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United Nations Report - We Blew It

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  Grim news from the United Nations that we've squandered our opportunity to avert climate catastrophe. From The Guardian . Tuesday’s publication warns that countries’ current pledges would reduce carbon by only about 7.5% by 2030, far less than the 45% cut scientists say is needed to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C , the aim of the Cop26 summit that opens in Glasgow this Sunday. Although more than 100 countries have promised to reach net zero emissions around mid-century, this would not be enough to stave off climate disaster, according to the UN emissions report, which examines the shortfall between countries’ intentions and actions needed on the climate. Many of the net zero pledges were found to be vague, and unless accompanied by stringent cuts in emissions this decade would allow global heating of a potentially catastrophic extent. In the run-up to Cop26 , countries were supposed to submit national plans on emissions cuts – called nationally determined contributions (

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

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  As a bankruptcy lawyer I saw plenty of debtors. Those that bothered me most were people nearing retirement age with grim prospects of being able to re-establish themselves and young families who got caught in the grinder of our debt-driven economy and slipped between the cracks. In my day, Vancouver had a volatile real estate market. Boom and bust. It was the sort of market that panicked young couples to "take the plunge" fearing, if they didn't get into the market, they could be priced out and left to raise their family in rented digs. There were plenty of speculators who gamed the market, buying in a crash and cashing out as prices neared their peak. Those young families were their victims. The experience taught me a lesson. Value is notional. It's here today, gone tomorrow. Debt, on the other hand, is as brutally solid as concrete. I also learned the lengths people may go to ignore that, to look the other way and stake their future on a hope. What if an entire na

BoJo Hedging His Bets

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  For a guy notorious for over-selling and under-delivering on everything from Brexit to the pandemic, Brit p.m., Boris Johnson, is hedging his bets on the upcoming Glasgow climate summit, COP 26. The prime minister appeared to lower expectations about whether the global summit of leaders that begins this week would be a success, after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, confirmed for the first time that he would not attend “in the light of the coronavirus situation”, according to Downing Street. The move was expected by some UK government insiders, but it will still come as a blow to those who hoped the world leaders whose influence would be key to reducing emissions across the planet would gather around the negotiating table. ...He was also cautious about whether many breakthroughs will come when world leaders gather touch down in Scotland later this week. “I think it can be done,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be very, very tough, this summit, and I’m very worried because it migh

Is This Something We Just Can't Do?

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  The latest greenhouse gas numbers are in, just a week before the opening of the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow. It's not a pretty picture .  Levels of climate-heating gases in the atmosphere hit record levels in 2020, despite coronavirus-related lockdowns, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization has announced. The concentration of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas, is now 50% higher than before the Industrial Revolution sparked the mass burning of fossil fuels. Methane levels have more than doubled since 1750. All key greenhouse gases (GHG) rose faster in 2020 than the average for the previous decade and this trend has continued in 2021, the WMO report found. What do these numbers say about us? The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.  If, by this point, we can't curb our growing demands for fossil energy how will we meet the Herculean challenge of cutting emissions 50 per cent by 2030, some 8 years distant, and becoming carbon neutral just

White Power, White Privilege, White Nationalism - What About White Christianity?

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We've heard of white power, white privilege and white nationalism. What about "white Christianity." I stumbled across a great website by Erna Kim Hackett , a Korean-American sometimes Christian pastor who left the church and now finds herself at the "junction of Christianity and social justice." As a contentedly lapsed Christian I still find it refreshing to read her essays. Especially on today, Sunday. White Christianity is discussed in Chuck Thompson's "Better Off Without'Em." The author looks at the role of megachurches in perpetuating segregation in the southern states. These churches are racially divided. Most are for whites. Blacks have their own. Whites, says Thompson, flock to white mega-churches.  The church also operates elementary and secondary schools for its members. White southerners often go to white megachurches and their white kids wind up in white church schools. Problems solved. It's difficult to imagine that a Christian

He Was Right Then. He's Right Today.

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  Paris, 2015. The leaders of the community of nations agreed that we had to unite to avert climate catastrophe and that meant keeping global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. It was a moment of celebration and hope. Among the delegates was an odd-looking German, the then head of the Potsdam Institute, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber.  A reporter asked him if we could really do it. Could we keep warming within the 1.5 C target?  He said we could indeed but it would require the "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industry. What Schellnhuber was saying was that the political caste were not just going to have to bite the hand that feeds them. They were going to have to amputate it. Blow it up. Put it down. That was the key to a transition to clean energy. The fossil fuelers were not going away on their own.  Earlier this week the BBC reported on a tranche of leaked documents that showed that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia were lobbying hard to slo

Another Reason to Defend the Salish Sea from these Petro-Pimps

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  Mother and Calf There's terrific news out of the Salish Sea.  It's the waterway between southern Vancouver Island and the mainland, Washington State's Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Strait of Georgia. It's the waterway that Trudeau wants to turn into a highway for the armada of supertankers that will ply these waters once he gets his damned pipeline up and running. It turns out the Salish Sea is getting crowded. Warming seas to the south have sent marine life on a poleward migration. Sea birds, marine mammals and fish stocks, the lot, are moving into cooler waters including the Salish Sea.   There's good news. We're witnessing the return of the humpback whale. They were hunted to extinction in decades past. 25 years ago they weren't seen in the area.  Today there is a population of 500 humpbacks and, even better, researchers have counted a record  21 humpback calves born this past year. This can't be good news for our eco-prime minist

"Weather Bomb" Headed for Vancouver Island

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We're not strangers to powerful squalls and extreme winds but what's heading for Vancouver Island over the next few days could be biblical . Report authors note that the first storm is in the midst of an "explosive cyclogenesis, a drop in pressure of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours - qualifying it in popular parlance as a 'weather bomb." However, this system is expected to do "twice the amount of strengthening" needed to meet that definition. "While this is the wet season for the west coast, and they are no stranger to strong lows at this time of year, two back-to-back powerhouse systems like these are certainly something to take note of," says Nadine Powell, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. The storm will also be strengthened by the "remnants from a western Pacific typhoon," explain report authors, which will increase the amount of rainfall. Low #2 will be stronger, belongs in the Bering Sea, but instead, it'll be southw

The Road to Glasgow - Reading Between the Lines. American Pessimism on Climate Emergency

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  It was just a few days ago when Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, wrote a stirring piece that, if only the world went on a wartime-type footing, putting the climate crisis as its one priority issue, we could still avert climate catastrophe . The scenario that Monbiot described was one where world leaders recognized this is an existential threat and united to defend life on Earth against extinction.  An agreement to do whatever was necessary to avert catastrophe, what Churchill spoke of when he said, "Sometimes we must do what is required." Earlier today, the BBC reported on the leak of some 32,000 documents revealing the effort  by some countries and corporations to undermine this essential consensus without which we have little hope of arresting climate change. And then came the US intelligence community's National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change and National Security. If I had to use one word to summarize this 20 page report, it would be "ominous.

The Road to Glasgow - Cracks Emerge

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What were you expecting, some global Kumbaya moment? Ten days and counting to the opening of the COP 26 climate summit and details about efforts to subvert the drive to thwart climate ruin are already being leaked. A huge leak of documents seen by BBC News shows how countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on how to tackle climate change. The leak reveals Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia are among countries asking the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels. It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies. The leak reveals countries pushing back on UN recommendations for action and comes just days before they will be asked at the summit to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. The leaked documents consist of more than 32,000 submissions made by governments, companies and other interested parties to the team of scientists

Alberta Running on Empty

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Alberta, or at least the southern part of the province, is looking at a future of water insecurity . Climate change and the retreat of glaciers are the main culprits. Canada's Prairie provinces could be particularly hard hit, experts say, due to the fact they are among the highest industrial and commercial users of water in the country, partly because of the agricultural sector. In dry southern Alberta, the agricultural sector relies on irrigation — the process of watering crops artificially instead of relying on rainfall. "We're already in the climate catastrophe era," said James Byrne, a geography professor at the University of Lethbridge who has studied climate change for more than 30 years. The use of water in the southern part of Alberta is restricted. New licences for water can't be issued; they must be purchased from existing licence holders. But even the current allocation of water licences in southern Alberta could come under stress due to extreme weather

The West May Get the Wildfires but the East Gets the Smoke

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  By now we're all familiar with the massive wildfires that have become a recurring disaster along the Pacific from Mexico to Alaska.  This summer we saw the town of Lytton, B.C., literally erased in a day. Devastating as these fires are, the real killer is the smoke they spread across the breadth of North America. Westerly winds carry most of the smoke eastward sometimes as far as the Atlantic coast . On July 20, a curious haze blanketed the sky across the eastern half of the United States. Sunsets appeared redder than normal, the atmosphere looked gray and dense and air quality plummeted. People from Washington to Philadelphia to New York snapped pictures of the abnormal hues — only to learn that the cause originated from wildfires nearly 3,000 miles away. As large fires smolder in the western U.S., the smoke can travel across the country, blanketing large population centers. Now, a recent study shows that smoke, from both western wildfires and local sources, may be more harmfu

The Road to Glasgow - 10 Days and Counting

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COP26 opens in Glasgow on October 31.  The real story, however, may lie in what happens over the next ten days. That's when we'll see how the big players align on the idea of dramatically slashing greenhouse gas emissions on an incredibly narrow timetable. The target is 50 per cent by 2030 and the remaining 50 per cent by 2050.  Net zero or carbon neutral by 2050. Is it feasible? Perhaps. We just have to get past the "ifs and buts."  Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot , cites the example of America on entering WWII as an example of what can be done. Fatalism creeps across our movements like rust. In conversations with scientists and activists, I hear the same words, over and again: “We’re screwed.” Government plans are too little, too late. They are unlikely to prevent the Earth’s systems from flipping into new states hostile to humans and many other species . What we need, to stand a high chance of stabilising our life support systems, is not slow and incremental

In What Kind of Country Can This Happen?

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Lovelock's Legacy

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  The venerable centenarian, James Lovelock, inspired an almost cultish following with his Gaia Theory. He proposed that organic life interacted with the inorganic Earth causing Earth itself to mimic organic life. Part of that theory held that humans were akin to microbes - just fine in small numbers but a plague when their impact grew too great. At that point the Earth would develop a fever, kill off most of the microbes, us, and get back on with business more or less as normal. Lovelock's Gaia Theory was viewed with great skepticism when it was unveiled in the 70s. As climate impacts began to arrive and the Earth entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, the doubters became converts. There was a blip. In 2012, Lovelock, perhaps finding his doomsday predictions unbearable, retreated and said he was being alarmist . Humanity would not be all but wiped out in the 21st century. Don't worry, be happy. "The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve