Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Epidemic of Climate Change Induced Wildfires in 2019

More intense and longer duration wildfires have ravaged countries all around the world. The thread that weaves all these wildfires together is global warming and the catalyst is heat, the harbinger of fire. Extreme heat exacerbates wildfires making this the new abnormal. Warmer temperatures dry out vegetation which fuels the fires, less precipitation and dry winds also play a role.  It is hard to refute the link between the climate crisis and wildfires. A June attribution study showed that climate change is responsible for last year's heat and wildfires in the northern hemisphere. An IPCC special report also made the connection between the climate crisis and wildfires. Most notably widespread are ravaging much of Australia as the year comes to an end. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Australian Wildfires and the Federal Government's Complicity

Hot dry conditions sparked an early start to fire season in Australia and people are demanding more climate action from the federal government that has refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis. As the situation continues to worsen, protests have broken out across the country, however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is has made it clear that he will not get serious about climate action.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Event - 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15)

The 2020 Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) will take place on October 5, 2020 in Kunming, Yunnan, China. The theme of this event is ecological civilization, which is rooted in the Chinese vision of an ecological civilization and draws inspiration from traditional and new eco-innovations. High level officials mentioned that the theme aims to inspire a global society in which economic, social, cultural and environmental concerns are addressed in a truly holistic way, by recognizing that nature is the fundamental infrastructure supporting life on earth.

Event - 2020 UN Ocean Conference

This event will take place on June 2-6, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Governments of Kenya and Portugal will co-host and assume all costs of the Conference. The General Assembly through resolution 73/292 decided to convene the 2020 United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The overarching theme of the Conference is "Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions".

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Event - Conference on Sustainability in Engineering

CSE 2020 will take place February 21 - 24, 2020 at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario. The Conference on Sustainability in Engineering is the CFES' newest conference, ratified at Congress 2018. The conference aims to raise awareness about issues in sustainability and environmental engineering, and encourage students to discuss and design solutions to counter them.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Predictable and Rare Climate Impacts in 2019

This year there were a slew of predictable climate related events. There were also some rare global warming impacts including massive volumes of ice melt in Greenland and tropical cyclones that intensified at one of the fastest rates ever observed.

According to the IPCC ice is melting and sea levels are rising at an accelerated rate.  A quick review of temperature records tell us what we need to know. Since the 1980s, each successive decade has been warmer than any preceding decade and the most recent decade is the hottest on record. Driven by deadly heat waves and drought we are seeing increases in the intensity, duration and size of wildfires.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Four Reasons Why 2020 Will be a Make or Break Year for Environmental Action

We will face some critical choices in 2020 including momentous decisions that will have profound impacts on humanity, ecosystems and countless species. The first issue is our failure to reign in GHG emissions and the second is the absence of any significant progress at COP25.

The combinations of a warming world and ecosystem destruction put us on a collision course with catastrophe. We are destroying life on Earth at an alarming rate.  This includes species from the top to the bottom of the web of life, everything from keystone species to insects and plankton. Whether we realize it or not we are woven into this web.

We are not on track to limit warming to the safe upper threshold (1.5 Celsius above preindustrial norms). We are now more than two thirds of the way there (1.1 Celsius above preindustrial norms).  Ongoing emissions ensure that the world will continue to warm.  Although we are moving in the wrong direction, three critical summits in 2020 could significantly improve our prospects.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Hope for the Holidays: 101 Good Environmental News Stories in 2019

There is reason to hope as we teeter on the cusp of an apocalypse, even as emissions keep rising and ecosystems are collapsing all around us. The ignorance and inaction of national leaderships and the old energy industry can make us feel as though we are doomed.

However, there are also many good news stories that show progress is possible. Here are a hundred and one good news stories from 2019. These stories run the gamut from plastic, energy and the green economy to food, agriculture, trees, wildlife and habitat conservation. The rising tide of protest and changing attitudes even in some conservative politics give us a glimmer of hope in the darkness.

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Greta Thunberg Christmas Carol - Hope that Augurs Action

Greta Thunberg has chided adults for saying, "we owe it to young people to give them hope". The climate icon does not want us to hope she wants us to act.  "I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic." Greta said, adding, "I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."

There is no denying that we need action. However, hope is necessary to augur action even as we teeter on the cusp of an apocalypse. The sad psychological reality is that we deny truths too painful for us to countenance and we shut down in the face of futility.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Event - Sustainability and the Climate Crisis Conference Call for Abstracts

This event will take place on March 16-18, 2020 at Concordia Conference Centre (Sir George Williams Campus), 9th Floor, John Molson Building, 1450 Guy (March 16-17), and 110-130, Jesuit Hall & Conference Centre, 7141 Sherbrooke St O. (March 18), Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The speakers will be Angela Carter, Ursula Eicker, Damon Matthews, and many others. This event is presented by Loyola Sustainability Research Centre and Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Search for Greta - A Short Film about Hope as we Teeter on the Cusp of an Apocalypse

Set against the backdrop of the September 27th climate march in Montreal, the protagonists in this short experimental documentary set out to find Greta Thunberg. Although they do not find the climate icon, what they find instead are legions of everyday heroes. This film is a celebration of the power of people working together. As we hurdle towards an uncertain future, we discover that action is the antidote to apathy and despair. We find hope even as we teeter on the brink of an apocalypse. This film takes us on a journey where what we find is not what we were looking for. We are living through dark times, but we discover a movement emerging from the ashes of this dying world. This is our story; this is our quest.

We are overwhelmed with the hopelessness of our current situation as the power brokers sell our futures for profit. Our ecosystems are being destroyed by our insatiable appetites and our unfettered hubris. From within the womb of this dystopian nightmare a lofty dream is emerging. An inclusive narrative is being born that consolidates our understanding and our purpose. We are forging heroic tales that call us to be heroes ourselves.

We set out to find Greta, and although we never find her, what we find is something even more important. We realize that no single human can solve this crisis and we discover the age-old power of unity. We also realize that it is our separateness that defeats us and leads us to despair. The arc of our story takes us from isolation and loneliness to hope and a sense of possibility. We are transformed by the realization that when we come together, we are unstoppable.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Nova Scotia Stands Up to the Mill Responsible for the Toxic Mess in Boat Harbour

The provincial government of Nova Scotia is acting to reign-in the Northern Pulp mill near Pictou, Nova Scotia. For 42 years the mill has been dumping harmful waste into lagoons. They have created what a former environment minister called a "toxic mess" and one of the worst cases of environmental racism in Canada.

The mill has failed to respect the timelines given to them five years ago, and they have also reneged on their promise to clean up the estuary that they polluted. The mill’s parent company, Paper Excellence Canada has been criticized by the province for their failure to invest in waste reduction facilities.

Stephen McNeil, the Premier of Nova Scotia said he had hoped that the mill operators would work with the Department of the Environment to improve their water treatment capabilities. McNeil also said the mill failed to provide adequate science-based impact information.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Airships Offer Both Climate Mitigation and Adaptation

Varialift solar powered airship concept
The emissions associated with traditional air travel make airships an ideal low-cost alternative for shipping. Compared to traditional transportation mediums, airships are quiet, cheaper to operate, and most importantly, far more carbon efficient. They also have a much larger range and cargo carrying capacity. While slower then jet powered aviation, they are faster than current land or sea transportation systems (airships travel at speeds of up to 120 kilometers an hour or around 70 miles per hour).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Trump's Impeachement is Not a Hoax Nor is Climate Change

Nancy Polosi and the Democrats believe that it is in the national interest to impeach President Donald Trump and support climate action. Trump is being impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. The two articles of impeachment are  'Abuse of Power' and 'Obstruction of Congress'. It is hard to contest the fact that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine as leverage in a failed attempt to dig up dirt on his political opponent. Then he stonewalled Congress and refused to cooperate with their constitutionally endowed oversight duties.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How the Political Right Uses Fossil Fuels to Galvanize Opposition to Climate Action

It is widely understood that in the main, conservative far-right political movements support fossil fuels and oppose the veracity of climate change and climate action. In the U.S. Republicans have worked with the old energy industry to subvert the facts for many years. Thanks to insidious disinformation campaigns 73 percent of Republican voters have been hoodwinked into believing that climate change is not a serious threat and 70 percent do not believe that humans are the cause. The resistance to climate action does not stop at disinformation. Republicans have actively thwarted the democratic process through redistricting (gerrymandering) and voter suppression. In Oregon Republican lawmakers refused to appear in the state legislature to avoid passing a sweeping climate change bill by the Democratic majority.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Ranking National Climate Action - 2020 Performance Index

The United States and Canada are some of the worst climate performers in the world. None of the countries reviewed in the 2020 Performance Index have demonstrated that they are on a path that is compatible with the goals laid out in the Paris Climate agreement. Sweden leads the group of high-performing countries, as it did in the 2018 and 2019 Indices. The other four top performing countries in the top five are Denmark, Morocco, the UK and Lithuania. The US is in last place. The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index tracks the performance of 57 countries and the EU on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, renewable energy, energy use and climate policy. The 2020 Index finds that “no country performs well enough in all index categories to achieve an overall very high rating,” meaning that no country is yet “on a path compatible with the Paris climate targets.” Countries are assessed based on their compatibility with ambitions to keep temperatures from warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial norms.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Event - ASES Solar 20/20 (Annual National Solar Conference) Call for Submissions

The 49th Annual National Solar Conference, ASES Solar 20/20, Renewable Energy Vision, Advances to achieve 100% renewable energy, has put out a call for participation.

This event will take place on June 23-26, 2020 in Washington DC. It will include: Women in Solar Energy (WISE) luncheon, solar installer training, electric vehicle & solar cooking demos, international solar applications, tours of local green breweries, solar citizen action day, stronger together forum, oral/poster presentations, student engagements and keynote speeches. Share your research, programs, operations, personal actions, and visions.  Interested parties are welcome to submit presentation abstracts in these tracks:

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Greta Says World Leaders are Doing Nothing Except "Clever Accounting and Creative PR"

Greta Thunberg delivered a powerful speech at this year's UN climate change conference (COP25) in Madrid. The Swedish activist said "we no longer have time to leave out the science," and she accused world leader of “clever accounting and creative PR” to avoid action on the climate crisis. Thunberg said the world's rapidly declining carbon budgets would be gone within eight years based on current emission levels. "How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger? And how do you communicate this without sounding alarmist? I would really like to know,” she said.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Norwegian Aviation Company Orders 60 Electric Planes

Norway's OSM Aviation Academy is committed to fully electrifying its fleet of planes. OSM is a company that specializes in recruitment and training for the aviation industry. They have ordered 60 all electric planes from Colorado-based electric aircraft manufacturer Bye Aerospace. This is the largest single order for commercial electric planes to date. Recently Canadian company Harbour Air made history with its first test flight as part of its bid to be the world's first all electric airline.

Bjørn Granviken, Managing Director of the OSM Aviation Academy supports sustainability focused innovation.  "It’s important that the airline industry steps up to the challenge of developing more environment-friendly transport. At OSM Aviation, we’re committed to pursuing a socially responsible and sustainable business," Granviken said. However, this groundbreaking move is also good for the bottom line. Lower maintenance and fuel costs are expected to cut operating expenses by 80 percent. While it costs $110/hr. to operate a conventional training plane, the all-electric planes will cost only $20 per hour.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Heat Records Tell Us What We Need to Know

This year will go down in history as one of the warmest years on record and 2019 will also be remembered for the month of July which is the hottest month ever recorded.  The months of June, September and October also broke records. Except for January of this year, each month in 2019 has been in the top three hottest on record.

Although parts of North America were colder than usual in October,  it is important to remember that we are talking about global average temperatures. According to NOAA, temperatures in the rest of the world were all above the 30-year average (1981-2010). So even if it was or is colder in some places, that does not detract from the veracity of global warming.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

We are Falling Further Behind on Emissions Reduction

We are falling further behind on emissions reductions and every year that we fail to act compounds the challenges of keeping temperatures within manageable limits. Many nations are not living up to their Paris agreement targets and even if they did we would still be on track to see 3.2 degrees Celsius of warming (5.76 degrees Fahrenheit). Greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent each year in the last decade. A WMO report indicates that CO2 levels are now at the highest point in human history. Annual levels of atmospheric carbon have risen 100 times faster in the past hundred years than at any point in the Earth's natural history. Left unchecked this will augur a catastrophe of epic proportions.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Canadian Company is Making History and the Business Case for All Electric Commercial Aviation

On December 11th Vancouver based Harbour Air will test fly the world's first all-electric plane for an all electric commercial airline. The converted 6 passenger de Havilland DHC-2 beaver will take off from from the middle arm of the Fraser River near Richmond British Columbia.  In February of this year Harbour Air announced that it would be converting all of its 40 propeller-driven seaplanes to electric to make it the first emissions free all-electric airline. This is revolutionary because air travel is notoriously harmful to the environment.

Monday, December 9, 2019

You Have Been Warned

Despite an unremitting stream of warnings and studies we still are not doing what we must to protect the natural world and keep temperatures from warming beyond critical upper temperature limits. We were warned about our impact on nature seven years ago in the GEO-5 report. Undeterred we continued to perpetrate genocide against nature.  In 2012 scientists warned us that our oceans are dying but we did not respond.  We have now decimated entire aquatic ecosystems and all around the world coral reefs are dead or dying.

We were warned not to surpass 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial norms. We ignored these warnings and we keep pumping climate change causing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at record breaking rates. We are now at 1 degree C above preindustrial norms, two thirds of the way to the point of no return.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Climate and Environmental Action Promised in Liberal Throne Speech

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a pledge to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and if the throne speech is any indication it would appear that he intends to make good on that promise.  Combating climate change was a significant part of Governor General Julie Payette's throne speech on December 5th, 2019.

The Liberals have made the following five commitments:

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Limitations of Zero Emission All Electric Planes

Zero emissions all electric airplanes are a tremendous step forward but they have limitations. They do not contribute to climate change, they are quiet and cheaper to maintain. The have a steeper rate of climb and are able to maintain performance at higher altitudes where the air resistance is less than at lower altitudes. However they have small payloads and they can only travel a fraction of the distance of traditional planes at less than half the speed.  We know that transportation is a major source of climate change causing greenhouse gases and air travel is a problem not only because of emissions but due to the fact that they are released in the upper atmosphere. Clearly we need alternatives to traditional air travel.  Decarbonization through electrification is the holy grail of transportation, however, air travel poses unique challenges. These hurdles will need to be overcome to make this a more viable mainstream option.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Meet Canadian Mark Carney the New UN Special Envoy for Climate Action

On December 1, 2019, Secretary-General António Guterres announced that Mark Carney, is to become the UN’s new Special Envoy for Climate Action. Carney replaces Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire owner of the Bloomberg financial data and news service and former New York City mayor.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Facts Don't Matter to Trump

On a recent Axe Files podcast, David Axelrod, interviewed President Trump's former economic adviser Gary Cohn. Cohn believed that Trump would change his stance on key issues like climate change and trade if he knew the facts.

As evidenced by Trump's trade wars and his withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement, Cohn was wrong.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

COP25: The Path of Hope or the Path of Surrender

Increased Ambition and Commitment

As reported by UN News, on December 1, 2019 UN Secretary-General António Guterres outlined the “increased ambition and commitment” that the world needs from governments during the coming days of the COP25 UN climate change conference which opens in Madrid.  Guterres called for “accountability, responsibility and leadership” to tackle the global climate crisis.

GivingTuesday and GreenTuesday

Today is GivingTuesday a day that is about giving and volunteering.  This is part of a global grassroots movement that gives us the opportunity to push back against the destructive orgy of consumerism that we see on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. GivingTuesday is celebrated by donating our time, resources and talents to causes we believe in.  This event was Launched in 2012, and it takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

GivingTuesday is celebrated in more than 150 countries. It encourages both charitable donations and community action. People are donating money, volunteering to clean up green spaces and starting fundraisers.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Event - Smart Energy Event 2020: Disruptive Technologies

Smart Energy Event 2020 (SE2020) will take place on April 7 & 8, 2020 at the Marriott Harbourfront, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The 16th annual Smart Energy Event is the region’s premiere 2-day conference, expecting more than 300 delegates from across Canada and the US to explore "Disruptive Technologies". The Conference will highlight innovative technologies focused on disrupting energy generation, hydrogen, distribution, storage, electrification EVs, transportation, carbon capture and the impacts they have on policy, consumers and policy makers. SE2020 sets the stage for attendees to meet and exchange ideas with leading edge innovators, utilities, commercial consumers, engineers, solution providers, stakeholders, and academics. Enjoy over 8 hours of networking opportunities, a range of workshop sessions, a down-home kitchen party and access to key decision makers over 2-days.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

BC Active Transportation Design Guide Training Workshops

BC active transportation design guide workshops graphic
The BC Active Transportation Design Guide Training Workshops will take place in December 2019 and January 30, 2020 at various locations across British Columbia (for specific dates and locations see below).

In June 2019, the Province of British Columbia released the BC Active Transportation Design Guide as part of Move Commute Connect – BC’s New Active Transportation Strategy. The Design Guide is a comprehensive set of planning and engineering guidelines offering recommendations for the planning, selection, design, implementation, and maintenance of active transportation facilities across the province. The Design Guide was created for professionals across British Columbia in the engineering, planning, landscape architecture and architecture fields, and is a valuable resource for elected officials, community groups, and the general public.