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 »
by Lynn Palmer
First posted in the Chronicle Journal : Saturday, October 3, 2015 6:00 am
Public concern about spraying herbicides on our local forests is not new. For at least 20 years, the issue has circulated in the public sphere.
Surveys undertaken since the mid-1990s indicate that the general public in Ontario deem herbicide use on publicly owned forests unacceptable.
This past March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the United Nations’ World Health Organization) declared that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide, is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and public concern over spraying has intensified. On Sept. 5, the California Environmental Protection Agency announced that it plans to label glyphosate as a “chemical known to cause cancer.”
Opposition to glyphosate-based herbicide spraying and linked petitions have been increasing from New Brunswick to California. In Ontario, people living in and around Dog-River Matawin, Kenogami, Ogoki, Martel, Magpie, Timiskaming, Sudbury, Black Spruce, and Nipigon Forests, among others, have expressed to the province and some forestry companies that they want their voices to be heard. The message is clear. It’s time to get serious about implementing alternatives. 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 »
First posted in the Chronicle Journal Sunday, May 15, 2016
The world’s best scientists, across a broad range of disciplines, have advised us that we humans are responsible for a spike in global temperatures not seen in hundreds of thousands of years.
They state that digging up and burning, in a couple of hundred years, solar energy stored as coal, gas and oil over hundreds of millions of years as the reason.
They have equated the addition of resulting greenhouse gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide, to the detonation of 400,000 atomic bombs daily, 365 days a year.
And so they have asked us to reduce our “carbon footprint,” as ice-core samples have established a direct link between carbon in the atmosphere and global warming. 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 »
First Published in the Chronicle Journal Tuesday, September 8, 2015
SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS by Jason MacLean | 7 comments
Two years. Two years since I moved to Thunder Bay. Two years in Thunder Bay without a car. Or truck. Or monster truck.
How do I get around?
I bike (mostly). And forgive me for saying so, but so should you.
Some background: Every so often I give a public lecture on environmental law and sustainability, and the question I get most often is this: As an ordinary citizen, what can I do to help? More »
First Published in the Chronicle Journal Monday, April 20, 2015
By Jason MacLean
Dear reader, I owe you an apology. I’ve been writing this column on sustainability for nearly two years now and I’ve yet to define what sustainability means, exactly.
A close friend who’s evidently not a regular reader of mine told me how interesting he found a recent column. But he quickly — if a little sheepishly — added that “sustainability” seems to be a bit of a buzz word that gets used in a number of different ways, not all of them reconcilable.
He’s not wrong. Not entirely, anyway. More »
With condolences to climate change deniers and other card-carrying members of the Flat Earth Society (yes, it’s a thing), the troubling reality of climate change has arrived (again).
Exhibit A is the U.S. Pentagon’s recent report asserting with Pentagon-like assertiveness that climate change poses a real and present danger to national security.
What’s at stake? For starters, climate change increases the risks associated with terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages.
The Pentagon’s report proceeds to map out how the U.S. military will adapt to rising sea levels, violent storms and widespread and protracted droughts. More »
Canada’s Third National Policy is an essay every Canadian should read, and an idea that every Canadian should embrace.
In Canada’s Third National Policy, Rod Macdonald and Bob Wolfe argue that Canada has evolved through three national policies.
Canada’s first national policy (np1) was a response to the Great Depression of 1873 and consisted of tariffs to prop up Canadian manufacturers, immigration to the prairies and the construction of a transcontinental transportation infrastructure. Sir John A. Macdonald’s National Policy of 1879 was a superb — if cynical — campaign slogan, and it still fires the ambitions of his party today. More »
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will soon release its fifth report summarizing the latest science on climate change. A new IPCC report is kind of a big deal, so let’s look ahead to its expected findings and the response it’s likely to provoke.
Based on improvements in climate modeling since its last report was published in 2007, the IPCC is expected to conclude (again) that global temperatures are climbing, oceans are acidifying, Artic ice is melting (but much faster than previously predicted), dangerous methane emissions are escalating (ditto) and sea levels are rising.But even more importantly, the IPCC’s report will likely affirm with overwhelming confidence that these calamitous changes are largely being caused by human beings. More »