First Posted: Monday, July 11, 2016
BY JASON MACLEAN
People are sick of experts, evidently. Facts, too, are becoming troublingly unpopular. Brexit and the popularity of U.S. presidential candidate Donald J. Trump are cases in point. A closer look at each offers lessons for the design of an effective and democratically accountable climate change policy.
First, Brexit. Experts hated it. In a poll of 639 British economists, 88 per cent predicted that a vote to leave the EU would decrease economic growth and efficiency. 52 per cent of voters opted to leave anyway.
Why? A revealing geographic analysis of the referendum conducted by the Resolution Foundation found that the parts of Britain most supportive of Brexit were the parts that have historically been the poorest, particularly in the north. Brexit supporters didn’t share the experts’ obsession with economic efficiency. They care more about economic equality. About the affordable houses that aren’t being built. About the good, secure jobs that aren’t being created.
Whether they’re right or wrong is beside the point. Neoliberal globalization has left many in Britain (and elsewhere) feeling alienated, dispossessed and voiceless. Hence the highly effective slogan “vote leave, take back control.” The Brexit plebiscite was the plebs’ chance to make themselves heard. And now the experts are scrambling to figure out what comes next, both in Britain and the EU. Only 38 per cent of the French, for example, view the EU favourably. Alors, Frexit? What about Scotland? Sexit? More »
By Graham Saunders
First Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 For The Chronicle-Journal
Was June wet enough for you? The long-term average rain total for June at the Thunder Bay Airport is 86 millimetres but varies considerably. For example, June 2003 had a total of 35.5 millimetres, compared to an estimated 228 millimetres this year. The previous record was 196 millimetres, set in June 2008.
This June total is slightly higher than the monthly total recorded in May 2012, the time of devastating flooding in Thunder Bay and some adjacent rural areas. Heavy rain totals on June 28 were similar to May 28, 2012 but the “character” and timing were different. The maximum rate in May 2012 was 48 millimetres/hour compared to intensities of about half of this a week ago.
Other factors helped:
• The city was better prepared.
• 84 to about 100 millimetres fell in two periods separated by about two hours.
• Afternoon and evening storm situations are easier to cope with than overnight events. (Most of the rain fell between midnight and 2 a.m. on May 28, 2012.)
An editorial titled “100-year storms every four years” was published in The Chronicle-Journal on June 28. It noted that the frequency and intensity of such severe-weather events is increasing. I noticed “These are not unusual weather events but rather regular summertime storms . . .” in one of the comments. This is not correct. More »
Gordon Laxer Energy East Position Evolves.
Published in the CJ Thu May 19, 2016 as Pondering Pipeline Possibilities
Gordon Laxer spoke at the Finlandia Hall Wednesday, hosted by Environment North and the Thunder Bay Environmental Coalition. He outlined the theory behind his latest book, After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians. Laxer is a PhD, the founding director and former head of the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, political economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, and a prominent public intellectual. He was a founding member of the Council of Canadians. He endorses Naomi Klein and the Leap Manifesto and offers a workable framework for a transition to a green economy.
Laxer’s position on the proposed Energy East pipeline has evolved since the publication of his book. In it he had indicated that he was supportive of EE for the sake of Canadian energy security and sovereignty. He qualified this stance by stating as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels, Energy East should ship conventional oil to Eastern Canadian consumers for another 15 years, (as opposed to rip and ship bitumen overseas). More »
“Forget about what you are escaping from,” the illusionist Harry Houdini used to say. “Reserve your anxiety for what you are escaping to.” When it comes to Canada’s climate change policy, that’s wise counsel. Because whether you look to the left or to the right, it’s a leap either way.
Let’s start with the left, the already infamous Leap Manifesto.
Seldom has a four-page document loosely stringing together a series of disparate ideas—none original or genuinely controversial—generated so much handwringing.
What do the Leapers want? They call for Canada to generate 100% of its energy from renewable resources within 20 years, which is scientifically feasible; an end to fossil fuels subsidies, new oil pipelines, and other fossilized infrastructure investments; no more trade deals that compromise our ability to protect the environment; a universal guaranteed minimum income; recognition and enforcement of existing treaties with Indigenous peoples; and an expansion of low-carbon sectors of the economy, including caregiving, teaching, the arts, and public-interest media.
Above all, the Leapers demand the transition to a low-carbon future begin now. More »
Firs published in the Chronicle Journal Monday April 25, 2016
by Jason MacLean
After the US Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizen United, the corrupting influence of money in politics was supposed to be an exceptionally American problem. But it turns out that it’s very much a Canadian problem, too. Worse still, the corruption of money in politics is trumped by the corruption of expertise. Worst of all, the corruption of expertise is at the root of every important public policy issue, including climate change. More »
First Published in the Toronto Star March 3, 2016
by Jason MacLean
The Ontario government has unveiled its long-awaited cap-and-trade regime. Meanwhile, the federal government is in the early days of establishing its pan-Canadian climate strategy featuring a minimum national carbon price of $15 per tonne. Will these policies help Canada meet its commitments under the Paris climate change agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels?
It depends. More »
First Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 in the Chronicle Journal
By Christine Penner Polle
The news of the Paris climate agreement reached by nearly 200 countries after decades of trying was cause for celebration in our house last weekend. The first worldwide commitment to phase out fossil fuels in order to limit global temperature rise is an enormous and unprecedented accomplishment.
Our joy, however, was bittersweet. It was overshadowed by awareness that the deal fell short of solving of the huge problem the world is facing. More »
First Posted: Saturday, December 19, 2015 in The Chronicle-Journal
THE VIEW FROM PARIS
By Julee Boan
With nearly 200 countries at the table, is it not surprising that the Paris climate agreement that was negotiated last Saturday fell short of legally-binding caps on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Differences in wealth, geography, and population size were but a few of the complexities facing the talks. It was abundantly evident before the negotiations even began that economic (and carbon) powerhouses like the United States and China would only agree to non-binding targets.
Yet, the significance of the agreement is unmistakable. The signatories recognize that, “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet.” More »
First Posted Monday, December 21, 2015 in the Chronicle Journal
By Jason MacLean
Cultural critic Lauren Berlant defines cruel optimism as the desire for something that’s an obstacle to our flourishing. We fantasize about a “good life” — of enduring reciprocity in romantic couples, organizations, political systems — despite the evidence of their instability and diminishing returns.
The optimism about the recent Paris climate agreement is a cruel case in point.
According to the world’s leading science journal Nature, “the Paris agreement represents a bet on technological innovation and human ingenuity.”
Why? Because the agreement is a legal and scientific failure. More »
by Ed Shields
Mr. Harper is religious. How does he respond to the Pope’s message to the US Congress (a Harperesque body) and the UN basically to keep tar sand in the ground? Or is Harper’s religiosity merely a facade to get votes. Or is his greed greater than his religiosity?
Harper’s fight against environmentalist action is akin to an illogical fight not to fix ones leaky roof. Of course, over time your house collapses. I wonder if a massive asteroid was targeting earth if he would worry. More »
First Posted:Chronicle Journal Saturday, May 9, 2015
By Julee Boan and Faisal Moola
Managing publicly-owned forests is complicated. Goals for forestry, hydroelectric development, mining, tourism, hunting, recreation, conservation and other forest uses are not always compatible and trade-offs must be made. It is fair to say that our organizations – the David Suzuki Foundation and Ontario Nature – don’t always agree with claims made by some members of the forestry industry that their logging is sustainable.
At last week’s annual meeting, the Northern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) passed a resolution (Support for Northern Forestry Operations) sending our organizations a clear message: Keep your mouths shut and your opinions to yourselves. More »
Our elected leaders are compulsive gamblers, turns out. Crazy, right?
Let’s begin with the fact that the federal government has been bluffing since 2006 that it would introduce sector-by-sector regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, including Alberta’s tar sands, the fastest growing source of carbon pollution in Canada. More »