Obama’s Pipeline Quagmire September 13, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta oil, baack obama, bill mckibben, carbon emissions, civil disobedience, dirty oil, evnivronment, keystone xl, oil industry, oil pipeline, pipeline safety, pipeline spills, Ralph Nader, roger hollander, tar sands
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It was the most extraordinary citizen organizing feat in recent White House history. Over 1200 Americans from 50 states came to Washington and were arrested in front of the White House to demonstrate their opposition to a forthcoming Obama approval of the Keystone XL dirty oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast.
Anyone who has tried to mobilize people in open non-violent civil disobedience knows how hard it is to have that many people pay their way to Washington to join a select group of civic champions. The first round of arrestees – about 100 of them – were brought to a jail and kept on cement floors for 52 hours – presumably, said one guard, on orders from above to discourage those who were slated to follow this first wave in the two weeks ending September 3, 2011.
The Keystone XL pipeline project – owned by a consortium of oil companies – is a many faceted abomination. It will, if constructed, take its raw, tar sands carbon down through the agricultural heartland of the United States – through the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, the great Ogallala aquifer, fragile natural habitats and Native American lands. Major breaks and accidents on pipelines – four of them with loss of human life- have occurred just in the past year from California to Pennsylvania, including a recent, major Exxon/Mobile pipeline rupture which resulted in many gallons of oil spilling into the Yellowstone River.
The Office of Pipeline Safety in the Department of Transportation has been a pitiful rubberstamp patsy for the pipeline industry for 40 years. There are larger objections – a huge contribution to greenhouse gases and further expansion of the destruction of northern Albertan terrain, forests and water – expected to cover an area the size of Florida.
Furthermore, as the Energy Department report on Keystone XL pointed out, decreasing demand for petroleum through advances in fuel efficiency is the major way to reduce reliance on imported oil with or without the pipeline. There is no assurance whatsoever that the refined tar sands oil in Gulf Coast refineries will even get to the motorists here. They can be exported more profitably to Europe and South America.
In ads on Washington, D.C.’s WTOP news station, the industry is claiming that the project will create more than 100,000 jobs. They cannot substantiate this figure. It is vastly exaggerated. TransCanada’s permit application for Keystone XL to the U.S. State Department estimated a “peak workforce of approximately 3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel” to build the pipeline.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) oppose the pipeline. In their August 2011 statement they said: “We need jobs, but not ones based on increasing our reliance on Tar Sands oil [...] Many jobs could be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation – jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.”
The demonstrators before the White House, led by prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben and other stalwarts, focused on President Obama because he and he alone will make the decision either for or against building what they call “North America’s biggest carbon bomb.” He does not have to ask Congress.
Already the State Department, in their latest report, is moving to recommend approval. The demonstrators and their supporters, including leaders of the Native American Dene tribe in Canada and the Lakota nation in the U.S., filled much of the area in front of the White House and Lafayette Square. On September 2, I went down to express my support for their cause. Assistants to Mr. McKibben asked me to speak at the final rally at the square on Saturday. I agreed. At 6:25 p.m. we received an e-mail from Daniel Kessler withdrawing their invitation because of “how packed our schedule already is. We’d love to have Ralph there in any other capacity, including participating in the protest.”
The next day, many of the speakers went way over their allotted five to six minute time slots. Observers told me that there were to be no criticisms of Barack Obama. McKibben wore an Obama pin on the stage. Obama t-shirts were seen out in the crowd. McKibben did not want their efforts to be “marginalized” by criticizing the President, which they expected I would do. He said that “he would not do Obama the favor” of criticizing him.
To each one’s own strategy. I do not believe McKibben’s strategy is up to the brilliance of his tactics involving the mass arrests. (Which by the way received deplorably little mass media coverage).
Obama believes that those demonstrators and their followers around the country are his voters (they were in 2008) and that they have nowhere to go in 2012. So long as environmentalists do not find a way to disabuse him of this impression long before Election Day, they should get ready for an Obama approval of the Keystone XL monstrosity.
‘No Tar Sands’: Margot Kidder Marches on Washington August 20, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, Canada, canada actress, carbon emissions, environment, environmental disaster, margot kidder, martin knelman, naomi klein, oil pipeline, pipeline, protest, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, tantoo cardinal, tar sands
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Margot Kidder became Hollywood’s most famous Canadian by playing Lois Lane in four Superman movies.
Actor Christopher Reeve, as Superman, and Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, appear in a scene from the 1978 movie ‘Superman. But later, when she was orchestrating a comeback after a series of disasters, she took on a gig doing the voice of a character named Earth Mother in the cartoon show Captain Planet.
Among the lines she delivered: “Hold on, Planeteer, I hate to interrupt your eco-argument, but there’s a nuclear waste spill on the ocean.”
Next week Kidder will be playing Earth Mother for real — doing whatever it takes to get herself arrested in front of the White House while trying to persuade Barack Obama not to sign a deal allowing a new pipeline carrying oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas.
One of her partners in crime is another celebrated Canadian-born actress and dear old friend, Tantoo Cardinal, an Aboriginal from northern Alberta.
Theirs will be only two faces among the thousands taking part in a large-scale protest, but they will bring a bit of showbiz glitter to the event while showing there are Canadians as well as Americans appalled by the horrifying danger of spreading poison from Alberta all over North America.
(A number of other prominent Canadians are also involved in the protest, including Naomi Klein.)
“This is not just about oil,” Kidder explained this week in a phone interview from her home in Montana. “It’s about climate change and irreversible damage to the environment.”
These days, at 62, Kidder works occasionally, doing such acting gigs as her appearance a year ago at Toronto’s Panasonic Theater in Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore.
But most of the time, she lives quietly, simply and happily in Montana, close to her daughter and grandchildren.
Being at the center of the Hollywood circus may be a distant memory, but Kidder still has the ebullient spirit, charmingly goofy smile and twangy voice that made her a popular favorite.
And she’s still the fearless adventurer and reckless maverick who was born in Yellowknife and grew up in northern mining camps, the daughter of a rambunctious mining engineer from Texas known as Happy Kidder.
Her old friend Norman Jewison, who cast her in her first Hollywood movie in the 1960s, recalls that even back then, “she was a woman of causes, passionate and not afraid to stand her ground.”
That has not changed. Though she has been a U.S. resident for decades, Kidder has proudly held onto her Canadian citizenship. But she became a dual citizen so that she could vote against George W. Bush in 2004 — and so she could take part in protests against the Iraq war without being at risk of deportation.
“Tantoo and I are both northern Canadian babies who believe that the North is a beautiful place worth saving.
“The tar sands have caused a lot of damage already in Alberta, where a lot of people have a weird new kind of cancer. The kind of oil being extracted is thick and corrosive, like molasses, and it has to be pumped at a high heat, emitting poisonous carbon.”
There is already one pipeline running from Alberta to Texas, and there have been disturbing leaks. According to Kidder, the proposed new pipeline would destroy the freshwater rivers and other natural wonders of Montana, because it’s bound to leak.
“We already have experts who warn that if the tar sands industry is allowed to expand and build another pipeline, the damages will be irreversible and the long-term consequences horrendous,” warns Kidder. “In fact this is the most serious climate changer we have on the planet.”
So why are political leaders in Ottawa and Washington in favour of expanding the tar sands?
“In his 2008 campaign, Obama made a promise to stand up to oil companies and Wall Street,” says Kidder, “but now he is being pressed to sign this agreement between now and November, and those who worked for Obama are so discouraged. A lot of people are dismayed that democracy is losing out to huge corporations that contribute billions to political campaigns.”
Kidder and other demonstrators hope to persuade Obama to stand up to the oil companies and refuse to sign the pipeline deal. In the process of making the point, she expects to land in a Washington jail, if only briefly.
As for Canada, she laments: “Stephen Harper is more interested in short-term profit than long-term consequences. But I have two beautiful grandchildren, and I would like them to live on a beautiful planet.”
Tags: alberta tar sands, Canada, canadian government, carbon emissions, clean energy, environment, greenhouse gas, oil industry, oil sands, roger hollander, tar sands, terry macalister
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Friends of the Earth Europe claims ministers have attempted to undermine European fuel legislation that would affect exports
The Canadian government has been accused of an “unprecedented” lobbying effort involving 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands.
Mining trucks carry loads of oil-laden sand in Canada. “The overriding message,” say campaigners against the tar sands, “is that… the dirtiest fuel on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”(Photograph: Jeff Mcintosh/AP)
The allegation comes from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), which claims Ottawa ministers have attempted to mislead European decision-makers by underplaying the carbon-heavy nature of their crude in assessing new petrol standards.
Canada is worried that proposed European legislation would penalise imports of oil derived from its tar sands and so restrict access to the European market for Canadian oil. This might in turn embolden US legislators to do similar. To prevent this, FoEE says that Ottawa has been conducting an intensive lobbying campaign aimed at preventing the British government and the European commission from watering down the legislation.
“The Canadian government must disclose the genuine GHG [greenhouse gas] footprint of tar sands and stop making false promises. It should take serious measures to address the negative nature of tar sands,” recommends FoEE in a new report entitled Canada’s dirty lobby diary – undermining the EU fuel quality directive.
The lobbying effort, which includes dozens of meetings between Canadian and British government “representatives” and oil executives, was triggered by the release of a consultation document in July 2009 by the European commission, which attempted to definitively assess the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of different oils.
The document attributed a “default” carbon value for traditional fuels of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per mega joule of energy for traditional oil and 107gCO2/MJ for fuel derived from tar sands.
The Canadians have managed to delay the EU’s original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position.
Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It is unprecedented that a government of one of the most developed countries can devise and implement a strategy that involves undermining independent science and deliberate misleading of its international partners.”
“The Canadians are asking for further research and further delays. This tactic is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health,” said the FoEE report.
Relatively little fuel from the Alberta tar sands currently ends up in Britain or on the continent, but the Canadians have made clear their real concern is that European legislation will encourage the US to take a tougher line.
A pan-European oil sands advocacy plan was established by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade last year. The main aims were to protect and advance Canadian interests in Europe and to ensure “non-discriminatory market access for oil sands-derived products”, according to documents seen by FoEE.
The Canadians are also said to have set up a special lobbying team in London and identified Shell and BP – two big tar sands investors – as “like-minded allies” in the struggle to have tar sands accepted.
Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, made clear last week at the company’s half yearly financial results that tar sands was one of the key areas of the business that was delivering production growth – both now and more in future. BP has also made no secret of its determination to pursue its interests in Alberta.
But FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly product by making references to initiatives – such as carbon capture and storage – to reduce the CO2 emissions. During the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Canadian government spoke out about the safer operations in Alberta while the country’s democratic credentials have been compared with less savoury regimes where oil is extracted, argues FoEE.
“The overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”
The Canadian government was contacted by the Guardian but did not comment.
Tags: alberta, Canada, carbon emissions, civil disobedience, climate change, danny glover, david suzuki, emissions, environment, epa, greenhouse effect, james hansen, keystone, keystone pipeline, keystone xl, Maude Barlow, naomi klein, pipeline, tar sands, tar sands oil, tom goldtooth, wendell berry, wes hackson
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This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.
The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.
The full version goes like this:
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.A coalition of clean energy advocates march from the Canadian Embassy to the White House to condemn a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil, allegedly toxic, from Canada to the United States, in Washington D.C. in July 2010. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.
We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.
And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest. Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.
This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.
Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection. You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.
If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.
We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.
p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.
Tags: biodiversity, biosphere, boreal forest, Canada, canada-us, carbon emissions, climate change, co2, environment, habitagt loss, habitia fragmentation, james hansen, keystone xl, roger hollander, tar sands, tar sands pipeline, watershed management
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The U.S. Department of State seems likely to approve a huge pipeline, known as Keystone XL to carry tar sands oil (about 830,000 barrels per day) to Texas refineries unless sufficient objections are raised. The scientific community needs to get involved in this fray now. If this project gains approval, it will become exceedingly difficult to control the tar sands monster. The environmental impacts of tar sands development include: irreversible effects on biodiversity and the natural environment, reduced water quality, destruction of fragile pristine Boreal Forest and associated wetlands, aquatic and watershed mismanagement, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, disruption to life cycles of endemic wildlife particularly bird and Caribou migration, fish deformities and negative impacts on the human health in downstream communities. Although there are multiple objections to tar sands development and the pipeline, including destruction of the environment in Canada, and the likelihood of spills along the pipeline’s pathway, such objections, by themselves, are very unlikely to stop the project.
An overwhelming objection is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts. The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2). Easily available reserves of conventional oil and gas are enough to take atmospheric CO2 well above 400 ppm, which is unsafe for life on earth. However, if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels including tar sands are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize earth’s climate.
Phase out of emissions from coal is itself an enormous challenge. However, if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CO2 emitted while burning oil, which is used principally in vehicles.
Governments are acting as if they are oblivious to the fact that there is a limit on how much fossil fuel carbon we can put into the air. Fossil fuel carbon injected into the atmosphere will stay in surface reservoirs for millennia. We can extract a fraction of the excess CO2 via improved agricultural and forestry practices, but we cannot get back to a safe CO2 level if all coal is used without carbon capture or if unconventional fossil fuels, like tar sands are exploited.
A document describing the pipeline project is available here. Comments, due by 6 June, can be submitted here, or by e–mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Keystone XL EIS Project, P.O. Box 96503–98500, Washington, DC 20090–6503 or fax to 202–269–0098.
I am submitting a comment that the analysis is flawed and insufficient, failing to account for important information regarding human–made climate change that is now available. I note that prior government targets for limiting human–made global warming are now known to be inadequate. Specifically, the target to limit global warming to 2oC, rather than being a safe “guardrail,” is actually a recipe for global climate disasters. I will include drafts of the following papers that I recently co–authored:
I will also comment that the tar sands pipeline project does not serve the national interest, because it will result in large adverse impacts, on the public and wildlife, by contributing substantially to climate change. These impacts must be evaluated before the project is considered further.
It is my impression and understanding that a large number of objections could have an effect and help achieve a more careful evaluation, possibly averting a huge mistake.
Dr. James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. He was the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change and writes here as a private citizen. Hansen is the author of “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.“
Tags: alberta, Canada, carbon emissions, emissions inventory, environment, environment canada, greenhouse gas, pembina institute, roger hollander, Stephen Harper, suzanne goldenberg, tar sands, tar sands mining, United Nations
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Greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands are on the rise, but try finding that in Canada’s official report to the UN
Barely a day goes by it seems when someone from Stephen Harper‘s government is not touting the benefits of the Alberta tar sands.
Emissions from tar sands mining, such as this pit in Alberta, were left out of Canada’s carbon emissions reporting. (Photograph: Jiri Rezac/eyevine) But when it came to counting up the carbon emissions produced by the tar sands – big and growing bigger – a strange amnesia seems to have taken hold.
The Canadian government admitted this week that it deliberately left out data indicating a 20% rise in emissions from the Alberta tar sands when it submitted its annual inventory to the United Nations.
The deliberate exclusion does not amount to an attempt to deceive the UN about Canada‘s total emissions. Emissions from the tar sands were incorporated in the overall tally in the report. But it does suggest that the government is anxious to obscure the source of its fastest-growing source of climate pollution: the Alberta tar sands.
Greenhouse gases from the tar sands grew by 21% in the last year reported, despite the economic receission. Even more troubling, the tar sands is becoming even more carbon intensive, with emissions per barrel of oil rising 14.5% in 2009. And overall production is set to triple by 2020, according to some projections.
So that’s an increasingly significant share of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions – 6.5% now and rising.
“It is not as if they were left out of the total, but no matter where you looked in the report you couldn’t find out what sector the emissions were from,” said Clare Demerse, director of climate change at the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank.
Environment Canada told reporters it was just fulfilling UNFCC reporting requirements.
It’s not entirely clear what motivated the decision to obscure the data. The government reported GHG from the tar sands last year. But here are some possibilities:
International image. The tar sands are becoming increasingly high profile and are a growing source of embarrassment to Canada in the international arena. No matter how popular the industry in Harper’s native Alberta, it is probably not pleasant being called a climate villain or a carbon bully several times a year at Bonn and the other fixtures of the UN climate change negotiations.
Timing. The government may have been concerned about jeopardising an important pipeline deal. Canadian firms are awaiting final approval from the State Department for a pipeline that would carry up to barrels of a oil a day from Alberta to the refineries of Texas. Opposition from landowners along the 1,700-mile route has already delayed the project til later this year. Last week, a group of legislators from Nebraska asked Hillary Clinton, who has final say, to delay a decision until 2012 to give them time to put environmental safeguards in place. Members of Congress are said to be preparing a similar protest letter.
The PR consultant told them to. Mike De Souza, the same reporter who broke the story on the GHG reporting, has written another story suggesting that the Canadian government last year considered hiring a PR firm to help promote the tar sands. It also weighed the benefits of tar sands tourism: paid-for trips for European journalists and elected officials.
“Consideration should be given to hiring a professional PR firm to help the Pan European Oil Sands Team further develop and implement a serious public advocacy strategy,” the report was quoted as saying.
That’s my current favourite theory. The provincial and federal governments have made an enormous effort to lobby US officials on the tar sands. So what’s the big deal then in burying a little factoid or two even deeper in a 567-page technical report to a bunch of UN bureaucrats?
Except of course that those kind of dodges reek strongly of the faith-based/anti-reality views of the George Bush presidency, when political considerations repeatedly took precedence over evidence-based standards.
As environmental groups and others have regularly noted, Harper has been too focused on the tar sands as an image problem, rather than an environmental one. Now it seems as if that approach has infected government institutions, with Environment Canada aiding the effort to obscure irksome figures and facts
“It’s a consistent pattern that we have seen on the part of the Harper government to really attempt to spin the tar sands,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue, energy campaigner at the Council of Canadians, the country’s biggest citizens’ group.
Is Climate Science Disinformation a Crime Against Humanity? November 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: California, carbon emissions, climage change deniers, climate change, congress, degregulation, donald brown, emissions, energy, energy legislation, environment, environmental deregulation, epa, fossil fuel, global warming, green agenda, greenhouse gas, oil companies, science
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Deeply irresponsible corporate-sponsored programmes of disinformation have potentially harsh effects upon tens of millions of people
by Donald Brown
Although there is an important role for scepticism in science, for almost 30 years some corporations have supported a disinformation campaign about climate change science.
While it may be reasonable to be somewhat sceptical about climate change models, these untruths are not based upon reasonable scepticism but outright falsification and distortions of climate change science.
These claims have included assertions that the science of climate change has been completely “debunked” and that there is no evidence of human causation of recent observed warming. There are numerous lines of evidence that point to human causation even if it is not a completely settled matter. Reasonable scepticism cannot claim that there is no evidence of causation and some other claims frequently being made by the well-financed climate change disinformation campaign, and they amount to an utter distortion of a body of evidence that the world needs to understand to protect itself from huge potential harms.
On 21 October, 2010, John Broder of the New York Times, reported that “the fossil fuel industries have for decades waged a concerted campaign to raise doubts about the science of global warming and to undermine policies devised to address it”.
According the New York Times article, the fossil fuel industry has “created and lavishly financed institutes to produce anti-global warming studies, paid for rallies and websites to question the science, and generated scores of economic analyses that purport to show that policies to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases will have a devastating effect on jobs and the overall economy.”
Disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily – if not criminally – irresponsible, because the consensus scientific view is based upon strong evidence that climate change:
• Is already being experienced by tens of thousands in the world;
• Will be experienced in the future by millions of people from greenhouse gas emissions that have already been emitted but not yet felt due to lags in the climate system; and,
• Will increase dramatically in the future unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced from existing global emissions levels.
Threats from climate change include deaths and danger from droughts, floods, heat, storm-related damages, rising oceans, heat impacts on agriculture, loss of animals that are dependent upon for substance purposes, social disputes caused by diminishing resources, sickness from a variety of diseases, the inability to rely upon traditional sources of food, the inability to use property that people depend upon to conduct their life including houses or sleds in cold places, the destruction of water supplies, and the inability to live where has lived to sustain life. The very existence of some small island nations is threatened by climate change.
As long as there is any chance that climate change could create this type of destruction, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that these dangers are not yet fully proven, disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily morally reprehensible if it leads to non-action in reducing climate change’s threat. In fact, how to deal with uncertainty in climate change science is an ethical issue, not only a scientific matter, because the consequences of delay could be so severe and the poorest people in the world as some of the most vulnerable.
The corporations that have funded the sowing of doubt on this issue are clearly doing this because they see greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies as adversely affecting their financial interests.
This might be understood as a new type of crime against humanity. Scepticism in science is not bad, but sceptics must play by the rules of science including publishing their conclusions in peer-reviewed scientific journals and not make claims that are not substantiated by the peer-reviewed literature. The need for responsible scepticism is particularly urgent if misinformation from sceptics could lead to great harm.
We may not have a word for this type of crime yet, but the international community should find a way of classifying extraordinarily irresponsible scientific claims that could lead to mass suffering as some type of crime against humanity.
© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited
Barack Obama’s Green Agenda Crushed at the Ballot Box
With a slew of new climate change deniers entering Congress, Barack Obama’s environmental ambitions are now dead
by Suzanne Goldenberg
But many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation.
In California though, there was celebration at the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 23 by a broad climate change coalition that ranged from the outgoing Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists to environmental groups.
With 95% of precincts reporting, some 61% of Californians voted against a measure brought by Texas oil refiners, Tesoro and Valero, and the oil billionaire Koch brothers that would indefinitely halt a 2006 law mandating ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
“We are beating Texas again,” Schwarzenegger told supporters at an election night party.
“Even though they spent millions and millions of dollars, today the people will make up their mind and speak loud and clear that California’s environment is not for sale.”
It was the first time voters had been asked directly for a verdict on a climate and energy plan.
Had the ballot measure passed, it would have scuppered the chances of other states following California’s lead.
But it was an expensive win, with opponents of Proposition 23 spending $31m to assure its defeat. The oil companies put up more than $10.
And the coalition, with their intense focus on Proposition 23, failed to anticipate its evil twin: Proposition 26, which will also hinder action on climate change. The measure, backed by Chevron, requires a two-thirds majority before imposing new taxes or fees. It gathered 54% support, blocking government efforts to get industry to pay for pollution.
In Washington, there was only devastation. 2010 is shaping up to be one of the warmest years on record, but that is unlikely to weigh heavily on the minds of many of the Republican newcomers to Congress.
Obama in interviews on the evening of the elections, admitted there was no change of sweeping climate and energy legislation in the remaining two years of his term. He said he hoped to find compromise on “bite-sized” measures, such as encouraging energy efficiency or the use of wind and solar power.
A cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions was the sleeper issue in the mid-term elections, a galvanising force for Tea Party activists. It saw the defeat of a handful of Democrats from conservative states who voted for last year’s climate change bill – such as Tom Perriello and Richard Boucher, in Virginia.
“I don’t think there’s any question about it, cap-and-trade was the issue in the campaign,” Boucher’s former chief of staff, Andy Wright, told Politico. “If Rick had voted no, he wouldn’t have had a serious contest.”
It also installed a heavy contingent of conservatives hostile to the very notion of global warming in Congress – and solidified the opposition of establishment figures to co-operation with Democrats on energy legislation.
The new speaker of the House, John Boehner, once said: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical.” Vicky Hartzler, who took out the 34-year veteran Ike Skelton in Missouri, has called global warming a hoax.
A number of the victorious Tea Party candidates in the Senate, including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have said they do not believe in man-made climate change.
Some of the surviving Democrats are just as opposed. Joe Manchin won his Senate seat in West Virginia by, literally, shooting his rifle at Obama’s climate agenda.
In her election night stint as a Fox news commentator, Sarah Palin singled out the Environmental Protection Agency as an example of big and wasteful government. The Republican leadership has signalled they it is opposed to a whole array of EPA regulations, including those on ozone and mercury. The EPA is seen as a fallback route for the Obama administration to deal with the regulation of greenhouse gases after the US senate dropped its climate bill in the summer.
The new crop of Republican leaders in the house are way ahead of Palin, with plans for sweeping investigations of climate science and of Obama administration officials such as Lisa Jackson, who heads the EPA.
As far as the leaders are concerned, the science of climate change is far from settled. “We’re going to want to have a do-over,” Darrell Issa, a favourite to head the house oversight and investigations committee, told a recent interviewer.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
One Africa. One Degree. Two Degrees is Suicide. December 19, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Environment.
Tags: 2 degrees, Africa, carbon, carbon emissions, carmon emitters, climate, climate change, copenhagen, elliott verreault, g77, global warming, kyoto, Lumumba Di-Aping, neo-colonialism, roger hollander, thrid world, two degrees
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“$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins”.
December 19, 209
Yesterday in Copenhagen, where leaders have come together to discuss the fate of the climate, lead G77 negotiator, Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, broke down in tears. To a small group of press and civil society supporters, he divulged that many African negotiators, pressured by developeing countries, and some succumbing to their own self-interest, were ready to sign a weak deal.
What would a weak deal look like? A deal that locks Africa and the rest of the world into a 2 degree, 450ppm scenario — what President Nasheed of the Maldives, and now many African civil society leaders call a “suicide pact.”
He did not start his speech immediately. Instead he sat silently, tears rolling down his face. He put his head in his hands and said “We have been asked to sign a suicide pact.” The room was frozen into silence, shocked by the sight of a powerful negotiator, an African elder if you like, exhibiting such strong emotion. He apologised to the audience, but said that in his part of Sudan it was “better to stand and cry than to walk away.”
Di-Aping first attacked the 2 degrees C warming maximum that most rich countries currently consider acceptable. Referring continuously to science, in particular parts of the latest IPCC report (which he referenced by page and section) he said that 2 degrees C globally meant 3.5 degrees C for much of Africa. He called global warming of 2 degrees C “certain death for Africa”, a type of “climate fascism” imposed on Africa by high carbon emitters. He said Africa was being asked to sign on to an agreement that would allow this warming in exchange for $10 billion, and that Africa was also being asked to “celebrate” this deal.
He explained that, by wanting to subvert the established post-Kyoto process, the industrialised nations were effectively wanting to ignore historical emissions, and by locking in deals that would allow each citizen of those countries to carry on emitting a far greater amount of carbon per year than each citizen in poor countries, would prevent many African countries from lifting their people out of poverty. This was nothing less than a colonisation of the sky, he said. “$10 billion is not enough to buy us coffins”.
Calling the current deal that was being proposed “worse than no deal”, he called on Africans to reject it — “I would rather die with my dignity than sign a deal that will channel my people into a furnace.” Africans had to make clear demands of their leaders not to sign on. He suggested a couple of slogans: “One Africa, one degree” and “Two degrees is suicide”
The Courage to Say No December 18, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Environment.
Tags: Africa, archbishop tutu, bishop tutu, carbon, carbon emissions, carbon trading, climate, climate change, copenhagen, environment, global warming, gloria arroyo, hillary clinton, naomi klein, roger hollander, tutu
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That means, according to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, “an additional 55 million people could be at risk from hunger” and “water stress could affect between 350 and 600 million more people.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts the stakes like this: “We are facing impending disaster on a monstrous scale…. A global goal of about 2 degrees C is to condemn Africa to incineration and no modern development.”
And yet that is precisely what Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, proposed to do when he stopped off in Paris on his way to Copenhagen: standing with President Nicolas Sarkozy, and claiming to speak on behalf of all of Africa (he is the head of the African climate-negotiating group), he unveiled a plan that includes the dreaded 2 degree increase and offers developing countries just $10 billion a year to help pay for everything climate related, from sea walls to malaria treatment to fighting deforestation.
It’s hard to believe this is the same man who only three months ago was saying this: “We will use our numbers to delegitimize any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position…. If need be, we are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threaten to be another rape of our continent…. What we are not prepared to live with is global warming above the minimum avoidable level.”
And this: “We will participate in the upcoming negotiations not as supplicants pleading for our case but as negotiators defending our views and interests.”
We don’t yet know what Zenawi got in exchange for so radically changing his tune or how, exactly, you go from a position calling for $400 billion a year in financing (the Africa group’s position) to a mere $10 billion. Similarly, we do not know what happened when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo just weeks before the summit and all of a sudden the toughest Filipino negotiators were kicked off their delegation and the country, which had been demanding deep cuts from the rich world, suddenly fell in line.
We do know, from witnessing a series of these jarring about-faces, that the G-8 powers are willing to do just about anything to get a deal in Copenhagen. The urgency clearly does not flow from a burning desire to avert cataclysmic climate change, since the negotiators know full well that the paltry emissions cuts they are proposing are a guarantee that temperatures will rise a “Dantesque” 3.9 degrees, as Bill McKibben puts it.
Matthew Stilwell of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development–one of the most influential advisers in these talks–says the negotiations are not really about averting climate change but are a pitched battle over a profoundly valuable resource: the right to the sky. There is a limited amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere. If the rich countries fail to radically cut their emissions, then they are actively gobbling up the already insufficient share available to the South. What is at stake, Stilwell argues, is nothing less than “the importance of sharing the sky.”
Europe, he says, fully understands how much money will be made from carbon trading, since it has been using the mechanism for years. Developing countries, on the other hand, have never dealt with carbon restrictions, so many governments don’t really grasp what they are losing. Contrasting the value of the carbon market–$1.2 trillion a year, according to leading British economist Nicholas Stern–with the paltry $10 billion on the table for developing countries, Stilwell says that rich countries are trying to exchange “beads and blankets for Manhattan.” He adds: “This is a colonial moment. That’s why no stone has been left unturned in getting heads of state here to sign off on this kind of deal…. Then there’s no going back. You’ve carved up the last remaining unowned resource and allocated it to the wealthy.”
For months now NGOs have gotten behind a message that the goal of Copenhagen is to “seal the deal.” Everywhere we look in the Bella Center, clocks are going “tck tck tck.” But any old deal isn’t good enough, especially because the only deal on offer won’t solve the climate crisis and might make things much worse, taking current inequalities between North and South and locking them in indefinitely. Augustine Njamnshi of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance puts the 2 degree proposal in harsh terms: “You cannot say you are proposing a ‘solution’ to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change.”
Stilwell says that the wrong kind of deal would “lock in the wrong approach all the way to 2020″–well past the deadline for peak emissions. But he insists that it’s not too late to avert this worst-case scenario. “I’d rather wait six months or a year and get it right because the science is growing, the political will is growing, the understanding of civil society and affected communities is growing, and they’ll be ready to hold their leaders to account to the right kind of a deal.”
At the start of these negotiations the mere notion of delay was environmental heresy. But now many are seeing the value of slowing down and getting it right. Most significant, after describing what 2 degrees would mean for Africa, Archbishop Tutu pronounced that it is “better to have no deal than to have a bad deal.” That may well be the best we can hope for in Copenhagen. It would be a political disaster for some heads of state–but it could be one last chance to avert the real disaster for everyone else.
Copyright © 2009 The Nation
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. See more at www.naomiklein.org.
Canada’s Stephen Harper is a Damn Disgrace December 16, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment.
Tags: avaaz, Canada, canada politics, carbon emissions, climage holocaust, climate, climate change, copenhagen, copenhagen summit, environment, global warming, Stephen Harper, summit, tar sands, temperature increases
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|Canada is blocking crucial UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen and secretly rolling back our efforts to fight climate change. A massive national outcry has stopped Harper before, the planet needs us now:|
Enough is enough. As the world mounts a desperate effort to stop catastrophic global warming in Copenhagen, Canada should be leading the way. Instead, we’re receiving global “fossil awards” for wrecking this crucial summit! And new leaked documents show that while the entire world is increasing cuts to carbon emissions, the government is secretly planning roll back ours.
At the Bali climate summit in 07, a massive national outcry forced Harper to stop blocking the talks. But the oil companies that PM Harper works for know that Copenhagen is the make or break moment for climate. It will not be easy to win this time, but to save the planet and our country we have to.
Let’s mount a tidal wave of pressure on Harper with the largest petition in Canadian history – click below to sign, and forward this email to everyone:
The petition will be delivered directly to the Canadian delegation in Copenhagen as Harper arrives this week, and names of the signers will actually be read out in the summit hall. The Canadian delegation has become the object of international disbelief and ridicule in Copenhagen, but we can show the world that the Canadian people still hold our values of being good neighbours and global citizens.
Harper is undermining our deepest values and proudest traditions. But this is about more than our reputation. Studies show that climate change is already taking up to 300,000 human lives a year through turning millions of farms to dust and flooding vast areas. We can no longer allow Harper to make us responsible for these deaths, or put Canada’s economic future in jeopardy by sacrificing our green competitiveness for a brown economy based on the dirtiest (tar sands) oil in the world.
Copenhagen is seeking the biggest mandate in history to stop the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. History will be made in the next few days, and our country is the problem, not the solution. How will our children remember this moment? Let’s tell them we did all we could.
Ricken, Laryn, Anne-Marie, Iain and the Avaaz Canada team
More information at these sites:
CBC — “Tories pondered weaker emission targets for oil and gas”: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/12/14/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html
Mail and Guardian — “Canada’s climate shame”: http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-12-04-canadas-climate-shame
Toronto Star — “Who are the Yes Men and why did they punk Canada at Copenhagen”: http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/738933–who-are-the-yes-men-and-why-did-they-punk-canada-at-copenhagen
Macleans — “Suddenly the world hates Canada”: http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/12/15/suddenly-the-world-hates-canada/3/
Fossil of the Day Awards: http://www.fossiloftheday.com/
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