Friday, 22 May 2020

A Major Oil Pipeline Project Strikes Deep at the Heart of Africa

In the line of fire? Giraffe in a Ugandan National
Park destined for major oil development.
Photo by DrexRockman.
Despite the global plunge in oil prices, a major pipeline that would carry oil 900 miles across East Africa is moving ahead. International experts warn that the $20 billion project will displace thousands of small farmers and put key wildlife habitat and coastal waters at risk.
Story here.

But it's a dry heat: Climate change and the aridification of North America


Photo by Red Charlie
Discussions of drought often centre on the lack of precipitation. But among climate scientists, the focus is shifting to include the growing role that warming temperatures are playing as potent drivers of greater aridity and drought intensification. Story here.

Monday, 18 May 2020

'This pandemic is nothing compared to what climate change has in store'

John Gibbons
IMAGINE FOR A moment that our government and others around the world had been given detailed information and warnings about the coronavirus years, even decades before it finally erupted.  Story here.


Flooding impacts emergency response time in England

 Journal: Nature Sustainability

Before:The Drum Bridge, Dunmurry,UK, 2009.
After: Photos by Albert Bridge
First responders, such as fire and ambulance services, will likely struggle to reach urgent cases in a timely manner during low-level flooding in England. These findings are reported in an analysis of emergency response time in England under adverse geographic and climate conditions, published this week in Nature Sustainability.

Global carbon emissions decline during COVID-19

NATURE RESEARCH - Climate sciences: 
Empty streets are the order of the day now that Covid-19
has forced lockdowns in many places.

Daily global CO2 emissions fell by 17% by early April 2020, compared to mean 2019 levels, as a result of governments’ policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, suggests a paper in Nature Climate Change

Policies implemented by governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have had a significant impact on energy demand globally. With much of the world’s population confined to their homes and international borders closed, consumption and transportation rates have fallen. However, the lack of real-time global emissions data has made it difficult to quantify the impacts.

Corinne Le Quéré and colleagues reviewed a combination of energy, activity and policy data available up to end of April 2020 to estimate the changes in daily CO2 emissions compared to 2019. Changes in CO2 emissions were estimated across six economic sectors — power, surface transport, industry, public buildings and commerce, residential and aviation — under different confinement scenarios. The authors found that total CO2 emissions decreased by 17% by early April 2020 relative to 2019, and that average daily emissions decreased by 26% per country. Emissions from surface transport and aviation fell by 36% and 60%, respectively. Surface transport, power and industry accounted for 86% of the total decline in emissions.
The authors also estimated the impact of this decline on total emissions for 2020. They suggest that if pre-crisis activity levels return by mid-June, there might be a 4% total average decline by the end of year. If some restrictions remain until the end of 2020, average total emissions may decline by 7%.


Thursday, 14 May 2020

Letter to the Editor RE: Meat-packing sector needs oversight

Published recently in the Winnipeg Free Press.
The recent closures of meat packing plants in Alberta, Quebec and several American states due to the Covid-19 pandemic are shedding light on the tremendous expense of this style of massive meat processing operation. The expense borne by the workers at the plants is the greatest of all, their health threatened so severely, even causing death to one Cargill worker in Alberta. However the expense doesn’t stop there as consumers are expected to see meat prices jump, farmers have seen the prices paid for their animals drop by more than 30% and tax payers will ultimately pay the price to help bail out this sector.
Several decades ago when the move to close smaller slaughterhouses in favour of building huge single entity plants was happening, the rationale was that there were going to be tremendous efficiencies in doing this. National Farmers Union studies showed that the promised efficiencies of consumers seeing cheaper meat and farmers making a decent living simply did not materialize. The spread between what famers are paid for their animals and what consumers pay for meat has grown. The working conditions at the plants with thousands of animals being slaughtered each day are stressful at the best of times and downright dangerous during these times. Farmers suddenly have nowhere to sell their animals and consumers are starting to see less meat on their shelves.
Now is the time to look at how we can build a meat processing system that will not cause these massive problems. A move to build smaller, safer slaughter plants in each province would help to disperse the threats to food security. We could assure meat supply from local farms to meet local demands. If one plant was forced to close it would not disrupt the food chain across the entire country. Providing safe secure food from local farms to local consumers is entirely possible without putting meat packing workers at risk. Surely we’ve learned that bigger is not always better.

Vicki Burns, 440 Waverley Street, Winnipeg 204-488-1237
Fred Tait, Box 18, Rossendale MB 204-252-2153

Of pandemics and politicians. (Opinion)

by Larry Powell
Politicians need to be judged, not by their words, but their actions. Ontario Premier, Doug Ford has been generally well-received for his press conferences during the pandemic. Sounding good. Saying the right things. But it was under his watch, after all, that inspections of Ontario's personal care homes were slashed to save money. And we all know how tragic and deadly the situation has become within such homes in Ontario and elsewhere. Sadly, Ford's actions are consistent with a neo-liberal agenda that has dominated the world, notably since the Reagan/Thatcher era. Cut, slash. Get governments "out of the way," Contract out. Lay off. Throw your jurisdictions "open for business" while shrinking public services like education and health. Let the market rule! (Music to the ears of the likes of Mike Harris, former Tory premier of ON. He seems to have done alright assuming the helm of one of the for-profit, private home-care companies in that province.)

Then, there's Alberta. Premier Kenney appears, in some ways, to grasp the gravity of the crisis and what's needed to counter it. Yet his government has shamelessly and heartlessly directed (no doubt at the behest of its rich, powerful and American-owned owner, Cargill) the re-opening of a big meat plant which has seen the single largest outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in North America! This is shameful and outrageous. It flies in the face of warnings from the Union there, that a re-opening would only lead to a resurgence of the pandemic, putting its members under even greater risk. Many of those members are vulnerable foreign workers, forced by economic necessity to live in crowded housing and work in dangerous, cramped condition in the plant.
It was also under Kenney's watch that an "inspection" of the plant was carried out via Skype! This, too is in keeping with neo-liberal philosophy. Its leaders view most any regulation as nothing more than "red tape" to be done away with, no matter the consequences.
 (Just look at Manitoba, where a Tory regime - with positively Trumpian zeal - has done away with "pesky" rules which once kept at least a partial reign on a now-runaway, high-maintenance, costly-to-the-public-purse, cruel and polluting, "factory-style" pork industry.)
As long as we keep electing leaders who care more about political expediency and cronyism than science, nothing will change.

Beyond Covid 19. Are we risking yet another pandemic if we continue to embrace "assembly-line" livestock production into the future?

by Larry Powell No one would argue that Covid 19 demands our undivided attention. Surely,  defeating this "beast" has to be &...