums us Premier Jason Kenney’s vision to return the Oilsands to their glory days as the beginning of a grim environmental endgame. “As the rest of the planet strives to curb carbon dependence, Alberta is instead stepping on the gas,” writes Anderson. Alberta is boldly accelerating new oil wells and abandoning the old ones as wildfires rage.

In 2016, I wrote about an inescapable climate irony as the massive Fort McMurray wildfire raged out of control. “Tar Sands are a dirty fuel producing high carbon emissions that cause global heating. Climate change makes extreme climate events such as wildfires more intense and severe. Alberta wildfires are made worse because of carbon emissions produced in its own back yard. The circle is complete.” And now in 2019, it’s much the same.

The following post by Mitchell Beer highlights the ongoing climate irony unfolding as the 2019 wildfire season intensifies. It was first published in The Energy Mix. MORE