Thursday, December 31, 2015

Faith vs. Science. Why Can't We Have Both?

by Larry Powell 

Do you ever wonder why so many people of faith, especially on the Christian right, still deny the science of climate change? There was yet another example of this in Ken Waddell's editorial, "Assessing change," before Christmas. It appeared in his newspaper, "The Neepawa (MB) Banner."

As we all know, Ken has been a respected leader in our community for a long time, in journalism, politics and religion, sometimes adorning his articles with passages from the Bible. In his editorial, he refuses to accept the conclusion now long endorsed by an overwhelming consensus of scientists - that  the burning of fossil fuel by we humans is the major culprit behind our planetary climate crisis. 

He even calls the federal and provincial governments "certifiably nuts" for the ways in which they've embraced the recent Paris climate accord.  No one could ever fault Ken for "beating around the bush!" And I don't either - just for being wrong! (Not for being a person of faith. But for repudiating the science.)
proclaims the Bible verse 
on the Banner newspaper building. 
PinP photo

After all, to accept that Christ was born to a virgin, walked on water, turned water into wine, cured the incurable, rose from the dead, walked the earth again, then ascended into Heaven and is still with us "up there" two millennia later, surely requires nothing less than a suspension of our earthly disbelief in order to grasp it all. 
Lions, tigers and bears put aside their predatory instincts and, 2x2, obediently board Noah's Ark (Noah himself was 500 years old at the time),  along with zebra, goats and sheep, all in an orderly fashion. Indeed, all the creatures of the Earth from far and wide converge to ride out the Great Flood which a vengeful God was about to unleash on His creation.  
Notice the Ark rendering does not depict dinosaurs, even though some Christian Evangelicals believe the creatures actually co-existed with humans. Maybe the cartoon explains why they aren't around today, then. Noah forgot them and left them behind?

Then there was Jonah, who lived in the belly of a whale, Methuselah, who lived for almost a thousand years, Moses who parted the seas, Eve, who was made from Adam's rib, the talking snake and on and on.

So, if folks like Ken can seemingly accept such tales of miraculous wonder, why then is it so difficult for them to believe that our earthly home is now warming dangerously and that we humans are to blame? (For climate change, in the modern context, is not really a matter of "belief" at all. It is "fact!" And fact should not be that hard for the human brain to accept. Should it?)

For well over a generation, the planet’s top minds have accumulated massive, systematic and verifiable evidence that global warming is real, it is overwhelmingly negative and is caused largely by the volumes of fossil fuels we are burning. These findings have been accepted by an overwhelming consensus of scientists who specialize in this very field. Their findings have been supported by weather records, satellite images, aerial photographs, computer models, time-lapse photography, tree-rings and ice-cores. 

Thousands of climatologists, glaciologists, palaeontologists and others with specialized training, toil in government and university labs the world over, conducting their painstaking research. They also work in the field, often in hostile environments where some have even died in the course of their duties. Their work has resulted in a steadily mounting degree of certainty that our climate is warming, spawning sea level rise, melting ice caps, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires which are becoming more numerous and severe. 


As this has been happening, levels of greenhouse gases, produced when coal, oil and natural gas are consumed, have been heading "into the stratosphere" so to speak (see graph). Meanwhile, the experts have been documenting their evidence in countless peer-reviewed articles in respected scientific journals for a long time now. 

A few years ago, the leading authority on the topic, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its hundreds of scientists even won the Nobel prize, the highest award anywhere, for their work. 

Of course there are significant religious entities, including the United Church of Canada and the Pope, who strongly support the science, too. 

So I appeal to those who do not, to find it in their hearts (and heads) to accept not only the Biblical miracles (if they must), but the reality of global warming, as well. 

After all, do these things have to be "mutually exclusive?" I hope you'll agree that they do not.

Don't forget, floods of "biblical proportions" have been ravaging the northern UK and the Mississipi River basin again this winter. But, unlike the Great Flood of Noah's day, the evidence is clearly telling us, these tragedies have nothing to do with God at all, and a lot to do with man!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Farm Expansion Driving US Native Bee Declines

The Ecologist
Bumble bees on chives. PinP photo.
Wild bee decline is closely associated with the advance of intensive farming and habitat loss, a new study shows. It follows an earlier paper that linked 'delayed action' decline of wild bees to exposure to pesticides including fungicides - previously considered 'bee-safe'. More here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Was The Costliest US Wildfire Season Ever


Burning through over 9.8 million acres — an area roughly the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined — the 2015 wildfire season was the most expensive on record. More here.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Need for More Disaster Planning in Rural Manitoba

Manitoba Co-Operator
Hoarfrost buildup on power lines has become all-too-common in Manitoba. This was the scene in Dec. 2012. PinP photo.

A seminar Jan. 14 in Portage la Prairie will look at how the risk environment is changing in rural Manitoba. Details here.

Thanks, Climate Change. Extreme Weather Wreaking Havoc Across Globe

'Biblical' flooding in the UK has forced hundreds of evacuations, while fatal storms in U.S. have killed at least 43 people. More here.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

There's A Way to Save Our Future. So Why Aren't More People Talking About It?


PinP blogger, Larry Powell, 
plants a cover crop on his organic 
acreage in Manitoba. (Circa 2000) PinP photo.
Transitioning to organic regenerative agriculture practices 'offers the best, and perhaps our only, hope for averting a global warming disaster.' More here.

Raven Thundersky, Indigenous Health Advocate, Dies at 50

CBC News

'The last thing she did was smile,' Thundersky's daughter Raven-Dominique Gobeil says. Story here.

World's Lakes Are Warming Surprisingly Quickly Due to Climate Change

CBC News
Clear Lk. MB. PinP photo.
Canadian lakes and those that are ice-covered in winter are warming twice as fast as others. Story here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Life and Death

George Monbiot - the Guardian
The remarkable decline in violence between humans suggests that we could also restrain our violence against the planet. More here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Are we Going to Sit Back And Wait For the Next Mine Waste Disaster?

New Internationalist
‘If the dam had collapsed at night, everyone would have died.’

These chilling words came from….More here.

Liability for Climate (In)Action: Who Will be Next?

CIEL Center for International Environmental Law
This summer, we celebrated a big win for the climate.  In a lawsuit brought by Urgenda and nearly 900 co-plaintiffs against the Dutch government (Urgenda Foundation et al. v. The Netherlands), the District Court of The Hague found that the government “acted negligently” when it adopted an unambitious climate policy that poses a threat to human rights in the Netherlands. More here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The ‘Unfolding Global Disaster’ Happening Right Under Our Feet.


Organic squash in Manitoba.  PinP photo.
With all that’s going on in the world — from record-breaking warm spells to rapidly melting ice sheets — it’s easy to ignore something so seemingly mundane as dirt. But scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures suggest that we ignore dirt at our own peril. Details here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

UK to Allow Shale Gas Fracking Beneath National Parks

  • Reuters

British lawmakers have voted in favour of the use of fracking to extract shale gas under national parks, weakening a decision against fracking in national parks made earlier this year and giving shale gas explorers access to more resources. More here.

Climate Denial Alive & Well in Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada. A Prominent, Local "Opinion Leader" Knocks the Climate Deal at the Paris Summit.

The editorial, below, appeared in the latest issue of the Neepawa Banner. It was written by Ken Waddell, the paper's publisher and long-time political, journalistic and religious voice in the community.


The Paris climate agreement just took away one of climate skeptics’ favourite arguments for inaction. More here.

All's Not Well

on Earth - NRDC

Meadowlark PinP photo.

North Dakota’s oil and gas boom is scaring away grassland birds. More here.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

They're Killing the Peace River Valley in BC Now

The Tyee

The $9 billion flaying, then drowning of a fertile zone has begun. We still don't know why. More here. More here.

The Shrimp Industry’s Slave Labor Problem Is Even Worse Than We Thought


Earlier this year, the Associated Press conducted a startling undercover investigation which found that seafood caught by slaves in Myanmar was reaching the shelves of American supermarkets. But now, AP says that a further investigation has revealed that global restaurants and stores—including supposedly conscientious retailers like Whole Foods—are also selling shrimp peeled by slaves. More here.

Don’t Talk About “Trade” at the Global Climate Talks!

Is there an understanding between world governments that any new climate deal shall not include any mention of trade? Some fear that may be the case. More here.

The Story of Drought


Drought has always been a part of the human experience. But the story of drought is more than dry fields. It is the story of famine, migration and conflict. It also is the story of creativity, invention and reorganization. Drought and the issues surrounding it drive much of our technological, political, economic and ecological decision-making. More here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The World Agrees at Last

The Canadian Chamber participated in the COP21 Climate Conference, which ran from November 30 to December 11. Canadian Chamber staff produced periodic briefing notes to keep our membership apprised of the proceedings and the potential impact for Canadian business. For more information, click here.

The World Agrees at Last

On Saturday, history was made as the world adopted the first-ever universal agreement on climate change. The Paris Agreement differs from all previous COP agreements in the sense that it provides a framework for a bottom-up approach to fighting climate change, whereby each country submits its own voluntary plan of action (its INDC). Previous agreements had attempted to implement top-down approaches (e.g., emissions reductions targets by certain years) that placed a heavy burden on developed countries while placing relatively little responsibility on developing nations, as seen in the Kyoto Protocol. The Paris Agreement is legally binding in the sense that nations are required to report on their progress in meeting their pledges every five years. However, nations are not obliged to meet their targets, and the punishment for not reporting is essentially limited to reputational damage.

As the parties sat down in the final plenary to adopt the agreement, there was a last-minute point of contention regarding Article 4.4. The U.S. insisted that the word “shall” be replaced by “should” in the line now stating “Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.” The article then states “Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigations efforts...” This change of wording is more than a minor edit and speaks to the idea of differentiation, which has been at the heart of these negotiations—the division in responsibility between developed and developing nations in tackling climate change and reducing emissions. Underpinning this idea is the right for developing countries to power their development, if need be, by using the same fossil fuels that propelled developed countries to their current high standards of living. The chatter in the halls was that the U.S. delegation wanted to be able to tell its domestic audience that the U.S. and China are held to the same standards in the agreement, since the latter is still considered a ‘developing’ nation.
Canada Represents

“Canada is back” was the slogan uttered by Prime Minister Trudeau during his speech at the conference, and the international community is generally pleased about this. Also keeping true to his promise to be back, Arnold Schwarzenegger made an appearance at COP last week to encourage sub-national governments to take an active lead in fighting climate change.

Despite Canada bolstering its environmental agenda since the federal election, Climate Action Network International presented Canada with two fossil-of-the-day awards, along with other developed nations, for preventing increasing ambition in the text and for supporting the exclusion of compensation and liability in the loss and damage section (referring to financial and other assistance to nations, mainly vulnerable states such as small islands, which are damaged due to the impacts of climate change).

Almost all the premiers were active at COP, in addition to opposition leaders and provincial ministers. But behind the glitz and glamour, Canada’s bureaucrats worked tirelessly from morning to night negotiating the gritty details of the text and deserve to be commended for their tireless efforts.

The Canadian Chamber Active on the Ground

The Chairs of our Natural Resources and Environment Committee and our International Strategic Advisory Committee were on the ground last week, following negotiations. We were one of the few business and industry NGOs (BINGOs) at COP, which in the final days of negotiations met with Minister Ségolène Royal, the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy and the chief of the French delegation, and Special Envoy Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, in order to convey the business community’s thoughts on the draft text. The group expressed its desire to see the following in the final agreement: 1) explicit reference to the private sector as a key stakeholder; and 2) reference to international emissions trading and carbon pricing.

Where the Text Landed
  • Ambition - Parties have agreed to keep the global temperature increase to “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”Canada was one of the first developed countries to support moving toward the 1.5 °C target.
However, countries’ submitted commitments (the INDCs) are estimated at best to keep the temperature increase to 2.7 °C. Therefore, to meet the 2 °C target, countries will need to either exceed their current commitments or increase them in the coming years. Also of note, the agreement indicates that in the second half of the century, man-made emissions should be reduced to a level that forests and oceans can absorb.
  • Finance – Developed countries will raise $100 billion a year by 2020, through public and private means, to assist developing countries. This figure will be considered a floor level from 2025 onward. Only part of this sum will pass through the Green Climate Fund, which was set up by the U.N. in 2010 to assist with climate finance.
  • Review mechanism – Each country’s progress in meeting its targets will be reviewed every 5 years, starting in 2023, using a common accounting framework. 
  • Loss and damage – Although referenced in the agreement, there is no liability for financial compensation to be paid to developing nations that suffer damage from the adverse effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events. 
  • The role of business – Business was not explicitly referenced in the preamble of the agreement. However, the preamble does refer to “various actors,” which can be interpreted to include business. The private sector is specifically referenced in parts of the decision text and in article 6 of the agreement, which deals with markets. In article 6, international emissions trading is referenced through the phrase “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes.”

What are the Implications for Canadian Business?
One of the main purposes of the Paris Agreement was to send a strong signal to markets that the world is shifting away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and, thereby, encourage financial flows to move more in that direction. To some extent, the agreement accomplishes this goal. With a target of $100 billion a year by 2020 to assist developing nations (the OECD calculates over $60 billion flowed in 2014), there will be opportunities for Canadian business in the clean technology field to access this money for projects in developing countries.

It is important to recognize that despite the increasing appetite for renewable energy, the fossil fuel industry will continue to form a critical component of the energy mix moving forward. As the federal government offers ongoing support to boost renewable industries, so too will it be necessary to work with fossil fuel industries to reduce their carbon footprint through technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

What Now?
The Paris Agreement will come into effect once it is ratified by a least 55 countries representing more than 55% of global GHG emissions. It should be noted that any party can withdraw from the agreement following a year after giving notice, highlighting its voluntary nature.

On the domestic front, Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to convene a first ministers meeting within 90 days to identify national emissions reduction targets and develop a pan-Canadian framework for addressing climate change. Minister McKenna has indicated that the target Canada submitted at Paris (a 30% reduction in GHGs from 2005 levels by 2030) would be a floor from which to work from. Mr. Trudeau indicated that provinces and territories would be able to develop their own plans and systems for meeting this target, but many questions remain.

Other key pieces on the horizon include federal intentions to:
·       review the environmental assessment process,
·       develop a North American clean energy and environmental agreement with the U.S. and Mexico and
·       develop a Canadian energy strategy.

NASA: 2015 Will Be ‘A Scorcher Relative To All Other Years’ On Record

November was so hot globally it’s now over 99.999 percent certain 2015 will be the hottest year on record — driven overwhelmingly by record levels of carbon pollution in the air. More here.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stop the Wolf cull in BC - PLEASE SIGN!


We can properly protect the mountain caribou and wolves by stopping industrial encroachment on their habitat. PLEASE SIGN HERE.

COP21 Deal Signed, Ending Fossil Fuel Era: Experts


History was made today in Paris as the leaders of 195 nations agreed to an ambitious, science-based pact to move the world away from the fossil fuels that are to blame for the rapid increase in global temperatures. More here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Scientists Warn: The Paris Climate Agreement Needs Massive Improvement

The Nation

The current text doesn’t even mention “fossil fuels” and lacks strong language on human rights. More here.

Rachel Notley Assassination Chatter 'Needs to Stop,' Wildrose Leader Says

CBC News
'I have a zero tolerance policy for such comments,' Brian Jean says after death threats appear online. More here.

Acid Trip: Great Lakes Could Face Similar Acidification Risk as the Seas


Acidification is not just for oceans—the Great Lakes could acidify, too, as our carbon emissions increase. Here's why you should take note. More here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean is opposing same changes protecting farm workers he once agreed with

It sounds like Brian Jean is flip flopping once again.
The leader of Alberta's Wildrose Party has been making hay over Bill 6 lately, new legislation that seeks to correct Alberta's potentially unconstitutional labour laws by extending Workers' Compensation Board coverage to paid farm workers and bringing workplace safety up to par with other Canadian provinces.
"What goes around comes around," Jean recently told one rally opposing these changes.

Funny thing about that, mind you – Jean didn't seem to think the proposed WCB changes he's currently opposing were such a bad idea eight months ago. MORE HERE.

Vultures are Revolting. Here’s Why We need to Save Them


The scavengers do the dirty work of cleaning up after death. With their numbers plummeting, we’re learning how much we need to keep them alive. More here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

When Planting Trees Hurts the Environment

In Paris this week, policy-makers are considering an ambitious new plan to cover 50 million acres of South American land with trees. That might not be a good idea. More here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Floods (Story & Video)

Hi Larry,

As you read this email, vast swathes of the UK are underwater. Buckling from the strain of torrential rains, rivers have overflowed and flood defences have been breached. Hundreds of families have been forced to evacuate their homes [1].

David Cameron has pledged to help people suffering in the wake of the destruction. That’s a start. But in the aftermath of such ferocious storms, we need to make sure he joins the dots to climate change.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Canada Shocks COP21 With Big New Climate Commitment


Canada has surprised a world of nations and negotiators in closed-door climate talks in Paris by endorsing a bolder, more ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gases than the UN climate change summit is officially aiming for. More here.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

'Huge Error': Former US Military Chief Admits Iraq Invasion Spawned ISIS


The U.S. is poised to repeat all the same mistakes in Syria that it made in Iraq after 9/11, says former head of Defense Intelligence Agency. Story here.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Contrails Conspiracy Is Not Only Garbage, It's Letting Aviation Off The Hook Too

George Monbiot - The Guardian

The real issue – global warming caused by aircraft emissions – calls on us to act. But focusing on ‘chemtrails’ absolves people of the responsibility to do so. More here.

Palm Oil

Dear Larry,
The fires in Indonesia have been called “a crime against humanity” – and our investigators are on the ground now gathering evidence to expose the companies responsible and hold them to account. Can you take your support to the next step and help us by donating £5 per month?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Dow moving ahead with Enlist corn in Canada despite US setback


Dow AgroSciences is moving ahead with plans for Enlist corn in Canada, despite a significant regulatory setback in the United States. More here.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A dirty deal: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens our climate

 The deal fails to even mention the words “climate change”—a clear sign it is not “a 21st-century trade agreement,” as some have claimed. More here.

’Twas the Night Before Christmas…Larry takes crass liberties with the classic old poem to serve his own narrow, selfish ends!

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land 
global warming was here. It was grand! It was grand! 

Cars would start! Ice would melt! Folks wore their light clothes!
While up through their chimneys mere wisps of smoke rose!

On the air one could hear mindless forecasters say
"It's seven degrees. Hope this thaw lasts 'til May!" 

But up at the pole it was not Santa's day.

Two of his reindeer had just passed away. Dasher and Dancer had sadly drowned
while playing with mates confined to the ground. 

There was a river they could normally cross
but its ice had grown thin in the tenuous frost. 

So the two were not helped by the fact they could fly 
and the deep, clear water is where they did die. 

The Great White Bears of the north met similar ends 
just as learned scholars did portend. 

Christmas day dawned in the south 
but alas, 'twas not white
lawns were brown fields were black
it just didn't seem right! 

The skis and toboggans the kids had received 
were soon tossed aside just like old Christmas trees. 

"The moon on the crest of the new-fallen snow 
gave the lustre of midday to objects below." 

But a decade from now when these words are intoned.......
will their image be real - or merely a poem? 

Ecojustice files complaint with Competition Bureau against climate denial groups


Ecojustice, on behalf of a group of prominent Canadians, has filed a complaint with the federal Competition Bureau, asking it to investigate false and misleading representations made by climate change denier groups. More here.

How palm oil cultivation in Borneo is threatening the ecosystem everywhere

The Washington Post

Ahead of the Paris Sustainable Innovation Forum, COP21, taking place this month, In Sight spoke with wildlife photographer and filmmaker Mattias Klum, who will be among the many conservationists and activists speaking on environmental issues that threaten the Earth’s ecosystem. Klum has traversed the world as a photographer and filmmaker for National Geographic, documenting ecosystems from the Galapagos to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. But he believes that one of the Earth’s most pressing environmental concerns is palm oil cultivation in Indonesia and Malaysia, illustrated here in his stunning series of photographs. More here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Platform Reveals How Much Carbon Is Locked in Tropical Forests – and How Much Was Lost


Between 2001 and 2013, greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation across the world’s tropical forests were, on average, larger than Russia’s economy-wide emissions in 2012. That’s 2,270 million metric tons (Mt) of carbon dioxide every year. More here.

Genetically Modified Mustard is Unsafe for Us. Stop potential approval of its cultivation Vandana Shiva

This ‘new’ mustard in our kitchen could soon be harmful to us. More here. 

The World Mourns One of its Greats: Maurice Strong Dies, His Legacy Lives On.
" This is not just a technical issue. Everybody's actions are motivated by their inner life, their moral, spiritual and ethical values. Global agreements will be effective when they are rooted in the individual commitment of people, which arises from their own inner life." More here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Exxon Targets Journalists Who Exposed Massive Climate Cover Up


'We’ve often wondered if Exxon actually hates our children because they so consistently stand in the way of safeguarding their future,' campaigner said, 'it turns out they apparently hate good journalism as well.' Story here.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...