Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Every Carbon Counts! The urgency of action on reducing carbon emissions

The bottom line is Every Carbon Counts on the road to tackling climate change.  Humans' activity, primarily burning fossil fuels, is releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, intensifying nature's natural greenhouse gas effect. So ultimately, we need to recognize that every carbon we keep in the ground is precious in our pursuit to reach a threshold that will make the needed difference in our planet's future.  

The scientist are now sounding the bells and declaring that we are nearing the point of no return.  There is a tipping point for the greenhouse gas effect in our atmospheres where the heat intensifies exponentially, building upon its own strength.  And once the carbon is in the atmosphere, it takes hundreds and hundreds of years before the earth can once again capture it.  The planet has already warmed .8C and is certain to reach 1.6C.  Our current and predicted global emissions have us targeted for a 4C to 5C increase in heat that will cause unimaginable suffering for future generations. 

Science is amazingly smart about its understanding of how nature works and they know that we need to keep the carbon dioxide at 350ppm to be sure we are safe. Before the advent of manufacturing, the earth was historically around 275ppm based on precise readings from ice core samples. Well, we surpassed 400ppm marker this year and there is no end in sight.  Yet, science has calculated how much carbon needs to stay in the ground to avoid the worst of a warming planet and we've yet to figure out a plan to get it done let alone make it a priority.  

Let me start with the bad news and then end with good.  The scientists' warnings are getting drowned out by the current status quo where politicians dance around the issue, media marginalizes it, and the fossil fuel industry is the wealthiest ever known in history.  They've got people confused about who are the good people and what is really happening.  Our culture went through a very similar process back in the 1970s when it was learned that cigarettes were causing lung cancer.  The status quo did everything in their power to keep things the same and it took people quite some time to figure out what was happening.  Unfortunately, the scientist are telling us we have little time to make real changes before there is no hope.

The good news is that we do have real solutions and that our great nation is known for innovation and technology.  The use of solar and wind power is growing exponentially.  Communities all across our nation are exploring ways to be more energy efficient and to limit their carbon footprint.  People are embracing an attitude of reduce, reuse and recycle while looking for ways to live earth friendly.  People are beginning to make their voices heard that it can no longer be business as usual and that we have a real threat that requires immediate attention. The over 400,000 people who marched together through New York City in September are energized and ready for action.  

So I am sounding the alarm that the time is at hand for everyone to come aboard and take on the job of transitioning to a clean, renewable energy future.  The tine is now to get your hands dirty and do the grunt work necessary to sway public opinion, inform public policy, and minimize our carbon footprint.  I believe this may be the greatest threat ever facing humanity and will require that the citizens of the world working cooperatively together if we ever hope to succeed. And through this, we may all come to live in harmony with the sacred web of life that nourishes and sustains all living beings.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Fight for Our Future on Barnaby Mountain

What a powerful image as these protesters attempt to stop Kinder Morgan's efforts to test drill for a proposed tunnel through Burnaby Mountain. Kinder Morgan wants to expand its Transmountain pipeline whichch stretches about 1,000 kilometres from Edmonton to Burnaby, transporting both crude oil and refined products to the west coast. The new pipeline would triple the carrying capacity of the current system, bringing 890,000 barrels per day of unrefined oil (an equivalent to 7 millions added cars on the road) to Burnaby for export via Burrard Inlet. Pipeline protesters have set up a blockade at the work site where surveying is being conducted. Kinder Morgan sought and won an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to have the protesters removed.

Over 50 arrests have occurred since protests began in September of this year when Kinder Morgan workers cut down 13 trees in the conservation area for its survey work, which the city of Burnaby said contravened its municipal bylaws. There is a diverse group of protestors that include those who are concerned about an oil spill, the development of the tar sands and its effect on climate change, and a corporations right to access and use public lands. Furthermore, First Nations also claim that they have yet to be consulted on the project as the pipeline is proposed to cross their land.  

Many of the protesters are Burnaby residents, who don’t want the pipeline running through their backyards and have formed a group against the pipeline called BROKE or 
The Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion. The group says it is concerned about Kinder Morgan’s plan to ship three times more oil from the oilsands in Alberta, and are worried about the environmental impact in the event of a spill or leak. Kinder Morgan is suing BROKE for $5.4 million for trespassing on the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. BROKE says the land is protected for the people by City of Burnaby bylaws and contend that Kinder Morgan is ignoring municipal bylaws. 

This current battle is one that needs to be fought all over the world if we ever hope to do the work necessary to significantly reduce our carbon emissions.  Big Oil has had its way in our world for a long time with profits in the hundreds of billions annually.  They corrupted the Canadian government which once led the way on climate change.  But that was before Transcanada and the Koch Brothers realized the incredible profitability of extracting the tar sand oil from the pristine Canadian Boreal Forest.  Yet, they never expected any resistance to pipelines which are necessary to carry the massive amounts of heavy, toxic sludge for processing and then to port for global consumption.  With the project landlocked, Transcanada is having a difficult time realizing the maximum potential of profitability and don't appreciate not getting their way.  

If you understand the science of a warming planet caused by man-made carbon emissions, then you understand why we must find a way to win these battles against Big Oil.  We are  nearing the tipping point for a planet that is sure to be two degrees warmer with a trajectory toward 5 to 6 degrees.  Such a future does not bode well for most of the species currently living on the planet and is sure to create immeasurable suffering and hardship for our grandchildren who will one day inherit our legacy. The good news is we still have a small window left open to make the Great Turning to a clean, renewable energy sources and that much of the technology and ingenuity is awaiting our investment.  Like the Whos of Whoville, the time is now to raise our voices together and get loud enough so our demands for a clean energy future are met!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

USA and China Reach Bold and Historic Climate Agreement

What a wonderful surprise I was treated to this morning when saw that Huffington Post's headline was President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping's agreement to take ambitious action to limit greenhouse gases.  The US set a new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2025, a sharp increase from our current goal of 17% by 2020.  As for China, their public acknowledgement to take action about greenhouse gas emissions is an unprecedented move by a nation reluctant to agree to any goals.  Although China continues to build coal plants for their booming economy, President Xi set a target for China's emissions to peak by 2030 while also pledging to increase the share of energy that China will derive from energy sources other than fossil fuels.

This agreement between two powerful nations is a historic step in our efforts to slow down global warming. Many other countries have been reluctant to make any agreements or commit resources without US and China, the two major polluters of greenhouse gases, taking significant steps.  President Obama's accomplishment to reach such an agreement with China speaks highly of the diplomatic relationship his administration has worked to create over the past 6 years and will set a positive, optimistic tone for next year's climate summit in Paris where a worldwide treaty will be finalized to combat global warming.  

Environmentalists are speaking highly about this unexpected development between US and China.  China's willingness to be part of the global solution is sure to have a great impact on the contributions of other nations.  Similarly, the US's willingness to set more ambitious goals sends a message that we are serious about global warming.  Yet, this is a just one "step" in a long and complicated process to combat global warming.  We will need to work together as a nation to meet a 26-28% reduction of greenhouse gases which will require determination, sacrifice, and innovation.  We will need to repeatedly stand up to the the GOP, multi-national corporations and others who are determined to keep the status quo and do not care what science is telling us about the horrific global consequences of a warming planet.  Equally if not more important, the apathy of many Americans will need to be confronted as we will need tens of millions of citizens to make their voice heard and take meaningful action, if we ever expect to rise above the powerful and rich influences who stand in our way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Real Plight of the Wet'suwet'en Nation of Western Canada

Here is a fascinating part of the KeystoneXL pipeline in that its proposed route goes through several indigenous nations, both in Canada and United States.  The indigenous nations have no interest in allowing the pipeline on their land and clearly recognize that the crude tar sand oil is poisoning the water, killing the trees, and making their people sick with cancer. The time is now for us, the immigrants to North America, to stand along side the native people and help them to protect their rights and their land.  

This short 9-minute video highlights the plight of the Wet'suwet'en Nation of Canada to confront the massive oil and gas drilling operation happening right now in Western Canada.  I am not surprised that the oil and gas companies are moving forward without regard to the Wet'suwet'en Nation, going as far as coming on to Wet'suwet'en land without permission to prepare for laying the pipeline. (This too is happening in the US, with people losing their land without a choice, even though Transcanada does not have permission to build the pipeline).  

I am in awe and reverence of the Wet'suwet'en Nation who are vigilantly protecting their land from Big Oil. It would be my dream to some day travel to their base camps and have a firsthand experience of their rich culture and to let them know how much I respect what they are doing!  Our ability to lend support, financial or verbal , is a significant thing we can do as part of the Great Turning away from toxic fossil fuels to a clean, renewable resources that help us protect our precious air, water, and soil.