Category Archives: Global Warming

Council of Canadians resorts to fear on fracking

I somehow got on the Council of Canadians direct mail distribution list. While I like most of their work, I had to respond to their latest mail out and had to ask to be removed.

The envelope featured the iconic flaming tap image as part of their petition to end hydraulic fracking as a method of natural gas extraction. While the science is complicated on the question, I do sympathize with the need to abandon fossil fuels for renewable energy. Nevertheless, resorting to pseudoscientific fear mongering is one of my pet peeves about the environmental movement.

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Canada is screwed in the long term

I’m not found of believing in miracles, but imagine for a second that one happens and after 2015 we have either a NDP or Liberal majority, or even some coalition arrangement of the two.

Either case will be better then what we have now, obviously, but in either case we’re still stuck with these schmucks in our chamber of “sober second thought.”

Some of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s newly-appointed senators are emerging as global-warming skeptics in the wake of aggressive government positions to abandon the Kyoto Protocol, slam environmentalists and downplay potential damage caused by Canadian oil and gas exploration.

“I felt like it is kind of an insult to be a denier for a long time,” said Sen. Bert Brown, last month at a parliamentary committee studying energy policies. “It feels pretty good this morning.”

“I have to admit that what I read tells me that there is not a consensus among scientists,” [Senator Nancy] Greene Raine, another senator appointed by Harper, told the committee when it heard from Environment Minister Peter Kent, earlier last fall. “There are many different points of view and different kinds of research happening out there. One of the things that I am starting to see now is quite a few studies showing that we may be heading into a period of global cooling, which would maybe be a lot more problematic for Canada than global warming. Our country is on the cool side.”

Imagine for a second that a progressive government gets in to the House of Commons and passes the Jack Layton Climate Change Accountability Act. Once again, we’ll have to suffer through this ineffectual body blocking the legislation that could actually put some science-based targets on our emissions.

The only thing that may save our country is Harper’s own Senate-reform legislation that may force these senators to resign after 9 years.

Of course, then we may run into the situation where the senators realize the law has no teeth without a constitutional amendment and they refuse to step aside.

I don’t have much else to add. Basically we’re screwed.

Lorne Gunter spews hot air

It’s continually depressing to see professional denialist Lorne Gunter continue to sap money that could be going to actual journalists and columnists. Yesterday he had this to say:

Over the past decade, global surface temperatures have flatlined. While 2010 was a warm year in the northern hemisphere and 2011 has been warm in much of the U.S., globally temperatures have failed to surpass 1998. Despite all the histrionics about man-made global warming, the predicted temperature rise has failed to materialize even as CO2 emissions have increased. Pat Michaels, a climatologist who is currently senior fellow for research and economic development at George Mason University in Virginia, wrote in the Wall Street Journal in late July, ”there has been no statistically significant warming trend since November of 1996 in monthly surface temperature records.”

That’s great Lorne that you can open the Wall Street Journal, read an economist from the known corporate-apologist Cato Institute (an association Lorne neglects) and decide work of real scientists is bunk.

Let’s actually look at some data to see if Michaels has a clue what he’s talking about:

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When will BP ruin BCs coastlines?

By the time you finish reading this post, well over 5500 litres of oil will have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. The oil continues to pour out of a busted well and the slick continues to grow and has already hit land in some parts of Florida. Meanwhile, closer to home, the question that seems to be off of the provincial radar is when will our offshore wells be built so they can threaten our fragile habitats?

It has been over a month since an explosion rocked British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizons oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The blast left eleven people missing and presumed dead and well over 790,000 litres of oil has gushed into the sea. There has been little success at stopping the flow so far.

It seems hard to tell if any remorse is being felt by the heads of BP for a disaster that is shaping up to be worse than the Exxon Valdez spill in the North Pacific years ago. Perhaps their biggest fear is either the public relations hit or that they will not be able to profit off this spilt oil.

Just a week prior to the last provincial election in 2009, Premier Gordon Campbell signalled that a provincial Liberal government would continue to lobby for an end to the offshore drilling moratorium that inhibits BC from building wells at sea. This position was in line with the Liberal’s 2001 commitment to have an offshore drilling industry in BC by 2010.

Days later he squeaked by with a slim majority government. It was soon leaked that the provincial deficit would be much larger than promised and that BC, along with Ontario, would be implementing an HST. It should not be a surprise then that after dropping twenty points in the polls that Campbell would not want to broach the subject of offshore oil wells.

Yet with the recent tragedy in the Gulf, it is more pertinent than ever to find out what our far-too-secretive government is up to. While the typically oil-friendly federal Conservative environment minister Jim Prentice has backed off from any new offshore projects and has reaffirmed moratoriums on drilling off BC’s shorelines.

Darrell Dexter, the newly-elected NDP premier of Nova Scotia, was quick to pledge his continuing support to offshore moratoriums in his province and even Barack Obama has gotten behind a temporary slow-down. Obviously no leader would want to publicly come out as pro-drilling right now, so I guess Campbell’s silence on the issue speaks as much to the issue as a press conference would. There is currently no sign that Campbell plans to back down on offshore drilling.

As a non-renewable resource, it is quite clear that at some point in the future we will run out of oil. And while there is still a lot of it underground, the remaining supplies are in increasingly difficult regions to access. Whether it is in the Alberta tar sands, under politically unstable regimes, or deep under the Arctic ice sheets, there are many political and environmental issues that must be addressed if we want to responsible drill for this oil. And while a leak off BCs coast may be containable, imagine the damage that could be done were a disaster to befall an arctic well, with hundreds of thousands of litres of oil covering the undersides of the ices sheets.

Of course, I personally would love to see the end of the oil age in my life time, the fact of the matter is that this laptop I am typing on, the synthetic portions of my clothes, and countless other products use barrels and barrels of oil, let alone the amount that we use for energy. A lot of work has been done on alternative energies, and there is a huge need for more investment, but until those industries are positioned to meet the demands, we will either have to continue drilling for oil, or massively cut out consumption.

I believe that it is possible to extract oil from the tar sands and deep underwater both safely and with as little environmental damage as possible, however, if our leaders fail to discuss if they are even interested in such activities, how are we to trust them to ensure the proper regulatory regimes are in place when corporations do begin to stick their pipes in the ground?

A lawsuit that goes too far

Suing people to shut them up doesn’t work in the age of the internet. Faster than you can say libel things will get mirrored and reprinted and will get more exposure by attempting to censor it than would have if you ignored it.

Now, that doesn’t mean libel doesn’t exist or have a place in our laws today, although I’m no expert in libel law, so I’ll leave it at that.

So we have Dr. Andrew Weaver, climate scientist from University of Victoria, who is suing the National Post and everything they have touched (up to and including the entire internet) for libel in a number of articles they published about him.

Well that’s fine to me. If you publish lies about someone, you can be held responsible. I’m more a responsible speech advocate than an all out free-for-all shouting match (which the National Post would win over you or me). When I mostly figure out my position on this I’ll get around to writing it up.

But what rubs me wrong, and is likely doomed to fail, is Dr. Weaver’s attempt to have the lawsuit extend to force the National Post to track down and remove the offending articles from not just its print and web editions but from any “other site where they have been re-posted.”

Dr. Weaver, you are providing fuel to the denialists who claim scientists like you are out to suppress them. While I may support your suit against the Post, I see the all out attack on the internet as fool-hearted and unintentionally malicious if it succeeds (based purely on the precedent it could set for any future libel suits).

10%ers done right

With the overwhelming amount of negative and partisan 10%er mailouts, it’s easy to forget that they can actually be used constructively to help rebuild trust in politicians.

Exhibit A is NDP MP Megan Leslie who used her 10%ers to notify constituents about an art gallery display that she put on in her constituency office.

Exhibit B (below) is my own MP Joyce Murray, who used a flier to remind constituents about the importance of the Paralympic Games and to recognize Abraham Rogatnick, who recently passed away but is remembered as “father of Vancouver’s contemporary arts scene, architect, professor, mentor, intellectual, philanthropist, actor, author, and friend.”

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Now, Ms. Murray did include a comment form which I filled out with concerns about either Bill C-311 or the HST (I don’t remember), but she did reply to me at last with her stance on the NDPs Climate Change Accountability Act:

Dear Mr. Bushfield:

Thank you for your correspondence concerning Bill C-311, an act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change.

I have chosen to support Bill C-311 as it serves as a symbol for change. It signals that Canada is prepared to take strong action on the critical issue of climate change.

Unfortunately, I was not able to be in Ottawa during the vote to extend debate on this legislation. As the representative for Amateur Sport and the Olympics, I had a responsibility to be present in Athens, Greece, to receive the torch for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The Liberal Party of Canada has always been committed to combating climate change and creating a sustainable, low-carbon economy. It was a Liberal government that negotiated and signed the Kyoto Protocol, and ratified it in 2005, despite Conservative opposition. Under the previous Liberal governments significant funds were dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, partnerships were negotiated with the provinces, industry and the public to seek their cooperation, and emissions began to decline by 2005.

That being said, those Liberal members that voted to extend the Bill C-311 hearings at the Environment Committee are worried that it is an incomplete bill.  They also believe that realistic medium and long-term emissions targets will be set internationally at a United Nations conference culminating in Copenhagen this December.

The climate change crisis is the most urgent ecological and human concern of our generation and the subject of my own Masters Degree thesis almost eighteen years ago.

I have attached to this e-mail a recent speech given by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff which lays out the Liberal platform regarding the environment and climate change.

Best regards,

Joyce Murray
Member of Parliament
Vancouver Quadra

That speech is available here. He sets 1990 as a base year, but in a quick skim I don’t know how much he wants to cut emissions below that level (remember that many are calling for as much as 45% reductions below 1990 level, Canada’s aiming for 3% currently with no effort planned). I should also point out that those Liberals who worried about the “incompleteness” of the bill had no trouble passing the exact same version last year. Nevertheless, the bill is through committee and set to be passed third reading in the New Year (and then hopefully through the Senate this time before any elections).

Linda goes to Denmark

There will be at least one Albertan in Copenhagen fighting for real reductions in emissions from world leaders, and she’s posting her daily updates to a website for you to follow.

This is great for Linda Duncan and it comes on the heels of the news that Bill C-311 has finally passed the committee that the majority of Liberals needlessly sent it to a few months ago.

Copied below is her most recent e-newsletter that outlines the work she has been doing in Edmonton-Strathcona that may have been unnoticed compared to some who would seek to upstage her. Note how this is neither a wasteful 10%er nor a hyper-partisan attack ad.

December 2009

Newsletter from Linda Duncan, M.P.

Dear Friends,

As the holidays are almost upon us I wish to take this opportunity to wish you all the best of the season and share a few highlights from my work on the Hill. It may be an understatement to say it has been a very hectic Fall Session. We have celebrated some successes, but also some frustrations in our efforts to address the dual challenges Canada faces taking action for the economy and for the planet. I have provided brief updates on just some of some of our initiatives. We are doing our best to help you track my efforts and those of my colleagues in the federal New Democrat caucus through my web site www.lindaduncan.ndp.ca and my newsletters.

Climate Change and Environment

As the NDP Environment Critic, I have been fighting to get our bill, Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change to the final vote in the House of Commons before Copenhagen. Bill 311 would impose binding science-based targets for reduction of greenhouse gases and hold the government publicly accountable for taking concrete measures to comply.

Regrettably, 67 of 77 Liberals voted with the Conservatives to delay the final vote leaving the Bill languishing in Standing Committee hearings. (Testimony of the witnesses can be accessed via my website.)  As a result the only message from Parliament to the international negotiation tables will be the same regressive position of the Harper government.  Most other nations now view Canada as an impediment to success rather than a leader for change.  Rajendra Pachauri, head of United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said, “In the last couple of years, I’m afraid, Canada has not been seen as sitting at the table. I think Canada should be doing much more.” But the pressure on Canada mounts and I will continue to dialogue with other governments.

In December, I will be going to Copenhagen for the talks.  I will be posting a daily report on my website www.climatecountdown.ca. I encourage you to contact me with your views and actions so that we may post them.

I recently introduced a private member’s bill to establish a Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights, Bill C-469, which outlines the Government of Canada’s obligations to protect our rights to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment.  If you would like a copy, please contact my office:  780-495-8404.

Fair, Sustainable Trade

The Government’s indifference to the environment is also apparent in their international policies.  In June, for example, we debated the Canada-Peru trade agreement.  In my speech, I said, “Instead of strengthening the environmental provisions of our trade agreements, we are moving to water them down further. Despite the weaknesses of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, NAAEC, recommendation after recommendation to strengthen that agreement went in the opposite direction. The government has chosen to further downgrade any responsibilities for environmental protection either on this country or on the countries with which it signs trade agreements.”  You can find the rest of this speech and others at www.lindaduncan.ndp.ca/news.

In November, we again debated the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Deal and I noted:  “Every time we raise concerns about the government’s failure to act on environmental protection measures and climate change, it speaks of balance, and yet this agreement and the side agreement on the environment has severely pared back any environmental conditions as found in the agreement that we have with Mexico and the United States.”

Pensions

We tabled a series of bills and motions to implement a comprehensive plan designed to place Canada’s retirement income system on a more secure and equitable footing. A number of the motions received all party support. Many of the bills are in Committee.

Some of those measures include:

· Eliminating seniors’ poverty by increasing the income-tested Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) by $700 million a year. Since the majority of poor seniors are women, this is also the equitable thing to do. We will pay for this by cancelling $700 million from the Conservative’s next planned corporate tax cut, due in January.

· Working with the provinces to phase-in a doubling of CPP benefits (from about $11,000/yr. to almost $22,000/yr.), thus giving Canadians the chance to save in the least expensive, most secure, inflation-proof, retirement savings vehicle. Cost? An additional 2.5% of wages (matched by employers.

· Security for workplace pension plans through (a) a mandatory national pension insurance plan, paid for by pension plan sponsors and guaranteeing pension pay-outs of up to $2,500/month, and (b) a national facility, managed (with provincial agreement) by the CPP Investment Board, to adopt pension plans of failed companies and continue them on a going-concern basis to take advantage of market conditions and maximize pay-outs.

· A public National Pensions Summit, with representation from all interested parties -federal/provincial/territorial governments, employers, workers, seniors and experts – to consider these and other proposals for addressing the national pensions crisis.

Child care

Twenty years ago, on November 24, the Leader of Canada’s New Democrats, Ed Broadbent, sounded the alarm bell on the tragedy of child poverty in Canada. Since then, New Democrats have been pushing for action.  Tony Martin, M.P. for Sault Ste Marie, campaigned to bring the House of Commons HUMA Committee poverty hearings to Edmonton.  They took place on December 3 and my office worked with anti-poverty groups across the city to make sure they had the chance to testify.

Quality child care is a vital part of ensuring get a good start in life.  Olivia Chow has reintroduced our Early Learning and Child Care Act and you can find out more at her website www.oliviachow.ca

Employment insurance

One of the major failures in the current economic crisis is that we have not properly protected all those who were thrown out of work.  New Democrat bills and motions have sought to enable more unemployed Canadians to get Employment Insurance coverage and to get it sooner. www.chrischarlton.ca/news/labour.

Protection for consumers

My colleague Brian Masse scored a major victory when a motion fully supporting the goals of his Right-to-Repair Bill (C-273) passed unanimously in the House of Commons.  Brian’s bill dealt with the issue of on board diagnostic capabilities, which are contained in approximately 59 per cent of vehicles on the road in Canada. The use of computer control units is essential for proper vehicle maintenance. Difficulty in obtaining this equipment from vehicle manufacturers has created significant consumer concern and competitive barriers. Bill C-273 resolves these issues and guarantees a level playing field.  Canadians will be able to choose whether to have maintenance done by a manufacturer’s official dealer or an independent repair shop.

Jim Maloway, New Democrat M.P. for Elmwood-Transcona, was less fortunate in his attempt to bring in a bill of rights for airline passengers.  The Bloc Quebecois joined the Conservatives in trying to defeat his bill.  The Edmonton Journal ran an editorial on this on November 25.  In Don’t ground passenger rights, the Journal noted: “The facts are that Bill C-310 is a perfectly reasonable piece of legislation patterned after the European Union’s passenger bill of rights, which has been in force for five years without a hitch.”

Similarly, the Government has failed to act on the motion put forward by New Democrat consumer affairs critic, Glenn Thibeault, calling for comprehensive credit card legislation.  Glenn’s motion was passed by a majority of M.P.s, but the Finance Minister’s response of voluntary regulations have completely failed to protect consumers and small and medium-sized businesses.

Post-secondary education

Like many of you, I am deeply concerned that the financial problems being experienced by the University of Alberta and other post-secondary institutions will mean even higher fees for students, who are already struggling financially.  It is very difficult to find time to study properly when you have to take on two or three part time jobs.  According to the 2009 Statistics Canada report on university tuition fees released this morning average tuition fees for undergraduate students rose this year by 3.6 per cent despite the Consumer Price Index (CPI) dropping 0.8 per cent. Graduate students fared worse, facing an increase of close to 5 per cent.

Niki Ashton, New Democrat post-secondary critic is proposing a Post-Secondary Education Act. Similar to the Canada Health Act, it will guarantee that every federal dollar spent on PSE goes towards building an accessible high-quality post-secondary education system across the country.  I welcome input from students on how high tuition fees are affecting their education.  Please contact me:  DuncaL1@parl.gc.ca.

Justice

We have been overwhelmed this fall responding to a litany of “crime” bills mostly tabled as private member bills by Conservative back benchers. This practice has the very undemocratic result of reducing opportunity for debate. In most cases, no factual basis is offered for the measure. There appears to be a clear policy of reducing judicial discretion. We have agreed to send some of the bills to Committee in hope of improvement and in other instances opposed the reform as unnecessary. We have made constant requests for more resources to prevent crime through increased support to police, RCMP, prosecutors and community prevention programs. I based my vote to maintain the gun registry on the advice of Edmonton’s police chief and officers across Canada who believe it remains a valuable crime intervention tool.

In the riding

I attended the Edmonton Federation of 2009 Volunteer Recognition Gala on November 13th.   Volunteers from Ottewell, McKernan, Argyll, Empire Park and Bonnie Doon were all recognized as heroes of their communities for their extraordinary contributions.

In early November, Strathcona Community League received a plaque from the Edmonton Historical Board.

There have been a wide variety of other events in our riding, from Remembrance Day in the Butterdome to Make Poverty History in the University Quad, which was once again a tribute to the dedication and idealism of the young people who organized it.

I would like to thank McKernan, Queen Alexandra, Hazeldean and Mill Creek Schools, who all invited me to come and read to them during Read-In Week. I was pleased to speak to classes both at University of Alberta and King’s University College.  I would also like to congratulate the students at King’s who organized, with Amnesty International, a rally about Omar Khadr.

Our arts community continues to flourish, with excellent plays at local theatres this fall.  I was very pleased to see that Maria Dunn was nominated for Solo Artist of the Year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Please contact my office with questions, requests and concerns.  You can also visit my websites:

www.lindaduncan.ndp.ca

www.climatecountdown.ca

You can also join me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

As it is the time of year when we tend to do extra shopping, I would like to encourage you to support our local businesses! I wish you and your families all the very best for the holiday season and the New Year.

 

Linda Duncan, M.P.

Edmonton-Strathcona

10049 81 Ave

Edmonton, AB, T6E 1W7

780-495-8404

Remember when the Carbon Tax ruined BC?

Almost two years ago the naysayers were coming out:

To launch a carbon tax now in the face of a potential recession would be foolhardy. Those gouged by it would be forced to cut spending on other goods and services, aggravating the slowdown and triggering further unemployment.

While I don’t like Gordon Campbell and his party, and Carole James attack of the tax was very misguided, you have to admit the tax hasn’t crippled BC. BCs GDP hasn’t dropped any more than the rest of Canada, and it looks like BC will actually be doing quite reasonably next year.

Now, the actual environmental effects of this tax may take a while to see, but it is good to point out that you can have both an economy and an environmental platform.

It’s also worth noting that some of the arguments against the HST (that it will slow spending) were the same as those against the Carbon Tax, and I’ll agree that they’re likely alarmist arguments. But I still oppose the HST since it fails to do anything for the people of BC and Ontario. Since tax cuts are just being straight shifted to large businesses, and is costing every Canadian $200 ($6 billion in handouts from Ottawa) before the tax is even in place. Further, the tax comes with a load of strings, limiting the ability of BC and Ontario to exempt products from the tax in the future. While harmonization may make sense, using it as a method of tax structure shifting is wrong.

War on Science – the Climate front

Because denying evolution is the fundamental basis for evolution isn’t enough for some, it seems the climate change denialists are ramping up to an all out war.

Now, I’m not talking about such violent wars as the “war on Christmas” or “militant atheism,” but an actual, increasingly illegal and violent effort to attack, discredit and threaten real scientists.

The first big break the villains had was their release of hacked emails from the Climate Research Group of East Anglia University. Ignore the fact that these emails contain little more than the honest concerns and relays of human beings, it gave denialists the belief that they’d uncovered the TruthTM what they’d always known – that anthropogenic climate change is an international plot to make Al Gore the supreme leader of a new Communist dictatorship.

These denialists come in every form, some are ardent atheists that I share some common ground, others are Christian. Almost all tend to also believe in lazy-fairy capitalism though.

On a Facebook post about how Canada could actually be doing something to save the environment right now had the coalition actually achieved government a year ago I got these gems:

how is it possible to NOT be skeptical over climate change when it has recently become apparent that there is no pure science on this? The data have been manipulated and in some cases, completely fabricated. The "scientists" conducting these studies do not do so in the interest of gaining knowledge, but because they have an agenda.
I’m not saying that it’s all bullshit, but I am saying that it is irresponsible of the government to act on bad information, especially when doing so will cost taxpayers a metric shitload of money, and some people their jobs. [emphasis added]

I don’t believe in global warming with the data available at the moment and neither do most people. Thats why its been changed to "climate change". Ian, as a scientist or soon to be one, you should be appalled over the disgrace that has fallen over some of the scientific community. This is a disgrace to the "peer-reviewed" procedure. After all, what’s the point if your peer holds the same political and cultural agenda and is willing to cross scientific barriers to see it through.[Refuting links added]

If the emails really discredit all science accumulated over the past thirty years on climate change, then show me how and where they say that. Otherwise shut the fuck up.

But I guess stealing emails wasn’t enough.

Now, the University of Victoria is being broken into and sketchy “technicians” are wandering the halls at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis. These are actual criminal acts.

I like this comparison of the increasing violence:

Unless we’re prepared to rewrite history so that the real villains of Watergate were the Democrats for having a hotel room worth breaking into.

I’m really worried about this conflict though.

In the evolution vs. creationism conflict, you have overwhelming evidence dogmatic ignorance.

In this debate though, you have overwhelming evidence, except now the dogmatic ignorance has big oil funding behind it.