Thursday, December 17, 2009

Copenhagen: What the leaders are saying

From the BBC, a selection of quotes from world leaders on the lack of progress at the climate change talks.

Copenhagen climate talks in quotes

Copenhagen reading list....

Copenhagen Conference on the Brink of Collapse as World Leaders Arrive at Talks - Suzanne Goldenberg, John Vidal and Jonathan Watts

Mr Obama, Here's Your Copenhagen Speech: Only one person can now rescue these climate talks. This is the speech to turn shambles to triumph - George Monbiot

Divide and Conquer at Copenhagen: With talks at an impasse, the US and other rich nations seek to split the ranks of developing countries in order to push for a weaker deal - Mother Jones

It's the Protesters Who Offer the Best Hope for Our Planet: They've ensured the corporate lobbyists punching holes in the deal are shamed - Johann Hari

Yes, He Can: President Obama's Power to Make an International Climate Commitment Without Waiting for Congress - Kevin Bundy, Brendan Cummings, Vera Pardee, and Kassie Siegel

Call an MP today!

This message has got to me from a couple of different sources. I'll reprint the one from NUPGE.


The UN Summit for an agreement to slow global warming is in serious jeopardy. Negotiators have so far failed to look past selfish individual country interests to forge a fair, ambitious and legally-binding agreement. Country leaders will convene for the all-important final summit tomorrow. What they decide will determine whether humans have a chance of preventing the worst kinds of climate change.

So far, the government has not budged from its irresponsible greenhouse reduction target for Canada and it continues to block the strong agreement that more progressive nations are desperately seeking for the world.



Let's build the biggest Canadian petition in history so we can deliver it to Harper in Copenhagen. Together we can stand up to Harper and show him that Canada wants a real climate deal. Sign the petition now, then forward it to everyone you know:


Call Parliament at 1-866-599-4999 now. Ask to be put through to a member of parliament in your area (or a leading government representative such as Environment Minister Prentice, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty or Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt) to demand action to help save Copenhagen. Tell them why you want him to support a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty. Be sincere and keep in mind that your reasons are the right reasons.

Find your MP here:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cdn oil & gas exploration: Business as usual

From the "you must be kidding" file. Not that I think it's a joke or that Big Oil doesn't intend to carry on with business as usual to wreck this country and the world.

Secret Cap-and-Trade Proposal Confirms That Canada Has No Intention of Meeting its 2020 Greenhouse Gas Target:

Leaked Cabinet Documents Show Government Plan for Massive Increase in Oil and Gas Emissions by 2020

(Copenhagen, Denmark) Cabinet documents unveiled last night show that Environment Minister Jim Prentice’s planned cap-and-trade system is so weak that the federal government clearly has no intention of meeting its 2020 emissions target, according to Climate Action Network–Réseau action climat Canada. The documents were described in a CBC news story and have been analyzed by members of the Climate Action Network.
The documents reveal that the Government of Canada is contemplating an approach to regulating emissions from the oil and gas, manufacturing and mining sectors that is more than three times weaker than their 2008 “Turning the Corner” plan....

Monday, December 14, 2009

African countries protest at climate talks

Climate talks in turbulence - CBC

The main session of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen was suspended Monday just before noon, following protests led by African countries, Reuters reports. The African countries accused developed countries of trying to wreck the existing Kyoto Protocol.
Update - Developing nations return to Copenhagen climate talks - BBC
Talks at the UN climate summit resumed on Monday afternoon after protests from developing nations forced a suspension.
But talks have been limited to informal consultations on procedural issues, notably developing countries' demands for more time on the Kyoto Protocol.

From the "I wonder who did that" file.

Environment Canada hit by 'damn clever' climate stunt

Canada is red-faced at the Copenhagen climate-change conference as a result of a spoof news release purporting to be from Environment Canada announcing Canada was bringing in bold new emissions reduction targets.
The authentic-looking release, which was announced on a fake Jim Prentice Twitter account, caught many observers off guard and a fake story about it landed on a fake Wall Street Journal website - all an elaborate ruse to embarrass Canada, which is being considered the "dirty-old man" of the conference for its intransigence on negotiating better targets...
The prank continued with another legitimate-looking statement from Environment Canada attempting to contain the damage...
But that statement, too, proved to be a fake. The elaborate and damaging spoof comes just a week after Greenpeace activists embarrassed the government by climbing the roof of Parliament buildings to protest Canada’s leadership on his issue.
Contrary to Kermit the Frog's assertion, sometimes it's not easy, NOT being green.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

"A fair, ambitious and legally binding climate deal"

That's the main demand coming from civil society groups Copenhagen.

Check out Greenpeace International's E-D Kumi Naidoo's speech at today's day of action rally of 100,000 people in Copenhagen.

Thousands of events today for "Real Deal" Day

Global day of action on climate change
Thousands of events are taking place today around the world demanding that a "real deal" come out of the Copenhagen climate change talks. I'm on my way to one now at the U of T sponsored by the "Students against Climate Change" and "Toronto Climate Campaign".

Copenhagen is center of Global Day of Climate action

There are so many people who have converged here in Copenhagen, but amidst the cry of too many voices, one message cannot possibly be heard over the din.

There are groups here asking for indigenous rights, womens' rights, the rights of developing nations to emerge from under the oppressive thumb of developed nations, the rights of developed nations to continue with business as usual, water rights, forest rights, land-grabs, farmers, start-up energy firms…the list goes on and on.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Canada recieves more fossil awards...

After a brief respite on Day 4 when Canada dodged any Fossil of the Day awards, Day 5 brought the Numbers 1 & 2 spots. Toronto Mayor David Miller accepted the awards on behalf of Canada. The awards are voted on by NGOs at the Climate Change talks.

Canada’s chief negotiator insisted in a briefing this morning that his country’s target of -3% below 1990 are, in fact, based on science. The price quote–in answer to a question, was: “Yes, Canada’s targets are science-based. Absolutely, yes.”
Last we checked, the IPCC scientific community called for 25-40% emission reductions below 1990 levels. The Fossil Supreme Command Council can only conclude that he wasn’t referring to climate science at all, but rather the science of mathematics–because -3% is, indeed, a number. (Although a very small one.) Speaking of math, Canada already promised in the Kyoto Protocol to go to -6% from 1990 levels. Oops!
Further, when the chief negotiator was asked this morning if he believed Canada’s so called “science based-target” would protect melting summer sea-ice in the North West passage, he responded quite accurately that he is not a scientist and therefore cannot predict sea-ice. Canada, here’s a piece of science you can understand: you’ve won the second place Fossil Award.

It doesn’t get much clearer than this: Canada’s Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, said yesterday that, quote, “it’s in Canada’s interests to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a new agreement.” He didn’t explain whether that’s because he’s scared to face Kyoto’s compliance committee.
It also appears that Canada’s environment minister is suffering a serious case of CAN envy. Yesterday, he invented his own prize, the Hot Air of the Day Award, and tried to give it to a Canadian environmental group. It’s a true honor to be recognized for hot air by this government, the world’s acknowledged masters in that area. But even though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we’d be even more flattered if you actually signed on to a fair, ambitious, and binding deal instead of trying to wriggle free of the climate promises you’ve already made and broken.

Cdn Youth delegation in Copenhagen

Canadian Youth To Canada: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way on Climate Change - Liana B. Baker

On Sunday, I sat down with Amber Church, the national director for the Canadian Youth Climate coalition, to get her take on the Canadian negotiating team for the next two weeks.

The 28-year-old called Canada a "lost lemming" in the global climate negotiations, even falling behind the U.S. with its inaction.

"Right now Canada is not leading -- it's not even following very well because Environment Minister Jim Prentice's line is, We can't do anything until the U.S. does something," Church said. "To be perfectly honest, the U.S. is ahead of us and we're not even following very well."

Her advice for Canada in Copenhagen? "Canada should lead, follow or get out of the way," Church said.

Church, who lives in Whitehorse, will be leading the Canadian youth delegation at the talks. The delegation is composed of a 35 activists from around the country, making up one of the largest youth delegations at the conference. This doesn't account for another 50 or so more Canadians who are attending with student delegations from universities, such as the University of Toronto...

With this goal in mind, Canadian youth will be meeting with a growing list of Canadian politicians while in Copenhagen, including Prentice, NDP leader Jack Layton, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, environment ministers from the territories, and Canada's chief negotiator, Michael Martin.

A meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper is still in the works.
Let's see if they can pull off that meeting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nemo H2: New zero emission boat launched in Holland

From the solutions file.

First fuel cell boat cruises Amsterdam’s canals
"Emitting only water vapour and gliding silently through Amsterdam’s centuries-old canals, a canal boat -- a popular tourist attraction -- powered by fuel cells made its debut cruise on Wednesday.

The "Nemo H2," which can carry about 87 people, is the first of its kind designed specifically to run on a fuel cell engine, in which hydrogen and oxygen are mixed to create electricity and water, without producing air-polluting gases".

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Ottawa protest

Climate justice activists occupy House of Commons meeting

December 8
On the second day of the UN Climate Negotiations in Copenhagen, climate justice activists occupied a meeting of the House of Commons' Environment Committee, calling on Canada to adhere to its Kytoto Protocol targets and to stop production in the Alberta tar sands.

Six youth members of People for Climate justice entered the committee meeting room. Removing their street clothes they revealed t-shirts with the words 'Climate Action Now.' They were able to move forward and sit-down briefly in the meeting room before being quickly removed by security. All six were detained for about an hour and charged with trespassing, which carries a fine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mom's against climate change...

On Thursday, Mom's against Climate Change will be projecting the faces of more than 1,600 children onto the sides of buildings in Ottawa and Vancouver with this simple reminder, “Stephen Harper: Remember who you’re representing in Copenhagen”.

Danish text leak causes disarray...

Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after 'Danish text' leak

Reports are emerging that the Copenhagen summit has already lurched into its first crisis, after developing countries responded angrily to a secret draft agreement that aims to strengthen the position of rich countries and effectively abandon the legal framework set up under the Kyoto Protocol.

The so-called Danish text was leaked to the Guardian newspaper and has immediately kicked off a heated row between developed and developing nations on only the second day of the two-week summit.

If adopted, the controversial 13-page document would impose unequal per capita limits on carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050, which would allow citizens in rich countries to still emit twice as much as their counterparts in poorer nations...

Call for action from South Africa on Copenhagen

I received this message today from Professor Patrick Bond, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in South Africa. "Thanks for the note on your blog. Perhaps you can assist by circulating this info below and staying in touch with any news you're hearing? Many thanks"


As the UNFCCC negotiations begin here in Copenhagen, from 7-18 December, it is increasingly evident that the COP 15 is unlikely to deliver a just, equitable and effective treaty to address the climate crisis. Activists from the Climate Justice Now (CJN) network will put pressure on governments and polluters with actions inside and outside the conference venue. But to do so with full force will require global solidarity.

CJN urges activists across the world to organize mobilizations in conjunction with mass actions in Copenhagen.

12 December: Global day of action on climate change and mass rally in Copenhagen
13 December: Actions to highlight changes needed in production
14 December: Actions to demand reparations on climate debt
16 December: ‘Reclaim power’ action at the Bella Centre

We need to target the polluters, their financiers and their governments:

Fossil fuel firms!
Appropriate targets in nearly every city are the most irresponsible corporations and governments, including fossil fuel firms (such as oil and coal companies), energy utilities, smelters and mining houses, military-industrial complexes, the petro chemical sector, the auto, air and shipping industries, and corporate lobby groups which resist emissions cuts. (A local target of great importance on December 13 is the A.P. Moller - Maersk Group, one of the world's major shipping lines.)

Carbon traders!
Just as importantly, we endorse protests against the financial speculators, banksters, emissions traders and policy wonks who promote Cap and Trade, Clean Development Mechanisms, REDD, offsets, emissions derivatives and other corruption-fused gimmicks that distract us from genuine solutions. (Goldman Sachs is one such target whose manipulation of markets and low-income people had calamitous implications for the world economy last year; the World Bank is another -notorious for financing fossil fuel and carbon trading with mutually destructive impacts.)
Northern governments!
This is a time to specially target the governments of major polluting countries which back these polluting and trading corporations by refusing to cut emissions and by imposing market mechanisms. The governments proven to be most dangerous to the survival of the species are the US, Canada, Japan and EU, and in particular the conservative Danish government which has begun to mimic the World Trade Organisation with bad process, lack of transparency and a clear bias agains peoples of the South.
Protest this week and next!
These fossil fuel firms, carbon traders and high-pollution governments are legitimate targets for protests. Between now and December 19, Climate Justice Now! encourages pickets, demonstrations and non-violent direct actions that teach our societies what is at stake, who is to blame, and what needs to be done.

Across the world, people who care about the earth’s future are gathering to send critical messages to Copenhagen: Cut emissions! End carbon trading! Pay the ecological debt to victims of climate chaos!

These messages need to be louder, and on December 12-16th, CJN will work with the network Climate Justice Action to against the threat to humanity and environment posed by climate disaster.

Please contact us if you are engaged in any actions we should know about, for the sake of mutual solidarity:

56 Newspapers Editorialize on Copenhagen

Here is the text of the editorial produced and published by 56 newspapers from around the world including the Toronto Star and the Guardian of London.

Star joins global climate crusade
As the Copenhagen summit kicks off today, 56 newspapers in 45 countries have united to demand action.

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time, and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between East and West. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next five to 10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C – the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction – would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea.

The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of U.S. obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the U.S. Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree on the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."

At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided – and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialized world dig deep into its pockets and pledge cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance – and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Copenhagen Fossil of the Day award..

Well, Canada has already won its first Fossil of Day Award at the Copenhagen Climate Talks. The awards are given by the Climate Action Network International and

In an unusual award to particular EU member states, Second-place Fossil dishonours went to Sweden, Finland, and Austria for backing a controversial EU proposal that would weaken the Europe's targets by not accounting for emissions caused by increased logging. Fossil stalwart Canada took the third trophy for announcing that it wouldn't budge on its weak proposed target....

Industrialised countries ("Annex I" countries, in climate-ese) win first for coming to Copenhagen with a profound deficit of ambition for cutting carbon. There's a huge and important debate over funding to help developing countries. More is needed. But all the money in the world won't solve climate change if the richest countries don't stop pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. This is the defining issue--and until the fossil fuels go down, the Fossil Awards will keep racking up.

Harper offside with majority on cliimate change

It goes without saying that by blocking Bill C311 (the NDP's climate change target bill), that the Liberal party is just as offside. Industry has got them on pretty short leashes, particularly when it comes to the tar sands. His strategy of pointing the finger at the developing world and the United States is obviously not having much of an effect on the public.

Canadians, Conservatives differ on climate: poll

A brazen protest, a sobering poll and a massive petition turned up the heat on the Harper government Monday over its climate-change position as a major United Nations conference began in Copenhagen...

The federal Tories say they won't sign any deal in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol unless developing countries also adopt tough targets.

But 64 per cent of respondents to a Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey said rich nations have a responsibility to commit to higher and harder targets than developing countries.

Most also want to see a binding agreement come out of Copenhagen, and 81 per cent said Canada should act independently of the United States.

New tar sands study - pollution impact underestimated

Oilsands pollution exceeds official estimates: study

An independent study suggests pollution from Alberta's oilsands is nearly five times greater and twice as widespread as industry figures say.

The study says toxic emissions from the controversial industry are equal to a major oil spill occurring every year. Government and industry officials say contamination in area soils and rivers is natural, but the report links it firmly to oilsands mining...

Schindler said nothing has changed in the province's monitoring program since it was criticized in a 2004 review.
The tar sand projects are destroying the water, land and air in order to burn fossil dirty oil which spew greenhouse gases into the atmopshere. Pretty comprehensive.

Greenpeace action on Parliament Hill

19 Greenpeace Canada activists have climbed onto the roof of the West Wing and Senate building of Parliament Hill and are rappelling down to protest Canada's position on climate change and are calling for shutting down the tar sands. Their action coincides with the opening of the Climate Change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Greenpeace takes climate change protest to Parliament Hill

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Copenhagen talks set to begin...

There's way too much going on for me to report as the Copenhagen talks get set to begin. Some are suggesting that we may be better off without a deal than with a weak-kneed, ineffective deal that will lock the world in to a new carbon reduction & trading system which will not do the job. Others are suggesting that any deal that moves things forward is better than no deal at all.

Some are distracted by the stolen email-gate. Others are focused on the carbon footprint of the Copenhagen conference itself.

Global actions are planned on December 12th (and during the conference) which runs from December 7 - 19. In Toronto, there will be an indoor rally and teach-in at the Earth Sciences Auditorium at the University of Toronto (33 Wilcocks St) at 3:00 p.m. Candlelight vigils are also planned around the country (and world).

Stephen Harper announced that he will indeed be paying a visit to Copenhagen albeit it's not clear when. He may have some photo ops with some hockey moms which could take precedent. Obama's going to and has must changed the date so that he'll be making two trips to Europe within a week - one for his Nobel war, er, I mean, peace prize - and the other to the climate change talks.

One of the better articles I've read lately - Vigorous activism can defeat the Denialists - Patrick Bond - makes the analogy between the impact of climate change on the Global South and the denials of apartheid and AIDS. Well worth reading.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paying our climate debt...

Naomi Klein takes a detailed look at the concept (and reality) of climate debt in Paying our climate debt which first appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

Climate debt is about who will pick up the bill. The grass-roots movement behind the proposal argues that all the costs associated with adapting to a more hostile ecology -- everything from building stronger sea walls to switching to cleaner, more expensive technologies -- are the responsibility of the countries that created the crisis. "What we need is not something we should be begging for but something that is owed to us, because we are dealing with a crisis not of our making," says Lidy Nacpil, one of the coordinators of Jubilee South, an international organization that has staged demonstrations to promote climate reparations. "Climate debt is not a matter of charity."

Sharon Looremeta, an advocate for Maasai tribespeople in Kenya who have lost at least 5 million cattle to drought in recent years, puts it in even sharper terms. "The Maasai community does not drive 4x4s or fly off on holidays in airplanes," she says. "We have not caused climate change, yet we are the ones suffering. This is an injustice and should be stopped right now."...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our future: good green jobs for all...

This op-ed by Toronto and York Region Labour Council President John Cartwright spells out the opportunities, examples and challenges in developing green jobs and a greener econonmy.

Our future: good green jobs for all
Canadians want this country to be a leader, not a laggard, at summit on climate change

It's not just green-collar manufacturing or construction jobs that are available. Think about the creative work behind the bus ads featuring David Suzuki urging the use of low-energy light bulbs. Or the engineering students who are pledging to use their skills to design systems that solve the technical aspects of stepping more lightly on this earth. Only a decade ago, LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for buildings were barely acknowledged. By 2008, more than 1 billion square feet of construction was being done to LEEDS standards in the U.S.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

KAIROS loses CIDA funding...

KAIROS - Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives - has had funding for 2009 - 2013 declined by CIDA - without any written explanation. Speculation is that the Harper government is punishing KAIROS for its stand on climate justice, including their raising awareness about the tar sands. Their views on finding a just settlement in Israel/Palestine may have been a major factor in this retributive move.

KAIROS asking people to take urgent action to let the government know the impact that this will have on their overseas partners.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Evergreen Co-operatives

Evergreen Co-operatives is a model for worker owned economic development in Ohio. Hat tip to Jojo Geronimo from the Labour Education Centre.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New climate change study: 2007, IPCC worst case scenario likely...

I wasn't able to actually find this 17-scientist study at Nature Geoscience mentioned in the article. The debate to date has been about the relationship between reduction of GHGs and mitigation strategies in the context of a 2°. This article suggests that the discussion is shifting to mitigation versus utter disaster.

World on course for catastrophic 6° rise, reveal scientists - The Independent

The world is now firmly on course for the worst-case scenario in terms of climate change, with average global temperatures rising by up to 6C by the end of the century, leading scientists said yesterday. Such a rise – which would be much higher nearer the poles – would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation...

Meanwhile, the scientists have for the first time detected a failure of the Earth's natural ability to absorb man-made carbon dioxide released into the air.

They found significant evidence that more man-made CO2 is staying in the atmosphere to exacerbate the greenhouse effect because the natural "carbon sinks" that have absorbed it over previous decades on land and sea are beginning to fail, possibly as a result of rising global temperatures.

6C rise: The consequences

If two degrees is generally accepted as the threshold of dangerous climate change, it is clear that a rise of six degrees in global average temperatures must be very dangerous indeed, writes Michael McCarthy. Just how dangerous was signalled in 2007 by the science writer Mark Lynas, who combed all the available scientific research to construct a picture of a world with temperatures three times higher than the danger limit.

His verdict was that a rise in temperatures of this magnitude "would catapult the planet into an extreme greenhouse state not seen for nearly 100 million years, when dinosaurs grazed on polar rainforests and deserts reached into the heart of Europe".

He said: "It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles."

Very few species could adapt in time to the abruptness of the transition, he suggested. "With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean.

"As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

"The British Isles, indeed, might become one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet. But, with a couple of billion people knocking on our door, things might quickly turn rather ugly."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

London's cycling mayor to the rescue...

In a convergence of environmental themes, London's (England) Mayor, Boris Johnson, assisted "The Age of Stupid" director Franny Armstrong who was attacked by 3 muggers late one night (not sure of the date).

Cycling London Mayor saves Enviro Pedestrian from Oikes!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Good green jobs for all conference a big success

The Good Green Jobs for All conference went off without a hitch on Saturday. There were close to 600 people registered who came from labour, environmental, community and social justice organizations. There was a lot of positive energy, excellent speakers and good discussion.

OPSEU was a platinum sponsor of the conference and I was privileged to be part of the planning committee. All those evening pizza meetings paid off.

Allstream Centre - the GGJ4A conference was one of the first users of the renovated Automotive Building at the CNE. The Allstream Centre is a silver LEED certified building.

OPSEU display

There were a lot of great moments at the conference. One of the best for me was the end of the day speech by Clayton George Thomas-Muller, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, currently working on the Indigenous Tar Sands Campaign. It was a comprehensive analysis and rousing call to action.

Muller called for shutting down the tar sands and challenging the economic development model of capitalism itself as part of a road map to a greener, more equitable society.

Other keynote speakers included Tonika Morgan and Peter Tabuns. Each of the three workshops had panel presenters to help focus the discussion and to formulate a short list of priority campaigns.

I took part in the Infrastructure workshop. Priorities included support for Transit City and Metrolinks, education & training and some focus on how to make the Pan Am games (which had been awarded to Toronto the night before) work for the community.

All participants were asked to fill in the blank - "A good, green job is...." and then have their pictures taken. Check it out.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much coverage of the conference in the media but here's one story from the Canadian Press.

Hundreds brainstorm on making economy green at Toronto conference
How to stimulate Ontario's economy while protecting the environment at the same time was the focus of the Good Green Jobs for All conference in Toronto on Saturday

About 550 environmentalists, members of the labour movement and people interested in social justice attended the sold-out conference which featured speeches and workshops.

Statistics Canada said Friday Canada's struggling economy shed 43,200 jobs last month for a national jobless rate of 8.6 per cent, up from 8.4 per cent in September. Ontario's unemployment rate rose a tenth of a point to 9.3 per cent in October.

Climate change deniers gaining ground

I think we can all feel this as we read the papers, watch tv and listen to the radio. Big Energy's relentless campaign to protect its profits at the expense of the planet has been gaining traction in the US over the past year. Canada is no better I fear. Damn the science. To hell with the scientists. We are living in truly scary times.

The climate change talks in Barcelona went almost nowhere last week - at least not as far as people were saying they needed to go in order for a new deal to be hammered out next month in Copenhagen. So we may need another year before a comprehensive deal can be negotiated.

George Monbiot takes a look at the regrowth of the cancerous climate change deniers.

Death Denial
There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere which cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.

A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there’s solid evidence that the world has been warming over the past few decades has fallen from 71% to 57% in just 18 months(1). Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, US voters who believe that global warming is the result of natural causes (44%) now outnumber those who believe it is caused by human action (41%)(2)...

It certainly doesn’t reflect the state of the science, which has hardened dramatically over the past two years... The debate about global warming that’s raging on the internet and in the rightwing press does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Stand up for me"

Hat tip to Jackie Larkin for this video. From Moms Against Climate Change.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our Times Magazine: Climate Change is a Union Issue

Check out the latest issue of Our Times, Canada's Independent Labour magazine at the bookstore if you can. The focus of this issue is on climate change and features a couple of different unions, including OPSEU. There's even a couple of pictures of me in it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Barcelona climate change talks...

The last five days of negotiations before the December Copenhagen climate change talks got underway this week in Barcelona, Spain. The entire African delegation walked out of the talks and have just agreed to end their boycott. Meanwhile, no expenses are being spared by Big Energy to ensure that the Copenhagen talks go down in toxic flames.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My contract at OPSEU has come to an end...

This is an email that I sent out to green supporters in the union. Being the blogging type, I will continue to post interesting stories when I see them.

Dear OPSEU Green Stewards and Green Staff,
Just wanted to let you know that my contract at OPSEU is over (after a couple of renewals) and that I'll be returning to my job in the OPS in November. It has been an honour and privilege to have had the opportunity to help OPSEU move forward with our environmental program.

The support I have received from members, staff and elected leaders has been tremendous. My heartfelt thanks to everyone. Greening OPSEU is a process, so keep up the good work in whatever capacity that you are contributing.
In solidarity,
Gary Shaul

Fishing trawler sunk by giant jellyfish

From the bizarre file, so bizarre that I had to check to make sure it wasn't a hoax, a 10 ton Japanese fishing trawler capsized when pulling in its catch of giant Nomura's jellyfish.

A 10-ton fishing boat has been sunk by gigantic jellyfish off eastern Japan

Each of the jellyfish can weigh up to 200 kg and waters around Japan have been inundated with the creatures this year. Experts believe weather and water conditions in the breeding grounds, off the coast of China, have been ideal for the jellyfish in recent months.

One of the largest jellyfish in the world, the species can grow up to 2 meters in diameter. The last time Japan was invaded on a similar scale, in the summer of 2005, the jellyfish damaged nets, rendered fish inedible with their toxic stings and even caused injuries to fishermen.

Relatively little is known about Nomura's jellyfish, such as why some years see thousands of the creatures floating across the Sea of Japan on the Tsushima Current, but last year there were virtually no sightings. In 2007, there were 15,500 reports of damage to fishing equipment caused by the creatures.

Experts believe that one contributing factor to the jellyfish becoming more frequent visitors to Japanese waters may be a decline in the number of predators, which include sea turtles and certain species of fish.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Climate change protesters take message to House of Commons

Hats off to the more than 150 protesters who made their way into the visitors gallery in the House of Commons yesterday to protest the conservative and liberal parties decision to go to Copenhagen empty-handed. This is the kind of obstructionist approach which will ensure that no deal can be reached in these historic talks which are a follow-up to Kyoto. Shame on those MPs who sided with Big Energy instead of the people of Canada and the world.

Activist Jeh Custer after being roughed up by security

The daily back-and-forth, however, was overshadowed by the shouts and demands from a group of climate-change activists who had quietly taken over the north gallery. Their protest started as NDP Leader Jack Layton began asking his questions.

“Bill C-311,” shouted one protester. “Sign it, sign it, sign it,” the others responded. It was a well-orchestrated affair; as some protesters were dragged off by Commons security guards, others would pop up and start shouting again, drowning out Mr. Layton.

Bill C-311 is an NDP private-members bill that demands the government act on climate change at the upcoming Copenhagen conference. It has been delayed in committee by the Conservatives and some Liberals...

Six protesters were detained and have been barred from Parliament for a year.)
Apparently two were also injured as Parliament Hill security threw them out of the gallery.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

International Day of Climate Action

Today is International Day of Climate Action where groups and individuals around the world are supposed to take some action on the environment. There are plenty of actions and events listed for Ontario including Toronto, Ottawa, London, Hamilton, Peterborough, Sudbury, North Bay and Thunder Bay. is the main mover and shaker for this day of action.

Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. Learn more about 350 – what it means, where it came from, and how to get there.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Webconferencing used for new H&D advisor interviews

OPSEU's new webconference network got a good work out between October 13 and 20. As part of the union's commitment to our Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy, the union has long had member-volunteer advisors and investigators to assist other members with human rights issues. This work is co-ordinated by OPSEU's Equity Unit.

Being an advisor or investigator can be very tough work sometimes. Many cases stem from long-standing conflicts or issues resulting in the need to collect a lot of information. Some issues continue to fester even after a formal complaint is filed. It is often a very emotionally draining experience for the members involved and this impacts on those who are helping out.

So it's only natural that there's a turnover of our investigators and advisors. The union brings on new members to play these roles every year. I was approached several months ago by Libby Zeleke and Catherine Bowman from the Equity Unit about the feasibility of using webconferencing for the interviews (even before the network was officially up and running). I took on the challenge. In the end, I think it worked out quite well and saved a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions, time and money.

Dora Robinson (Region 3 Women's Committee, Libby Zeleke, OPSEU Equity Officer

Not that there weren't some technical glitches now and then with the audio, but for the most part, the
system performed as expected. Each day, applicants from a different region were interviewed. The project included 13 panelists (3 per day) and about two dozen applicants. The web conferences were support with help from the regional secretaries in 9 or 10 OPSEU offices and support staff at our head office. Thanks to those staff who made it possible.

Canada going to Copenhagen empty handed...

Liberals snub NDP climate-change bill
This is pretty shameful behavior on the part of the federal Liberals in my opinion. Just at the time when Canada needs to step up to the plate and show some leadership on this "file", the libs join the cons to help scuttle the Copenhagen talks.

Federal Liberals say they won't support the NDP in its effort to push a private member's climate-change bill through the House of Commons on Wednesday...

But New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said the delay would undermine efforts to have the bill passed into law before the Copenhagen summit in December.

Layton wants the bill's tougher greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to be in force when Canada sends delegates to the summit, where international leaders hope to forge a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the global greenhouse-gas treaty ratified by dozens of countries, including Canada.

The bill has passed through two readings in the House of Commons since it was introduced by NDP member of Parliament Bruce Hyer, receiving support from the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois.

Liberal environment critic David McGuinty, however, said the committee needs more time to study the implications of the bill.
More time? What about the implications of failure to reach a global climate change deal in Copenhagen? Big Energy must be grinning for cheek to cheek.

Climate change course - Train the trainer

On October 14 & 15, OPSEU's new course - Climate Change - It's a union issue - went through the train-the-trainer process so that members and staff from around the province can deliver the course to local leaders and members. I am pleased to report that the union's Regional Education Committees (there are seven) can now add this course to their quarterly weekend education program.

The course covers the causes and impacts of climate change with a strong focus on climate justice and actions that can be taken in our union, workplaces, communities and personal lives to make a difference.

In all, there were 4 members and 4 staff who attended this two day training session. On Day 1, Education Officer Kay Singh and I worked through the generic course with participants. Education Officer Barb Thomas provided support by tracking issues as they came up during the course. Our goal was not just to train the trainers, but to help take it from a "boiler-plate" to course that is more OPSEU- and Ontario-specific and in conformity with the general format of other OPSEU courses. It was a very interactive two days and there was a lot of positive energy and excellent ideas shared to tailor this to our union's needs.

Front row: Laurie Sabourin, Kay Singh, Rhonda Gibson
Back row: Peter McKenzie, Janet Heyman, Christopher Frampton, Greg McVeigh, Don Doucette, Gary Shaul
(photo by Barb Thomas, Marie Thomson from Region 1 was also in the training session)

On Day 2, the trainers were divided into pairs and assigned different parts of the curriculum to deliver themselves.

Brainstorming results

The generic course was developed by Jackie Larkin in 2008 working with staff and members of OPSEU, PSAC, CUPW, CUPE, Steelworkers, BCGEU, BC Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). It can be found here, on the CLC website. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with environmentalists from across the labour movement.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Planet in Focus opens tonight

The Planet in Focus film festival opens tonight. OPSEU is a proud festival sponsor. I hope to see a number of films including tonight's opener Finding Farley.

For a full festival program, check out their website.

Urgent: Bill C-311 - Climate Change Accountability Act

This just in from Karen Hawley at NUPGE.

Hi folks,
As members of Climate Action Network-Canada, NUPGE is in meetings with MPs this week - urging the Liberals to vote against the Conservative motion to delay the reading of this important climate bill.

This is an urgent matter. Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, risks not being passed before Copenhagen because the Liberals are playing politics. Canadians need to push the Liberals to do the right thing today.

There is a vote TODAY at 5:40pm on a Conservative motion to extend the bill's time in committee. If the Liberals support this motion to delay, the bill will not be voted on (or passed) before COP 15 in Copenhagen.

If the Liberals do not support the Conservative motion to delay, the bill will automatically go to the House of Commons for a vote, just before Copenhagen. If bill C 311 is passed in the House of Commons, the Conservative position on climate change will not be Canada's position internationally.

The NDP and the Bloc have been amazing at both working cooperatively with the other parties and pushing as hard as possible for C 311 to pass before Copenhagen.

The Liberals have already voted for this bill (or previous permutations) five times, most recently in April. This bill has been heavily debated, there have been hours upon hours of expert presentations and there are no amendments to the bill despite ongoing opportunities to amend - there is not a rational reason to delay this bill. We need to push the Liberals to do the right thing today.

In solidarity,


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tar sands: First hand account

I just came across this series of articles from last month on the blog. They're written accounts of blogger Emily Hunter's trip to the Alberta tar sands country in September. Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

"To see it even more, I took to the skies with a chartered plane. What I saw will be etched on my brain for the rest of my life. It looked like it was the year 2100 and the world had gone wrong, except that it was 2009 and right here in Canada. It was as far as the eye could see, an unrecognizable moonscape. Earth didn't exist here any longer..."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Beware of the serpents...

Now to the creepy crawly department. While not directly related to climate change, this is a story about consumerism applied to pets. It is about fragile wildlife habitats and how human activity can cause BIG trouble. It's a story that's captured my imagination since I first heard about it last year.

Florida Has Had It With These Non-Native Snakes!

Five giant invasive snake species — Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas — could endanger some of America's most important parks and wilderness areas if they are allowed to multiply, according to a report released on by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Tuesday...

The snakes have escaped or been released into the wild by people who purchased them as pets when they were small and manageable.

The environment of south Florida has proven to be a favorable environment for the snakes to thrive and breed. It is estimated that tens of thousands or Burmese pythons now live throughout the Everglades, a wildlife refuge home to the Florida panther and other endangered species. The snakes are competing with native alligators, crocodiles and other predators...
They're not just competing. A mature Burmese python will eat alligators - although not always with great success. Just ponder this for a minute.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day on climate change

Who knew? I found on that today is Blog Action Day 09. The goal is to have as many blogs say something about climate change as possible. What can I say?

1) On October 14 and 15, I worked with education officers Kay Singh and Barb Thomas to deliver the train-the-trainer program for the climate change course which was developed last year with a number of other union partners. We had a great bunch with participants who will be able to deliver the course to local leaders and members in most parts of the province. The course covers the causes and impacts of climate change with a strong focus on climate justice actions that can be taken in our union, workplaces, communities and personal lives to make a difference. More to come on that soon.

2) Today was the second day of OPSEU's process to replenish our harassment and discrimination investigators and advisors. These are member volunteers who assist other members and the union with internal complaints. This year, the Equity Unit decided to try out webconferencing to reduce travel outside Toronto. Each day, applicants from a different region are being interviewed. The project includes 13 panelists (3 per day), about 25 applicants and help from the regional secretaries in 9 or 10 OPSEU offices and support staff at our head office.

While there have been some minor technical glitches, all interviews conducted so far have been successful. Libby Zeleke, OPSEU Equity Officer (working from head office) is co-ordinating the interview program. I'll report more fully next week once the interviews have been completed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bangkok Climate Change Talks wrap up

Part of the prelude to the Copenhagen climate change talks taking place in December is a series of working group meetings which are supposed to be doing the prep work for the big one. The Bangkok Climate Change Talks - held from September 28 to October 9, wrapped up last week.

Despite the official hype, it doesn't look like things are going that well. In fact, there was a walk-out by about 70 delegations when Canada "suggested replacing the Kyoto Protocol with an entirely new global-warming pact".

"The conversation, in our view, at the point in time was effectively over and the G77 left the room," Joanne Yawitch, a South African negotiator at the Bangkok talks, said in an interview...

The developing nations were perturbed that Canada and other industrial countries would consider copying parts Kyoto into a new treaty. "You can't do a cut and paste on a ratified treaty," Yawitch said.
Canada is doing its part to protect Big Energy but we're certainly not alone.

From the U.K. Guardian:
"The rift between rich and poor has intensified because rich countries have not put serious money on the table to help poor countries adapt to escalating impacts of climate change," said Oxfam's senior climate adviser, Antonio Hill. "The US has been silent on the scale of finance it will commit to."
The next set of talks are scheduled in Barcelona from November 2 to 6.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Web conferencing update

On Tuesday & Wednesday evenings this week, OPSEU conducted two focus groups using web conferencing. The purpose of the conferences was to get input into the OPSEU Census which is part of the convention-mandated Social Mapping Project. The first session went off without a hitch. The second session had a few glitches but overall achieved its objectives.

Beginning on October 13, OPSEU's equity unit will be conducting web conference interviews with members around the province who have expressed an interest in becoming OPSEU Harassment and Discrimination Advisors.

Other requests are beginning to come in for webconferences including the Retirees Division.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Good green jobs for all conference

Here's a copy of the email and letter that was sent to our Green Stewards network and Toronto area local presidents last week.


Dear Region 5 Green Stewards,

Last fall’s "Good Jobs for All" Summit was attended by over 1,000 people. Green economic development was identified as one key priority campaign area (along with EI reform and temp agencies). This led to the formation of a “green jobs” working group which has worked on a number of issues. With OPSEU’s support, we are organizing an innovative and exciting, one-day "Good green jobs for all" conference on November 7.

Please share this email with your local and regional networks.

Given the directions that both the tanking economy and the environment are headed, the time for a new approach to economic development and job creation is long overdue.

The Good Green Jobs for All conference will provide an opportunity for union, environmental and community leaders and activists to share information and strengthen the relationships needed to build the kind of vibrant and powerful movement required to help steer our economy in a more sustainable direction to ensure that "all boats are lifted".

Saturday, November 7

9:00 - 4:30

Allstream Building, CNE at the Princes Gate

(formerly the Automotive Building)


OPSEU will cover the $75 registration fee for members which includes lunch. There are two ways to register:

1) Download the registration form at and mail or fax it to Labour Council, or

2) Send an email to containing the registration information.

In either case, be sure to make your first and second workshop selections and register as soon as you're sure you can attend.

In solidarity

Gary Shaul

Greening OPSEU

416-443-8888 x 8723

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