Is It Hot in Here?

A UN report released in October warned that “The world’s politicians have just over a decade left to implement drastic transformations in their energy, food and transport systems that could avoid dangerous climate change”.

“12 years isn’t a deadline, and climate change isn’t a cliff we fall off — it’s a slope we slide down,” said Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA. “We don’t have 12 years to prevent climate change — we have no time.  It’s already here.” (Axios)

Ontario’s bumper-sticker government, ‘for the people’ issued a “Made in Ontario Environment Plan” compiled by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks. It appears to take a lot of pages to say it will do very little with very little. First the plan points out, (like some other Canadian jurisdictions), how little the province contributes to green house gas emissions. As if nature will take notice and refrain from any climate change effects in Ontario.

Under the title, Doing Our Part, the plan takes credit for the previous government’s closure of coal-fired plants in reducing GHG emissions by 22% below the 2005 base under the Paris Climate Accord. So, move along, nothing to worry about here, right?

But just in case there is pollution “affecting lives”, the plan includes “an online platform for reporting incidents that allows photos or video to be sent in, as well as reporting an incident by e-mail, phone or through an app … An improved complaint response system that sets out the services Ontarians can expect from inspectors and investigators … new standards on the response time … based on the type of incident they report. We will be transparent about pollution incidents and spills, and provide real-time information where it is available …” (p 9) So if you are experiencing anything beyond what is already ‘normal’, sure, let us know. But if you can’t see it, smell it, taste it, or feel sick, everything must be OK.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Leaders and Laggards

The best available science tells us we have about 15 years left to avoid catastrophic disruption to life on this planet. Yet we are still electing political leaders (federal and provincial) that are determined to undermine all efforts at realistic and effective measures to avoid the worst outcomes. Ontario is poised to spend up to $30 million to challenge a federally legislated price on carbon after dumping an existing provincial carbon credit trading mechanism that was yielding 1.5 billion dollars a year for carbon descent solutions.

When we take a closer look, we can see that the vocal resistance to change is organized and funded by the vested interests that currently profit from the status quo. Some of the largest donations to the Ontario Conservative party in 2017 came from major land development companies and some from those associated with the energy sector. At least eight of the largest donors to the Ontario Conservatives in 2016 and 2017 have extensive links to numerous off-shore corporations exposed to scrutiny through the publication of the leaked Panama Papers. This is not meant to imply that the party is funded by tax evaders. I mention this only to show how wealthy individuals with substantial global interests position themselves to influence public policy at a regional and local level.

This is a global phenomenon. While Ontario was busy scrapping the Green Energy Act, the US was promoting the use of coal, reducing environmental protections of land and water, allowing more risky carbon fuel exploration such as fracking, and weakening automotive fuel economy standards. Continue reading

Wisdom of the Crowd

Believe it or not, “cap and trade” was being debated as an economic policy option way back in my university days. It has only taken a lifetime to implement it in a handful of jurisdictions and the debate still continues.

The real question is what happens with the money, and how effective will it be in addressing the critical climate change issue? (Climate Change Is About to Accelerate Past the Point of No Return, Dec 2016) The opposition party agues for a rebate of a carbon tax directly to households. The current government has taken a different approach.

Now that Ontario has ‘captured’ the revenue from the first auctions of carbon credits the government announced this month that it “will use the proceeds of its cap-and-trade program to establish a fund — called the Green Ontario Fund — through a provincial agency. The program will offer up to a $7,200 rebate for new insulation, up to $5,000 for new windows, and up to $20,000 for new ground source heat pumps.”

Is there a difference to these two approaches? Either way, with cap and trade or a carbon tax, whether or not we see any real change in carbon emissions is still very much up to us. We have to make thousands of individual decisions to do something meaningful in a timely manner.

At least the Green Ontario website presents a menu of funded options for both households and businesses. You’ll notice that some of these programs were previously-existing conservation programs offered by gas distributors and electric utilities (Save on Energy) while others are new provincial programs. Now all conservation programs are grouped together in specific categories: home; small business; organization. But you, the consumer, have to educate yourself about the different opportunities, weigh the relative value of different options (net cost and estimated savings), be motivated to complete an application for your chosen program(s) and select a pre-approved contractor. Hence, I’m giving a little nudge with this free plug for the Green Ontario web site – the government is waving a fist full of dollars your way. They’ve got my attention and maybe yours.

Ontario isn’t the first to tackle carbon emissions. In the UK, a decision was made some years ago to ‘just do it’. An insulation upgrade program simply went street by street, house by house, in a systematic approach that was said to be 90% more efficient than a random installation based on scattered applications. It gave an immediate boost to employment but this approach requires deciding priorities – who’s first and who comes last.

The New Year promises to be a decisive time with a likely tumultuous election in the mix. Will Ontarian homes and businesses be motivated enough by the carbon trade incentives? Will contractors be up to the challenge? Will the total upgrades be good enough and numerous enough to make a meaningful difference in carbon emissions and your payback savings? It’s entirely up to you and the ‘wisdom of the crowd’.

Celebrate the Great Trail

The Trans-Canada Trail is a spectacular achievement – a trail that links 15,000 communities over 24,000 km. This year, the 150th year of Confederation, the plan is to fully link the Trail. Celebrations are taking place in 200 communities across Canada in recognition of this milestone and the efforts of dedicated volunteers since 1992.

We are fortunate that the Great Trail extends through Innisfil along the Thornton to Cookstown section. You’re invited to participate in a local family celebration in Cookstown taking place Saturday, August 26, 10 am to 2 pm (Wellington St. and John Dr.)

Families can participate in a Trail Scavenger Hunt, learn all about turtles with Kids for Turtles, enjoy free pizza from Bernie’s Pizza, and more!

Learn more at thegreattrail.ca

 

Celebrate and Contemplate

Next week (July 22) Innisfil Beach Park will be the site for Celebrate Lake Simcoe. It will be in recognition of its importance to our lives and an opportunity to learn about efforts to restore and maintain a clean lake and watershed for this region. Indigenous people will participate this year with a traditional pow wow and displays of their own.

Recent events make it all the more important to celebrate clean water and motivate us to ensure clean water for everyone. The mercury poisoning scandal at Grassy Narrows caused by industrial contamination of the Wabigoon River (up to 50 years ago and continuing today) may be one of the most neglected environmental disasters in history. At the end of June the Ontario government committed $85 million toward clean-up of this “gross neglect”. But a resolution will require more years of effort while almost all members of the Grassy Narrows First Nation exhibit symptoms of some neurological damage.

I’m reminding my readers of this because of an alarming report published in the American Chemical Society Journal and recently described in Science Daily and Clean Technica. One headline reads, “Waste Water from Fracking Pollutes Pennsylvania Watershed”.  Continue reading

Climate Change Survival

It’s another season of local flooding, see-saw temperatures, western wild fires and severe storms to the south. Locally, we are hearing some farmers around Simcoe County lament the losses that they are, and will be, suffering this year.

Now, a new study published in the journal, Science, predicts that “unmitigated climate change will damage the poorest-third of US counties to the tune of 20% of total income. The regions that will be hit the hardest in the US over the coming years economically will be primarily in the South and in the lower Midwest. In other words, economic centers will be likely to move northwards, leaving the hotter, southern parts of the US impoverished …”.

(Perhaps not wanting to wait, Missouri just voted to lower the minimum wage in St. Louis by 23% from $10/hour to $7.70/hour, but that’s another story.)  Continue reading