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Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

http://news.nationalpost.com/toronto/climate-rally-brings-together-uneasy-coalition-of-naomi-klein-and-union-boss-jerry-dias

Thanks to KC, that Raging Granny

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http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/permafrost-thaw-threatens-arctic-archeological-sites-says-professor-1.3030303

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http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/obama-says-memory-of-daughter-s-preschool-asthma-attacks-spurs-climate-change-debate-1.3024697

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http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/how-western-canada-glaciers-will-melt-away-1.3022242

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suzuki-foundation

Cars, air travel, space exploration, television, nuclear power, high-speed computers, telephones, organ transplants, prosthetic body parts… At various times these were all deemed impossible. I’ve been around long enough to have witnessed many technological feats that were once unimaginable. Even 10 or 20 years ago, I would never have guessed people would carry supercomputers in their pockets — your smart phone is more powerful than all the computers NASA used to put astronauts on the moon in 1969 combined!

Despite a long history of the impossible becoming possible, often very quickly, we hear the “can’t be done” refrain repeated over and over — especially in the only debate over global warming that matters: What can we do about it? Climate change deniers and fossil fuel industry apologists often argue that replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy is beyond our reach. The claim is both facile and false.

Facile because the issue is complicated. It’s not simply a matter of substituting one for the other. To begin, conservation and efficiency are key. We must find ways to reduce the amount of energy we use — not a huge challenge considering how much people waste, especially in the developed world. False because rapid advances in clean energy and grid technologies continue to get us closer to necessary reductions in our use of polluting fossil fuels.

It’s ironic that anti-environmentalists and renewable energy opponents often accuse those of us seeking solutions of wanting to go back to the past, to living in caves, scrounging for roots and berries. They’re the ones intent on continuing to burn stuff to keep warm — to the detriment of the natural world and all it provides.

People have used wind and solar power for thousands of years. But recent rapid advances in generation, storage and transmission technologies have led to a fast-developing industry that’s outpacing fossil fuels in growth and job creation. Costs are coming down to the point where renewable energy is competitive with the heavily subsidized fossil fuel industry. According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy for worldwide electricity generation grew to 22 per cent in 2013, a five per cent increase from 2012.

The problem is that much of the world still burns non-renewable resources for electricity and fuels, causing pollution and climate change and, subsequently, more human health problems, extreme weather events, water shortages and environmental devastation. In many cities in China, the air has become almost unbreathable, as seen in the shocking Chinese documentary film Under the Dome. In California, a prolonged drought is affecting food production. Extreme weather events are costing billions of dollars worldwide.

We simply must do more to shift away from fossil fuels and, despite what the naysayers claim, we can. We can even get partway there under our current systems. Market forces often lead to innovation in clean energy development. But in addressing the very serious long-term problems we’ve created, we may have to challenge another “impossibility”: changing our outmoded global economic system. As economist and Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs wrote in a recent Guardian article, “At this advanced stage of environmental threats to the planet, and in an era of unprecedented inequality of income and power, it’s no longer good enough to chase GDP. We need to keep our eye on three goals — prosperity, inclusion, and sustainability — not just on the money.”

Relying on market capitalism encourages hyper-consumption, planned obsolescence, wasteful production and endless growth. Cutting pollution and greenhouse gas emissions requires conserving energy as well as developing new energy technologies. Along with reducing our reliance on private automobiles and making buildings and homes more energy-efficient, that also means making goods that last longer and producing fewer disposable or useless items so less energy is consumed in production.

People have changed economic systems many times before, when they no longer suited shifting conditions or when they were found to be inhumane, as with slavery. And people continue to develop tools and technologies that were once thought impossible. Things are only impossible until they’re not. We can’t let those who are stuck in the past, unable to imagine a better future, hold us back from creating a safer, cleaner and more just world.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

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http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/arctic-sea-ice-hits-new-record-low-1.3001809

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‘Warm blobs’ cover most of the West Coast, making for record-high water temperatures

group of California sea lions

A group of California sea lions rest on a large buoy in the San Ignacio lagoon. Sea lion pups and seabirds are being affected by a warming Pacific Ocean, according to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in the U.S.

Starving sea lion pups and seabirds up and down the U.S. West Coast this year may be part of a large-scale shift of the Pacific Ocean to warmer and less productive conditions, according to a newAmerican federal fisheries report.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration presented the findings on the warming Pacific in an annual report on the state of the waters off California.

“We are in some ways entering a situation we haven’t seen before,” Cisco Werner, director of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., said in a statement from NOAA. The situation demands that scientists consider the impact on ocean life as a whole, Werner said.

From 2014, waters off Southern California and the Gulf of Alaska turned significantly warmer than usual. The so-called “warm blobs” have grown to cover most of the West Coast, making for record-high water temperatures.

Tiny, energy-rich organisms that support the West Coast food chain have suffered in the warming water, the report said. Discoveries of large numbers of emaciated young sea lions off California and starving seabirds off Oregon and Washington may reflect dwindling nourishment overall as the Pacific warms, the study said.

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Amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the forest dropped 30% since from the 90s to 2000s

Amazon forest

A view is seen from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) in Sao Sebastiao do Uatuma in the middle of the Amazon forest, on January 10.

The Amazon rainforest’s ability to soak up greenhouse gases from the air has fallen sharply, possibly because climate change and droughts mean more trees are dying, an international team of scientists said on Wednesday.

The world’s biggest rainforest has soaked up vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Plants use the heat-trapping gas to grow and release it when they rot or burn, but the report said that role in offsetting global warming may be under threat.

The study, of 321 plots in parts of the Amazon untouched by human activities, estimated the net amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the forest had fallen by 30 per cent, to 1.4 billion tonnes a year in the 2000s from 2.0 billion in the 1990s.

“Forest growth has flatlined over the last decade,” lead author Roel Brienen of the University of Leeds told Reuters of the findings in the journal Nature. At the same time “the whole forest is living faster — trees grow faster, die faster.”

“The net carbon uptake of forests has significantly weakened,” he said of the study by almost 100 experts.

‘Forest growth has flatlined’

Human carbon emissions in Latin America are overtaking amounts absorbed by the Amazon for the first time, the University of Leeds said in a press release.

The scientists said it was unclear if the decline would continue and if the trend applied to other tropical forests such as the Congo basin or Indonesia.

The findings are a surprise because some computer models suggest tropical forests may grow better because carbon dioxide emitted by human use of fossil fuels acts as an airborne fertilizer.

The study said increased tree deaths might be linked to severe droughts, such as in 2005.

Study signed by nearly 100 experts

Another possibility was that man-made carbon dioxide was making trees both grow faster and die younger and that more deaths were only now becoming apparent.

If that trend continues, the make-up of the Amazon rainforest could change. Fast-growing lianes, or tropical vines, might be among the beneficiaries, Brienen said.

Christof Bigler, a forest expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who was not involved in the study, said fast-growing trees outside the tropics also often had shorter lifespans.

“Fast-growing trees tend to have a lower root density and might be more vulnerable to attacks by insects and pathogens,” he told Reuters of his findings in Switzerland and North America.

Amazon rainforest's trees

The Amazon rainforest’s trees soak up massive amounts of greenhouse gasses, but their carbon dioxide-absorbing capacity has fallen sharply in recent years.

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http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/how-market-forces-are-winning-the-climate-change-battle-1.2996818

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ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Climate change activists blasted Florida Governor Rick Scott on Monday for leading an “Orwellian” campaign to ban employees of the state’s lead environmental agency from using such terms as “global warming” and “climate change.”

Despite coastal Florida’s vulnerability to storm surges and rising sea levels, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection was directed in 2011 not to use the phrases in official communications, according to a report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

“This is embarrassing, but worse than that, it’s very worrying,” said David Hastings, a marine science professor from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, on Florida’s west coast.

“To have this authoritarian word control is very Orwellian, a page right out of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’” he said, referring to George Orwell’s dystopian novel about widespread government surveillance.

The governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection denied there was a policy banning the terms. “There is no policy and it simply is not true,” said Scott’s deputy communications director, John Tupps.

Former employees of the department detailed the unwritten policy in interviews with the non-profit news agency, which reported the ban on Sunday.

Employees were told not to use the phrases ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ ‘sea level rise,’ or ‘sustainability,’ attorney Christopher Byrd, who worked with the department’s Office of General Counsel from 2008 to 2013, confirmed to Reuters.

“Nobody questioned it. There was just a lot of snickers and internal chuckling,” Byrd said.

The euphemism suggested to employees for “sea level rise” was “coastal resiliency,” he said.

The prohibition began after the election of Scott, who had disputed the human impact on climate change during his 2010 campaign, according to the report.

Concerns about climate change are widely voiced by research scientists, but questioned by conservative Republicans who oppose controls on carbon emissions blamed for causing environmental damage.

Hastings was one of five climate scientists who were granted a half-hour meeting with Scott in August 2014 in which they warned him of the threat posed by a steadily rising ocean.

Harvey Ruvin, who chaired a sea level rise task force in Miami that delivered its findings last year, told Reuters it was important for Florida, with about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of coastline, to put politics aside on the climate change issue.

“It would be very nice if we could resolve problems simply by eliminating their titles from the dictionary,” he said.

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