What’s the Plan? For Canada’s climate change policy, it’s a leap either way you look

“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.

Read moreWhat’s the Plan? For Canada’s climate change policy, it’s a leap either way you look

NOMA Hears One Side of the Story (Again!)

First published in the Chronicle Journal May 7 2016
By Peter Lang
On April 28, uninvited and without the $450 delegate fee, I was allowed to observe TransCanada Pipeline’s presentation to NOMA’s annual general meeting. It must have been the 1,000 signatures on our petition to reject the proposed Energy East pipeline… And, as with TCP’s address to City Council last August, the corporation was spared any contrary public input.

In his address, TCP’s Stefan Baranski first implicated us in the global demand for oil by asking, “How many of you drove here today?” He then followed with projections to show that increasing demand — after which he declared — “We have the oil!”

We know that. It’s what we should do with it now that we begin to understand climate change, the science behind it, and in light of Canada’s commitments to the Paris Summit last December.

Read moreNOMA Hears One Side of the Story (Again!)

Footprint vs handprint: Engaging with global warming

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.

Read moreFootprint vs handprint: Engaging with global warming

After the Sands: A low-carbon future in the era of Canada’s dangerous new climate

By Graham Saunders

First published in the Chronicle Journal Tuesday May 10, 2016

Environment North and other local groups recently hosted Dr. Gordon Laxer to speak about his new book, “After the Sands, Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians”. To avoid any confusion “the Sands” refer to the Alberta tar sands, or oil sands, or most accurately, Alberta Bitumen Sands. His book was published last year and summarizes Dr. Laxer’s extensive research into the energy and climate policy of this country. He outlines a roadmap to a low-carbon future for Canada.
His book was among the five short-listed for the 2016 J.W. Dafoe book prize for best non-fiction. Ralph Nader calls Laxer’s book a “myth-destroying blockbuster”. (Historical note: A young Environment North brought Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and author of “Unsafe at Any Speed”, to speak in Thunder Bay in the 1970s.)

Read moreAfter the Sands: A low-carbon future in the era of Canada’s dangerous new climate

Want to fix the climate? Fix the corruption of expertise first

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.

Read moreWant to fix the climate? Fix the corruption of expertise first

How to Evaluate Energy East? Try Evidence

First published in the Toronto Star Feb 7 2016
By Jason MacLean
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr recently announced new interim regulations for oil pipeline projects currently under review by the National Energy Board, including Trans Mountain and Energy East.

The new regulations stipulate that oil pipeline decisions will be based on science and traditional Indigenous knowledge; the views of the public, including affected communities and Indigenous peoples; and the direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be linked to pipelines.

During their press conference announcing the new regulations, Ministers McKenna and Carr repeatedly intoned that “Canada needs to get its natural resources to market in a sustainable way.”

According to the ministers, this depends on restoring Canadians’ trust in the government’s regulatory processes. “We believe it is important and, in fact, essential to rebuild Canadians’ trust in our environmental assessment processes,” Minister McKenna said.

But therein lies the problem.

Read moreHow to Evaluate Energy East? Try Evidence

Truth about pipeline is ‘highly unlikely’

First posted Saturday, November 28, 2015 in the Chronicle Journal

by Peter Lang

At their open house at the Italian Cultural Centre on Nov. 30 TransCanada Pipeline Corporation (TCC) will tell you that a significant leak on their pipeline is “highly unlikely.” They will cite continuous remote sensing, regular flyovers, and the latest ‘smart pig’ technology to support their conjecture. And they will relate this at a pleasant one-on-one wine-and-cheese-type gathering which is cleverly designed to avoid a public forum — wherein together we could have asked the difficult questions, and critically weighed their answers. In fact, TCC will credit this open house as “a community consultation” when it is merely corporate flim flam.

Read moreTruth about pipeline is ‘highly unlikely’

At stake: Everything; Walking the Paris climate talks

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.”

Read moreAt stake: Everything; Walking the Paris climate talks

The cruel optimism of Paris

First Posted Monday, December 21, 2015 in the Chronicle Journal
SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS
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.

Read moreThe cruel optimism of Paris

Harper’s “Religion”

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.

Read moreHarper’s “Religion”