Canada among G20 countries least likely to hit emissions targets

Energy giants face 35 per cent output cut to hit Paris climate goals: watchdog

Pollution

The 2015 Paris deal enjoins nations to limit temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) and to a safer cap of 1.5 C if at all possible. (AFP)

The biggest listed oil and gas giants must slash production by more than a third by 2040 to keep emissions within targets laid out in the landmark Paris climate deal, an industry watchdog said Friday.

Carbon Tracker, a Britain-based think tank, said that current rates of emissions from the energy majors would see the world’s carbon budgets surpassed within decades due to an inexorable rise in oil and gas output.

The 2015 Paris deal enjoins nations to limit temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) and to a safer cap of 1.5C if at all possible.

In order to hit these targets, the world must undergo a drastic drawdown in emissions of planet warming greenhouse gases.

Because carbon dioxide contributes to global warming at a known and predictable rate, scientists can calculate Earth’s “carbon budget” for a range of temperature rise scenarios.

Carbon Tracker estimated that a current emissions rates — and emissions are still rising annually — the carbon budget for a 1.5C temperature rise will be exceeded in 13 years.

For 1.75C — already a level deemed far from safe by the world’s leading scientists — that budget gets exceeded in 24 years, according to the watchdog.

It used the International Energy Association’s BD2S climate scenario to predict a rise of 1.6C, then compared that to data assessing the emissions trajectories of major oil and gas projects. The analysis showed that the listed majors on average needed to cut production by 35 percent within two decades to stick to the 1.6-C path.

“There’s a finite limit for any carbon that can be released for any given level of global warming and that implies that if we are going to have a good result under Paris or any other climate target, fossil fuel production is going to need to shrink,” Andrew Grant, senior oil and gas analyst at Carbon Tracker, told AFP.

“While companies may all say they support Paris — whatever that means — they still plan to keep producing more oil, gas and coal.”MORE

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg has talked about a ‘carbon budget.’ What is it, and why does it matter?


(Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images)

“If we are to have a 67 per cent chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees [C], we had, on Jan. 1, 2018, 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide left in our CO2 budget. And of course, that number is much lower today. We emit about 42 gigatonnes of CO2 a year. At current emission levels, that remaining budget is gone within 8 1/2 years.”

Those words were delivered by youth climate activist Greta Thunberg to the French parliament on July 23, 2019. She said she has not heard much on the subject of a “carbon budget,” either from politicians or the media. But what’s left in our carbon budget is of utmost importance if we hope to limit global warming.

Simply put, this budget refers to how much carbon — which includes CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane — we can emit into the atmosphere before we pass the point of warming the Earth to 1.5 C or 2 C.

The carbon budget was discussed in the first of three special reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in October 2018. The final instalment, the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), will be discussed in Morocco this weekend, with a summary due to be released next Wednesday.

The Paris Agreement seeks to limit a global temperature rise to 2 C above pre-industrial levels this century (with a goal of keeping it to 1.5 C). The key to understanding the carbon budget is that even if countries keep in line with the Paris accord, if the budget is depleted by then, it won’t matter. The damage will already be done. And it will be irreversible.

“If you think about annual emissions and reducing emissions without thinking about the carbon budget, you could really blow past the Paris Agreement,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists. “That’s the trouble.”

After a few years of stable global CO2 emissions, they rose in 2018, and there are concerns they may rise again in 2019.

If we don’t pay attention to the carbon budget, it increases the chance of a host of global problems: the loss of coral reefs, no summer sea ice in the Arctic, more severe weather events and changes in crops that could lead to further food scarcity.

If it sounds dire, Ekwurzel said we have the power to change the trajectory.

“Whenever we’ve been faced with a problem before and really … lean into it, we make big changes,” Ekwurzel said. “And a lot of those changes we’re calling for, we can do.” MORE

 

Deliberate deforestation of Amazon rainforest exposes anti-climate capitalism

Satellite image of fires burning the Amazon rainforest on August 11 and August 13, 2019. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

The outbreak of thousands of fires in the Brazilian rainforest starkly exposes the refusal of the world’s business and political leaders to take the threat of climate change seriously. For the past 30 years, at successive climate summits, they have piously pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions, never really intending to make more than token efforts to do so.

Their duplicity was on display at the recent G7 conference, where the countries’ leaders collectively promised to donate $20 million to fight the Brazilian inferno. That’s about as effective as arming the firefighters with toy squirt guns.

Of course, even if they had increased their contribution to $20 billion, it would still have been a useless gesture. Most of the fires were deliberately ignited, and will continue to be ignited after the current blazes are extinguished, regardless of the amount ostensibly contributed for firefighting.

That’s because the big international mining, logging and farming corporations that the Brazilian government has invited to exploit the country’s jungle need thousands of acres of open land. And that requires the equivalent acreage of deforestation, which is most easily accomplished by setting the forest alight. The country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, like most of his predecessors, makes economic development a top priority, even when it involves the discharge of massive amounts of harmful carbon dioxide and methane, and the eventual depletion of indispensable oxygen.

Here is where the nub of the climate crisis is exposed. The damaging effects of these emissions are not confined to the country that emits them. They ultimately impair the well-being of everyone on the planet.

Capitalism vs. the climate

To deal with such a worldwide menace calls for worldwide unity in mounting effective countermeasures. Unfortunately, we live on a planet whose population is dispersed among 195 separate countries, with different sizes, systems of government, laws, leaders, languages, religions, and climates, as well as differing levels of poverty and inequality.

As if all these barriers to forging a global convergence were not formidable enough, there’s another one that is even more daunting. It’s the main reason why our business and political leaders have remained so adamantly inactive in confronting climate change: because the world’s predominant economic system is based on the perpetuation of economic growth, and thus inherently on the perpetuation of global warming.

Capitalism can only thrive — or even survive a few decades longer — while economic growth remains unlimited and continuous. It’s a disastrous fantasy that assumes our planet’s natural resources are inexhaustible when they clearly are not. As thousands of world scientists have pointed out many times over the past 50 years, “Earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing populations is finite.

The outbreak of thousands of fires in the Brazilian rainforest starkly exposes the refusal of the world’s business and political leaders to take the threat of climate change seriously. For the past 30 years, at successive climate summits, they have piously pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions, never really intending to make more than token efforts to do so.

Their duplicity was on display at the recent G7 conference, where the countries’ leaders collectively promised to donate $20 million to fight the Brazilian inferno. That’s about as effective as arming the firefighters with toy squirt guns.

Of course, even if they had increased their contribution to $20 billion, it would still have been a useless gesture. Most of the fires were deliberately ignited, and will continue to be ignited after the current blazes are extinguished, regardless of the amount ostensibly contributed for firefighting.

That’s because the big international mining, logging and farming corporations that the Brazilian government has invited to exploit the country’s jungle need thousands of acres of open land. And that requires the equivalent acreage of deforestation, which is most easily accomplished by setting the forest alight. The country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, like most of his predecessors, makes economic development a top priority, even when it involves the discharge of massive amounts of harmful carbon dioxide and methane, and the eventual depletion of indispensable oxygen.

Here is where the nub of the climate crisis is exposed. The damaging effects of these emissions are not confined to the country that emits them. They ultimately impair the well-being of everyone on the planet.

Capitalism vs. the climate

To deal with such a worldwide menace calls for worldwide unity in mounting effective countermeasures. Unfortunately, we live on a planet whose population is dispersed among 195 separate countries, with different sizes, systems of government, laws, leaders, languages, religions, and climates, as well as differing levels of poverty and inequality.

As if all these barriers to forging a global convergence were not formidable enough, there’s another one that is even more daunting. It’s the main reason why our business and political leaders have remained so adamantly inactive in confronting climate change: because the world’s predominant economic system is based on the perpetuation of economic growth, and thus inherently on the perpetuation of global warming.

Capitalism can only thrive — or even survive a few decades longer — while economic growth remains unlimited and continuous. It’s a disastrous fantasy that assumes our planet’s natural resources are inexhaustible when they clearly are not. As thousands of world scientists have pointed out many times over the past 50 years, “Earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing populations is finite. And we are fast approaching many of these planetary limits.” MORE

Meat and the environment: Do Canadians know what’s at stake?

CBC News produces a weekly newsletter, What On Earth,  on all things environmental. Every week, they highlight trends and solutions that are moving us to a more sustainable world. For example other articles included in the latest mailing are
The carbon footprint of protein, A primer on e-waste, and Nice day for a green wedding. 

You can sign up here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Our story last week on the five things that Canada could do to significantly reduce carbon emissions garnered a lot of reader feedback, and one recurring criticism: Why didn’t we mention eating less meat?

First off: Fair point. Meat production is indeed one of the biggest culprits for greenhouse gases. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock accounts for nearly 15 per cent of worldwide emissions. The emissions are produced through a variety of factors, including energy use (which often requires fossil fuels) and methane from the animals themselves.

Derek Gladwin, a fellow of the UBC Sustainability Initiative at the University of British Columbia, said the largest chunk of these emissions — 11 per cent — comes from “unsustainable forms of mass-scale factory farming.” Gladwin said as much as 70 per cent of the Amazon has been deforested for factory-farmed beef.

Mandating that Canadians eat less meat for the good of the planet would be a challenge for any government (likely even more so than getting countrywide buy-in for a carbon tax). Yet the latest version of the Canada Food Guide provided a nudge in that direction, suggesting consumers “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”

Gladwin said there are “many” challenges when it comes to promoting a more plant-based diet. “The meat industry is one of the largest sectors of the Canadian economy and it retains strong social influence on politics, marketing, media and education more generally.”

He doesn’t think most Canadians grasp the connection between meat production and carbon emissions. That may be so, but there’s no denying that more people are, if not shunning meat outright, looking for alternatives. MORE

 

Ford government increasing energy bills and pollution, says watchdog in final report


Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner in Queen’s Park, Ontario on Dec. 6, 2018. Photo by Cole Burston

The Ontario government is increasing energy bills, air pollution, health impacts and greenhouse gas emissions through policies that promote the use of fossil fuels, says the province’s environmental commissioner, Dianne Saxe, in her final report released on March 27, 2019.

Her report notes that the economy in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, relies on fossil fuels for 75 per cent of its energy, which results in a “hefty” health, economic and environmental pricetag.

Under the previous Liberal government, she said this pricetag added up to $24 billion each year to import fossil fuels such as oil, petroleum products and natural gas, between 2010 to 2015.

“If we were even 10 per cent more efficient, Ontarians could save from $1.6 billion to $2 billion every year,” Saxe said in a statement.

But she also noted that Ontario had been making progress in measures to encourage the conservation of energy since 2007. At least until last week, when she said that the Ford government cancelled and reduced funding for “proven, effective conservation programs.”

The report is likely the last one to be published by Saxe in her current role. She is expected to leave on April 1 as the Ford government proceeds with plans to reduce powers of her position and merge it into the office of the auditor general. MORE

Here’s how the footprint of the plant-based Impossible Burger compares to beef

A new analysis finds that the environmental cost of raising cattle is very, very high.


[Photos: Impossible Foods, Robert Bye/Unsplash]

The newest version of the Impossible Burger–the plant-based meat that uses food science to replicate the taste and feel of beef–has a carbon footprint 89% smaller than a burger made from a cow.

A new  analysis found that the burger also uses 87% less water than beef, uses 96% less land, and cuts water contamination by 92%. Those numbers are improvements on the last iteration of the burger, in part because the company has become more efficient as it grows and because it switched from wheat to soy as a key ingredient, because soy also yields more acres on a farm. But the majority of the impact simply comes from the fact that the product isn’t made from an animal.

The best, fastest, easiest way to make meat more sustainable is to avoid the cow,” says Rebekah Moses, senior manager of impact strategy at Impossible Foods. “By making the Impossible Burger directly from plants, we have the luxury of bypassing the most inefficient stage in the entire food system.” Cows are known for their greenhouse gas-producing burps–the largest source of methane emissions in agriculture–but also require cattle feed that takes large amounts of land, water, fertilizer to grow, and often leads to deforestation. The cow’s manure is also another major of source of pollution.

The life-cycle analysis, which was verified by the sustainability consulting group Quantis, looked at each part of the plant-based burger’s production, from the water and energy used to produce heme, the ingredient that gives the flavor a blood-like taste, to the resources used to grow other ingredients like soy and potatoes, and produce the packaging. The product uses 4% of the land needed to produce beef. “That’s a very, very conservative estimate on our part–most cattle globally require far more land than that estimate,”Moses says. “It’s completely inefficient, and it’s why beef is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon. If most of the land that’s used for cattle feed were to be left alone, without the gassy animals, to re-vegetate and actually store carbon in trees and grasslands, it’s not an exaggeration to say that we could set the clock back on climate change through food choice alone.”

For an individual, the company calculated, swapping Impossible “meat” for a pound of ground beef saves seven pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, 90 gallons of water, and 290 square feet of land. Still, while some consumers might be choosing plant-based meat for environmental reasons, the startup isn’t relying on sustainability to sell the product. “What we really wanted was to create a delicious product that can compete with beef on taste and craveability,” she says. “That’s the primary motivator for most people, and that’s who we want to empower by providing a more planet-friendly option. Sustainability attributes are, for most consumers, a ‘nice to have’ in food choice, rather than the driving force of purchasing.” SOURCE

 

 

Principles Of The Sunrise Movement: Antidotes To Neoliberalism

The term “neoliberalism” isn’t new. It was coined in 1938 at a meeting in which social democracy was framed as analogous to a collectivism like Nazism and communism. But neoliberalism today is a conundrum: its slimy tendrils claw into everyday Western life, yet it is so anonymous that we seldom even recognize it as a pervasive ideology. Neoliberalism pushes deregulation on economies around the world, forces open national markets to trade and capital, and demands that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatization.

neoliberalismNeoliberalism’s anonymity is its essential symptom and cause of its power, and the Sunrise movement is seeking to make the consequences of neoliberalism transparent in society. You know Sunrise, even if you can’t immediately grasp why. They’re the cohort of primarily college-aged activists who are promoting the Green New Deal. You saw pictures of their sit-in in front of Nancy Pelosi’s congressional office in the news and on 60 Minutes when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined them in support of objectives to virtually eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a decade.

The earth is on track for 3-4 C degrees of warming, which would cause sea level rise of several feet and make extreme weather more frequent and dangerous, among other consequences. The next 4 to 12 years are critical if the world wants to limit that warming. Waiting to reduce greenhouse gases will make the challenge harder.

The Sunrise Movement is working to build a cohort of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across the US, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. MORE

2018 was a milestone year for climate science (if not politics)

The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires.
The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. AP

…Many in the [climate scientist] community met in Washington, D.C., in December at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “We’re not seeing cycles” in which warming is likely to go back down, says climate scientist Martin Hoerling. “We’re not seeing things that are going to revert back,” as long as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase.

What about that idea that the climate has changed from the dawn of time? Climate scientist Stephanie Herring says sure, that’s technically true, but it misses an important difference happening now. “The current change that we are experiencing now is particularly alarming,” she says, “and that’s because in the history of human civilization the climate has never changed this rapidly.” For example, 20 of the warmest years on record around the planet occurred in the past 22 years, according to the WMO. MORE