Canadian climate change opinion is polarized, and research shows the divide is widening. The greatest predictor of people's outlook is political affiliation. This means people's climate change perceptions are being increasingly driven by divisive political agendas rather than science and concern for our collective welfare.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Transportation accounts for about a quarter of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-highest source, slightly behind the oil and gas industry. In the U.S., it's the largest source of emissions and pollution. Despite continued improvements in personal vehicle fuel standards since 1975, Canada's transportation emissions grew by 42 percent from 1990 to 2015, partly because of growing populations and increasing numbers of vehicles on the road, and because of huge increases in sales of trucks, SUVs and "crossover" vehicles for personal use. Clearly, we must do better.
- World's First Road That Recharges Vehicles While Driving Opens in ... ›
- Chinese Auto Show Displays a Trend Towards Electric Vehicles ›
The fossil fuel era must end, or it will spell humanity's end. The threat isn't just from pollution and accelerating climate change. Rapid, wasteful exploitation of these valuable resources has also led to a world choked in plastic. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels, often by the same companies that produce oil and gas.
- Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years ›
- U.S. Asks China to 'Immediately Halt' Ban on Foreign Waste ›
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Now Twice the Size of Texas ›
Next week is Go #Green week at LSBU. Watch out for the exciting events happening on campus. Check out the full programme on our student portal MyLSBU. (Link in bio). 😃♻️ 🍃 #GoGreen #lsbu #teamlsbu #green #eco #recycling #earth #savetheplanet #environment #sustainability #sustainable #uni #university #londonuniversity #london #unilife #studentlife #teamlsbu #save #week #students #studentlife #campus #londonlife #ecofriendly
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increased safety and environmental standards for cars in the 1970s, automakers responded. Although they had to adhere to the new rules, they didn't base their entire response on safety or pollution concerns. Instead, they looked for loopholes.
- Germany's Top Court: Cities Can Ban Diesel Cars to Fight Air Pollution ›
- World's First Mass-Market 3D-Printed Electric Car Costs Less Than ... ›
- Environmental Advocates Call for Ban on SUV Ads - EcoWatch ›
Contrary to a common perception, ignoring climate change won't make it disappear. Global research going back to 1824 in fields ranging through physics, oceanography, biology and geology have confirmed human activity—mainly burning fossil fuels, raising livestock and destroying carbon sinks like forests and wetlands—is increasing greenhouse gas emissions and causing global temperatures to rise rapidly, putting humanity at risk. Every legitimate scientific academy and institution and every government, except the current U.S. administration, agrees.
- 13 Youths 'in a Position of Danger' Sue Washington State Over ... ›
- America's Cities Are the Vanguard for a Sustainable Future ›
By Andy Rowell
They say that oil and water do not mix. And now the proverb applies to oil and wine.
There is an escalating tension in Canada between the Albertan and British Columbian (B.C.) governments over the disputed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, which is due to transport tar sands from Alberta to the B.C. Coast.
- New Analysis Shows, There's No Safe Way to Transport Fossil Fuels ›
- Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills up to 50,000 Gallons of Oil on Indigenous Land in BC - EcoWatch ›
Christopher Michel / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Canada is losing a lot of its wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund's 2017 Living Planet Report Canada found half the monitored mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species declined from 1970 to 2014. Threatened and endangered species continue to disappear despite federal legislation designed to protect them and help their populations recover. What's going wrong?
- Is This How We Save Wild Salmon? ›
- Salmon and Orca Survival Threatened by Chlorpyrifos Pesticide ... ›
Grizzly bears venturing from dens in search of food this spring will face landscapes dominated by mines, roads, pipelines, clearcuts and ever-expanding towns and cities. As in years past, they'll also face the possibility of painful death at the hands of trophy hunters.
Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario has had to boil water since 1995. "We're over 20 years already where our people haven't been able to get the water they need to drink from their taps or to bathe themselves without getting any rashes," Neskantaga Chief Wayne Moonias told CBC News in 2015. Their water issues have yet to be resolved.
They're not alone. In fall last year, 156 drinking water advisories were in place in First Nations in Canada. More than 100 are routinely in effect—some for years or decades. According to a 2015 CBC investigation, "Two-thirds of all First Nation communities in Canada have been under at least one drinking water advisory at some time in the last decade."
Water advisories vary in severity. A "boil water advisory" means residents must boil water before using it for drinking or bathing. "Do not consume" means water is not safe to drink or consume and a "do not use advisory" means water is unsafe for any human use.
Is Your Tap Water Safe to Drink? https://t.co/9leXqSIw0J @WaterAidUK @waterforpeople— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485731105.0
Water on First Nations reserves is a federal responsibility, but "severe underfunding" (in the government's own words) for water treatment plants, infrastructure, operations, maintenance and training has led to this deplorable situation. Canada has no federal standards or binding regulations governing First Nations' drinking water.
After years of pressure from First Nations and Indigenous and social justice organizations, the Liberal party promised in its 2015 election campaign to end all First Nations' long-term drinking water advisories within five years of being elected. In 2016, the new government's budget included $1.8 billion over five years, on top of core funding for First Nations' water infrastructure, operations and management. Funds have gone to help Neskantaga and other communities, but money's not enough. If the federal government is to fulfill its commitment to ending advisories in five years, it must reform its system.
The David Suzuki Foundation and Council of Canadians have published a report card rating government's progress on meeting its commitment in nine First Nations in Ontario, which has the highest number of water advisories in Canada. The Glass half empty? report found advisories in three communities have been lifted or will likely be lifted within five years.
Efforts are underway in three other communities, but uncertainty lingers about whether they'll succeed within the five-year period. Three others are unlikely to have advisories lifted within five years without reformed processes and procedures. And in one community that had its advisory lifted, new drinking water problems emerged, illustrating the need for sustainable, long-term solutions.
It's unacceptable that so many First Nations lack clean water and face serious water-related health risks—especially for children and the elderly—in a country where many people take abundant fresh water for granted. The United Nations recognizes access to clean water and sanitation as a human right and Canada has further obligations under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Oil Pipeline Spills 53,000 Gallons on First Nations Land https://t.co/VaOHFwfb3Q @NoTarSands @1stnations— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1485313228.0
The report card concludes that the system for addressing unsafe drinking water is overly cumbersome and must be streamlined, First Nations must be have more decision-making power to address community-specific drinking water issues and government must increase transparency around progress and budgetary allocations. It calls on government to redouble its efforts to advance First Nations-led initiatives, fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to First Nations, respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ensure the human right to safe and clean drinking water.
The federally funded Safe Water Project is one example of a First Nations–led approach. The Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council started the initiative in 2014 in response to long-term advisories in four of six member nations. The project keeps management at the community level and includes training and certification of local water operators, operational support while local water operators pursue certification and remote water quality monitoring technology.
The project's success illustrates the benefits of a local approach. Community-specific, traditional and cultural knowledge are integral to developing lasting solutions. Because the federal government holds the purse strings, it calls most of the shots and often overlooks knowledge held by community members. This needs to change.
Clean drinking water on reserves is not just an Indigenous issue. It's a human right and it should concern all of us.
How much stuff will you give and receive this holiday season? Add it to the growing pile—the 30-trillion-ton pile. That's how much technology and goods humans have produced, according to a study by an international team led by England's University of Leicester. It adds up to more than all living matter on the planet, estimated at around four trillion tons.
The article by Eduardo Porter, How Renewable Energy is Blowing Climate Change Efforts Off Course, serves as a flagship for an on-going attack on the growth of renewables. It is so convoluted and inaccurate that it requires a detailed response.
Our planet is burning up from fossil fuels and being irradiated by decrepit money-losing reactors that blow up. Blaming renewable energy for all that is like blaming the peace movement for causing wars.
As Mark Jacobson, director of Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University, pointed out to me via email:
The New York Times article "suffers from the inaccurate assumption that existing expensive nuclear that is shut down will be replaced by natural gas. This is impossible in California, for example, since gas is currently 60 percent of electricity supply but state law requires non-large-hydro clean renewables to be 50 percent by 2030. This means that, with the shuttering of Diablo Canyon nuclear facility be 2025, gas can by no greater than 35-44 percent of California supply since clean renewables will be at least 50 percent (and probably much more) and large hydro will be 6-15 percent. As such, gas must go down no matter what. In fact, 100 percent of all new electric power in Europe in 2015 was clean, renewable energy with no new net gas, and 70 percent of all new energy in the U.S. was clean and renewable, so the fact is nuclear is not being replaced by gas but by clean, renewable energy.
"Further, the article fails to consider the fact that the cost of keeping nuclear open is often much greater than the cost of replacing the nuclear with wind or solar. For example, three upstate New York nuclear plants require $7.6 billion in subsidies from the state to stay open 12 years. To stay open after that, they will need an additional $805 million/year at a minimum, or at least $17.7 billion from 2028-2050, or a total of $25.3 billion from 2016 to 2050. If, on the other hand, those three plants were replaced with wind today, the total cost between now and 2050 would be $11.9 billion. Thus, keeping the nuclear plants open 12 years costs an additional $7.6 billion; keeping it open 34 years costs and additional $25.3 billion, in both cases with zero additional climate benefit, in comparison with shuttering the three plants today and replacing them with onshore wind."
Gideon Forman, climate change and transportation policy analyst at David Suzuki Foundation, also shared his dismay on the Times piece:
"The notion that non-renewable power sources are necessary is questionable at best. Some scientists believe that, over the next few decades, renewables could provide all our power. One is Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson. He has done modeling to show the U.S. could be entirely powered by renewables by 2050.
"Porter is wrong to claim that nuclear produces 'zero-carbon electricity.' If we look at the full nuclear cycle, including production of uranium fuel, we find it involves considerable carbon emissions. Jacobson and his co-author, Mark A. Delucchi, have written, 'Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.'
"Porter says if American nuclear plants were replaced with gas-fired generators it would lead to 200 million tons of additional CO2 emissions annually. But it's wrong to suggest that nuclear could only be replaced by natural gas. A full suite of renewables—along with energy storage and conservation programs—could meet demand, certainly in the not very distant future.
"Porter suggests that nuclear power can 'stay on all the time.' But of course, nuclear plants, like all generators, are sometimes out of service for maintenance. This downtime can be considerable. For example, it is expected that from 2017 to 2021, Ontario's Pickering nuclear station will require back-up almost 30 percent of the time."
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, called the Times piece "outrageous." He told me:
"The Times piece continues the paper's long record of minimizing and downplaying—not recognizing and indeed often denying—the deadly impacts of nuclear power. It's been a shameful journalistic dysfunction. As Alden Whitman, a Times reporter for 25 years, told me, 'there certainly was never any effort made to do' in-depth or investigative reporting on nuclear power. 'I think there stupidity involved,' he said, and further, 'The Times regards itself as part of the establishment." Or as Anna Mayo of The Village Voice related: 'I built a full-time career on covering nuclear horror stories that the New York Times neglected.'"
So where do I stand on the Porter piece? Here are my eight biggest complaints:
1. Though viewed as the "journal of record," the Times has been consistently pro-nuclear. Its slanted coverage has served as an industry bulwark for decades. A long-time atomic beat reporter, Matt Wald, went straight from the Times to a job with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the primary public relations front for the reactor industry. The Times has a long history as a cheerleader for nuclear power dating back to the atomic bomb era, when it consistently denied health problems from radioactive fallout. It also denied health problems resulting from radiation releases at Three Mile Island, and much more. Now it has taken a major role in defending the nuclear industry from the renewable energy revolution that is driving it to bankruptcy while bringing a tsunami of reactor shut downs. It's these shut downs that now seem to worry the paper.
2. The primary technological transition in the world of electric power today is from fossil and nuclear fuels (King CONG: Coal, Oil, Nukes, Gas) to a Solartopian system based on green power. But there's a deeper shift going on: from centralized, grid-based corporate control to decentralized citizen-based community control. When nuclear power and its apologists defend continued operations at dangerously deteriorated reactors, they are more broadly defending the power and profits of huge corporations that are completely invested in a centralized grid. When they argue that renewables "can't do the job," they're in fact working to prolong the lives of the large generators that are the "base load" basis of a corporate grid-based supply system.
3. But that grid is now obsolete. What strikes the ultimate terror in utility boardrooms is the revolutionary reality of a decentralized power supply, free of large generators, comprised instead of millions of small photovoltaic (PV) panels owned by individuals. Industry sources have widely confirmed that this decentralized, post-grid model means the end of big utilities. Thus when they fight against PV and for nuclear power, they are fighting not for the life of the planet, but for the survival of their own corporate profits.
4. Some utilities do support some renewables, but primarily in the form of large centralized grid-based solar and wind turbine farms. Pacific Gas & Electric said it will replace the power from the Diablo Canyon nuke plant with solar energy. But PG&E is simultaneously fighting rooftop solar, which will allow individual homeowners to disconnect from the grid. Germany's transition from fossil-nukes to renewables has also been marked by conflict between large grid-based wind farms versus small community-based renewables.
5. PG&E and other major utilities are fighting against net metering and other programs that promote small-scale renewables. The Koch Brothers' American Legislature Exchange Council (ALEC) has spread a wide range of taxes and disincentives passed by the states to make it ever-harder to go solar. All this is being done to preserve the grid-based monopolies that own large fossil/nuclear facilities.
6. The idea that nuclear power might fight climate change, and that environmentalists might support it, is a recent concoction, a disgraceful, desperate load of utility hype meant to defend the status quo. Fukushima, unsolved waste problems and the plummeting price of renewables have solidified the environmental community's opposition to nuke power. These reactors are dirty and dangerous. They are not carbon-free and do emit huge quantities of heated water and steam into the ecosphere. The utility industry can't get private liability insurance for them, and relies on the 1957 Price-Anderson Act to protect them from liability in a major catastrophe. The industry continually complains about subsidies to renewable energy but never mentions this government protection program without which all reactors would close.
7. Not just nuke power but the entire centralized fossil/nuke-based grid system is now being undermined by the massive drops in the price of renewable energy, and massive rises in its efficiency and reliability. The critical missing link is battery technology. Because the sun and wind are intermittent, there needs to be energy storage to smooth out supply. Elon Musk's billion-dollar Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada and many other industrial ventures indicate major battery breakthroughs in storage is here today.
8. Porter's NY Times piece correctly says that the massive amounts of cheap, clean renewables flooding the grid in Europe and parts of the U.S. are driving nuclear power plants into bankruptcy. At least a dozen reactor shut downs have been announced in the U.S. since 2012 and many more are on their way. In Japan 52 of the 54 reactors online before the Fukushima disaster are now closed. And, Germany has pledged to shut all its reactors by 2022.
But Porter attacks this by complaining that those nukes were supplying base load power that must be otherwise—according to him—shored up with fossil burners. Here's his key line:
"Renewable sources are producing temporary power gluts from Australia to California, driving out other energy sources that are still necessary to maintain a stable supply of power."
But as all serious environmentalists understand, the choice has never been between nukes versus fossil fuels. It's between centralized fossil/nukes versus decentralized renewables.
Porter's article never mentions the word "battery" or the term "rooftop solar." But these are the two key parts in the green transition already very much in progress.
So here is what the Times obviously can't bring itself to say: "Cheap solar panels on rooftops are now making the grid obsolete." The key bridging element of battery back-up capability is on its way. Meanwhile there is absolutely no need for nuclear power plants, which at any rate have long since become far too expensive to operate.
Spending billions to prop up dying nuke reactors for "base load" generation is pure corporate theft at the public expense, both in straight financial terms and in the risk of running badly deteriorated reactors deep into the future until they inevitably melt down or blow up.
Those billions instead should go to accelerating battery production and distribution, and making it easier, rather than harder, to gain energy independence using the wind and the sun.
All this has serious real-world impacts. In Ohio, for example, a well-organized shift to wind and solar was derailed by the Koch-run legislature. Some $2 billion in wind-power investments and a $500 million solar farm were derailed. There are also serious legal barriers now in place to stop homeowners from putting solar shingles and panels on their rooftops.
Meanwhile, FirstEnergy strong-armed the Ohio Public Utilities Commission into approving a huge bailout to keep the seriously deteriorated Davis-Besse nuke operating, even though it cannot compete and is losing huge sums of money. Federal regulators have since put that bailout on hold.
Arizona and other Koch-owned legislatures have moved to tax solar panels, ban solar shingles and make it illegal to leave the grid without still paying tribute to the utilities who own it. Indeed, throughout the U.S. and much of the western world, corporate-owned governments are doing their best to slow the ability of people to use renewables to rid themselves of the corporate grid.
For an environmental movement serious about saving the Earth from climate change, this is a temporary barrier. The Times and its pro-nuke allies in the corporate media will continue to twist reality. But the Solartopian revolution is proceeding ahead of schedule and under budget. A renewable, decentralized energy system is very much in sight.
The only question is how long corporate nonsense like this latest NY Times screed can delay this vital transition. Our planet is burning up from fossil fuels and being irradiated by decrepit money-losing reactors that blow up. Blaming renewable energy for all that is like blaming the peace movement for causing wars.
The centralized King CONG grid and its obsolete owners are at the core of the problem. So are the corporate media outlets like the New York Times that try to hide that obvious reality.
Harvey Wasserman's SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org, where his
AMERICA AT THE BRINK OF REBIRTH: THE ORGANIC SPIRAL OF US HISTORY is soon to arrive. He edits www.nukefree.org and hosts the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show at www.prn.fm.
David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington
When hackers broke into an Internet server at East Anglia University in the U.K. and selectively released massive amounts of correspondence from the world's leading climate scientists, folks at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute were quick to exploit it.
Heartland president Joseph Bast wrote: "The release of these documents creates an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians, and others who relied on the IPCC to form their opinions about global warming to stop and reconsider their position."
He may have been correct, although "reconfirm" would have been a better word than "reconsider" as seven independent investigations cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing and confirmed the credibility of their research.
Now the tables have been turned on the libertarian "charitable" organization, which devotes its resources to questioning the reality of climate change and the dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke, among other issues.
Heartland is just one of many organizations dedicated to spreading doubt and confusion about legitimate science. These groups share a lack of transparency and an agenda to promote corporate interests at the expense of human health, the environment and even the economy (if we believe the economy should function primarily in the interests of citizens rather than corporations).
Recently, someone—since identified as climate scientist Peter Gleick—sent documents from the Heartland Institute's board of directors' Jan. 17 meeting to a number of people and organizations, including Desmog Blog, a website devoted to exposing the spin around climate change denial. The documents confirm much of what we already knew about Heartland, although they provide interesting details about its connections and motives.
Not surprisingly, the Heartland people don't see this as "an opportunity for reporters, academics, politicians and others" to learn more about the secretive group's agenda. Instead, Heartland posted a statement on its website saying, "honest disagreement should never be used to justify the criminal acts and fraud that occurred in the past 24 hours."
Unlike most environmental and social justice organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Heartland Institute doesn't publicly reveal information about where it gets its money and what it does with it.
These documents indicate that Heartland has offered U.S. weatherman blogger and climate change denier Anthony Watts close to $90,000 for a new project. They also reveal that Heartland funds other prominent deniers, including "Craig Idso($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month) and a number of other individuals..."
The papers also confirm that the institute's primary mission is to discredit the established science of human-caused climate change. And even though it has received funding from wealthy individuals and corporations in the fossil fuel and tobacco industries, including the Koch brothers and RJR Tobacco, it gets most of its money from a single anonymous donor, who has ponied up as much as $4.6 million in a single year, 2008.
If these groups were truly engaged in questioning the science, using valid scientific methods and principles, it wouldn't be a problem. Science is strengthened through scrutiny and challenges; that's how it works, and that's what the peer-review process is about. But these organizations are engaged in secretive and dishonest lobbying and public-relations efforts aimed at stalling measures to protect the environment and health.
Gleick has admitted that he made a mistake in posing as someone else to obtain the documents. The unidentified East Anglia hackers were also wrong to have stolen the emails, and the Heartland Institute is wrong when it lies about the most serious threat to humanity.
Three wrongs don't make a right, but there are some differences. In the East Anglia case, the investigations turned on those who were hacked and ultimately proved that the climate scientists, although human, are engaged in sound and verifiable science and that they have been subjected to years of harassment and bullying for their work. The Heartland documents show that the organization is using its taxpayer-supported status to spread lies and misinformation.
It's about time these merchants of doubt were exposed. It's time to get back to real science as practiced by scientists. We must get beyond the false debate about the reality of climate change and into the real debate about what to do about it.