Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Myth of Clean LNG

Liquid natural gas is regularly pitched as a "transition fuel" to help wean us off oil and gas as our economy moves to alternative clean energy.

That's a lie.  Green Party MLA and University of Victoria climate scientist, Andrew Weaver debunks the myth.

This myth has been espoused loudly by proponents of LNG, including corporate directors and the BC NDP. And it is just that – a myth.

...LNG Canada will be the largest single point of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. It’s also sourced via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking causes earthquakes, leaks significant amounts of fugitive methane emissions, and contaminates water tables. The government’s own scientists have stated that we do not know the extent of the environmental implications, much less those for human health. 
Fracking is the primary suspect in a spike of extremely rare and lethal cancers in the very communities LNG claims to be benefiting. Doctors are actively advising pregnant women to leave these towns during their pregnancies. 
...Let’s also take a look at the business case of LNG Canada’s “$40 billion dollar” investment: LNG Canada itself estimates $25 billion to $40 billion for a two-phase project (only Phase 1 has been approved). Between $7 billion and $11 billion of this amount will be spent on foreign soil. And, the NDP government has given LNG Canada over $5.35 billion in tax breaks (they’ve also created a system where LNG Canada is able to avoid paying the complete carbon tax). Not to mention that the cost of worsening climate change for B.C. could be dragged into the trillions. 
The 10,000 jobs that LNG Canada purports to be creating? I asked the minister of finance if there is a guarantee that these jobs will be in B.C. Her answer? No. There has also been reporting on leaked internal documents, which estimated that only 35% to 55% of the construction workforce will be British Columbians. 
...Nowhere in this debate are the environmental and health impacts, let alone the true economic costs, being given the emphasis they deserve. Canada is warming at twice the global rate. Over a million species are facing imminent extinction. We are in a planetary crisis that requires immediate action. We don’t have time for a 60-year so-called “transition phase.” 
LNG might represent a path towards profits for a small group of corporations, but for British Columbians, the harm far outweighs the benefits. Millions of youth have been striking around the world this year – and it’s not because they simply fail to grasp something that a few adults “understand.” It’s because we are gambling with their futures. 

CNN Calls It - 2020, Team Oil versus Team Climate

The cable news network, CNN, contends that, when Americans go to the polls next year, there will be one winner and one loser, Team Oil or Team Climate Change.

Voters in 2020 can choose President Donald Trump, who brags about oil production -- the fact that the United States is now the largest producer of oil on Earth
Or voters can opt for the Democratic presidential candidate, whoever it ends up being. All of them agree that humans contribute to climate change -- which is nearly universally described as an existential threat -- and that the US must do something about carbon emissions immediately. 
Partisan split 
Nearly every Democrat or Democratic-leaning voter -- 96% in a CNN poll in April -- wants a candidate who will take aggressive action on climate change. 
It's a far less important issue for most Republicans. An NBC News poll in December found 71% of Democrats saying climate change required immediate action compared with 15% of Republicans.
That's an incredible split that suggests about half the country believes that the world is on pace for a climate reckoning and the other half is basically meh.

David Suzuki: True leaders work for us, not the fossil-fuel industry

David Suzuki takes a look at Canada's petro-pols in an op-ed in the Georgia Strait.
Politicians often justify their undying support for the fossil-fuel industry by claiming they're looking out for jobs and the economy—but those claims don't hold up. 
Despite assertions of some political representatives in Australia and the U.S., coal doesn't have a bright future, and "clean coal" doesn't exist. In Canada, pipeline opponents, Indigenous communities, and environmental groups aren't putting bitumen jobs at risk; automation, market forces, and change in the face of the climate crisis are behind the declines.

Suncor Energy recently switched to automated haulage systems at its North Steepbank bitumen mine, and expects to increase to 150 driverless haul trucks in its oilsands operations over the next five years—affecting hundreds of jobs. Other companies are following suit. Industry is also switching to automated technologies like drones for work ranging from surveying to pipeline inspections. In 2017, Kieron McFadyen, then Cenovus Energy's executive vice president, told investors that his company's long-term vision was to "de-man oilsands" operations.
...Calculations of "energy return on energy invested"—the amount of energy output over the amount required to produce it—show one reason for bitumen's lower price compared to conventional oil. The latter historically delivered 30 units or more for each unit invested, although that is declining as easily accessed sources become depleted. Recent research shows wind energy can also reach this level, while solar is closer to 9:1 or higher. Oilsands bitumen is 5:1 or lower, because large amounts of energy are required to extract, process, and refine it, which makes it costly, inefficient, and much more emissions-intensive than conventional oil. 
Transporting bitumen through pipelines is also expensive, as every 10 barrels of bitumen must be diluted with three barrels of condensate, which costs more than light crude. Costs and inefficiency make oilsands products less desirable on world markets.
...But instead of a rational debate about how to shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy with minimal disruption to workers and society, media and shortsighted politicians inundate us with logical fallacies and absurd conspiracy theories about who's funding the people and organizations that want a prosperous future with clean air, water, and soil and a stable climate.

Decision makers who care about the people they represent and understand science, social trends, and technological potential know that a low-carbon future offers better health, livability, and economic resilience. The fossil-fuel industry is still the most profitable (and among the most destructive) in human history, but those days are coming to an end. True leaders understand this.
'Liberal, Tory - same old story.' There was a time that old NDP saw would get me angry. Those days are gone.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Why We'll Never Get Meaningful Action on Climate Change.

The facts are curious. We have come so far in the development of alternative, clean energy at costs far lower than fossil fuels that the developed world in particular could decarbonize rapidly. Even the Bank of Canada has come to recognize that the 'carbon economy' is actually an economy wrecker, a slow-motion train wreck.

So, what gives? Much of the answer can be found in the warnings given to us by the current and former governors of the Bank of England. They've been telling anyone who'll listen that the global economy is sitting on a potentially catastrophic 'carbon bubble.' What's that all about?

It's estimated that there is some 27 Trillion dollars in proven fossil fuel reserves subscribed on the stock markets and bourses of the world.  Banks, other institutional lenders, hedge funds, pension funds and such are all neck deep in fossil fuel investments. If that carbon bubble bursts, well, that could be an economy wrecker.

Now, in case you haven't heard, most of the global economy is in the grip of neoliberalism. Our own government is decidedly neoliberal as petro-states routinely are.  Petro-states have much to fear from anything that threatens to pop the global carbon bubble. They have the most to lose from a global depression triggered by the implosion of the carbon economy.

There is a reason the Liberals, in their first term in office, have fallen behind in meeting Stephen Harper's modest targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have the slightest intention of honouring the IPCC call for a 50 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and a carbon-neutral position by 2050.  Liberals, like the Conservatives, have chosen to back the carbon economy over providing some sort of viable future for our grandchildren. Think of it as their 'Sophie's Choice' only without all the angst. Tragically neither Trudeau nor Scheer understands that they're propping up something that cannot be saved.

While on the matter of neoliberalism, one of its proponents favourite arguments, is that it has lifted the world out of poverty. That's a con. Anthropologist, Jason Hickel, demolished this nonsense so popular with Bill Gates and the Davos crowd.
Last week, as world leaders and business elites arrived in Davos for the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates tweeted an infographic to his 46 million followers showing that the world has been getting better and better. “This is one of my favourite infographics,” he wrote. “A lot of people underestimate just how much life has improved over the past two centuries.” 
Of the six graphs – developed by Max Roser of Our World in Data – the first has attracted the most attention by far. It shows that the proportion of people living in poverty has declined from 94% in 1820 to only 10% today. The claim is simple and compelling.
...It’s a powerful narrative. And it’s completely wrong.

There are a number of problems with this graph, though. First of all, real data on poverty has only been collected since 1981. Anything before that is extremely sketchy, and to go back as far as 1820 is meaningless. Roser draws on a dataset that was never intended to describe poverty, but rather inequality in the distribution of world GDP – and that for only a limited range of countries. There is no actual research to bolster the claims about long-term poverty. It’s not science; it’s social media.

What Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money. 
...Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.
...Scholars have been calling for a more reasonable poverty line for many years. Most agree that people need a minimum of about $7.40 per day to achieve basic nutrition and normal human life expectancy, plus a half-decent chance of seeing their kids survive their fifth birthday. And many scholars, including Harvard economist Lant Pritchett, insist that the poverty line should be set even higher, at $10 to $15 per day. 
So what happens if we measure global poverty at the low end of this more realistic spectrum – $7.40 per day, to be extra conservative? Well, we see that the number of people living under this line has increased dramatically since measurements began in 1981, reaching some 4.2 billion people today. Suddenly the happy Davos narrative melts away.

Moreover, the few gains that have been made have virtually all happened in one place: China. It is disingenuous, then, for the likes of Gates and Pinker to claim these gains as victories for Washington-consensus neoliberalism. Take China out of the equation, and the numbers look even worse.
Another comment on the corrosive impacts of neoliberalism is provided by Michael Gallant, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance.
“No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark.” 
Immigration is perhaps the defining political issue of the Trump era. The political left, right, and center, each offer their own vision for the proper treatment of those who arrive on American borders in search of a better life. However, as Poet Warsan Shire’s words remind us, migration does not begin at the border, it begins in homes and communities that are rarely abandoned without necessity. 
Though the dynamics of migration are complex, at least one of Shire’s sharks has a name: neoliberal globalization. Since the era of Reagan and Thatcher, powerful states and the wealthy interests that they represent have built a global economic order that places the market above all else. This has resulted in the systematic uprooting of the poor, the working class, and the subaltern of the Global South. Acting through trade deals and international financial institutions, neoliberal globalization causes displacement by creating conditions of poverty, imposing corporate agricultural policies, and fueling environmental destruction.
...The migration crisis is, more accurately, a crisis of displacement. It is the product of a model of globalization that prioritizes the profits of a few over the lives of the many. To solve it requires more than just humane border policy; it requires an alternative globalization. 
An alternative system of trade would build global protections for workers and the environment while limiting the power of capital. A new agricultural policy would encourage, not deter, protections for peasants and indigenous communities. Democratizing international financial institutions like the World Bank would empower those most impacted by their policies. A binding global treaty would hold transnational corporations accountable for their human rights violations and a New Bretton Woods and Global Green New Deal would make major strides against global inequality and climate change. Though such systemic change will not come easily, it is necessary to address displacement at its root.
Of course, we're Canadians and Canada doesn't harm the weak and vulnerable in distant lands except that we do. We just don't pay any attention to it. When was the last time you read a report in a Canadian newspaper about the damage - displacement, suffering, death - being inflicted on the poorest and most vulnerable nations by the petro-states? When was the last time you heard a Canadian prime minister candidly discuss the role the petro-states are playing in fueling the next mass extinction of life on Earth? We don't do that because linking the two might make us look like monsters.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Ready for Prime Minister Boris?

I've been listening to LBC Radio London to get the latest after Theresa May's announcement that she'll step down as prime minister in just two weeks. It's believed her successor will move into 10 Downing St. by mid-July.

Among the Tory ranks are several who've been positioning themselves to run for the top job and, foremost among them, seems to be Boris Johnson, May's nemesis in recent months.

Johnson is a rank opportunist and a chronic liar. That seems to be a spreading problem these days. He's also on record as supporting a "hard Brexit," Britain's departure from the EU without an agreement, something that many experts think could deeply harm the UK economy.

Some, such as Stephen Fry, are pushing back.  In this first video, Fry explores why people such as Johnson and Nigel Farage are so keen on a "no deal" Brexit and what they have in mind for the British public.

In this video Fry looks at how the High Priests of Brexit have inculcated fear in their own supporters, fear that wanders freely into xenophobia and the gamut of racism.

Finally, if you can handle one more, Stephen Fry explores how the Leave camp has flat out lied about what the British public actually wants.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Moral Capitulation of the News Media

Bill Moyers asks, "What if we covered the climate crisis like we did the start of the second world war?"

Moyers addressed young journalists to mark the launch of Covering Climate Now:
Covering Climate Now, a project co-sponsored by The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. Joined by The Guardian and others partners to be announced, Covering Climate Now will bring journalists and news outlets together to dramatically improve how the media as a whole covers the climate crisis and its solutions.
Moyers hearkens back to the days of Edward R. Murrow and the outbreak of war in Europe.
Their names, hardly known when they started, became hallowed in the annals of journalism. Murrow of course, Eric Sevareid, William L Shirer, Larry LeSeuer, Charles Collingwood, Howard K Smith, William Randall Downs, Richard C. Hottelet, Winston Burdett, Cecil Brown, Thomas Grandin, and the one woman among them, Mary Marvin Breckinridge. You can read about them in The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism, a superb book by Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson. 
These reporters spread across Europe as the “phony war” of 1939–40 played out, much like the slow-motion catastrophe of global warming plays out in our time. They saw the threat posed by the Nazis, and they struggled to get the attention of an American public back home exhausted and drained by the Great Depression. 
In September of 1939, with Europe hours away from going up in flames, the powers at CBS in New York ordered Murrow and Shirer to feature an entertainment broadcast spotlighting dance music from nightspots in London, Paris, and Hamburg. Here’s the account from Cloud and Olson:
“‘They say there’s so much bad news out of Europe, they want some good news,’ Murrow [in London] snapped to Shirer [in Berlin] over the phone. The show, scheduled to be broadcast just as Germany was about to rape Poland, would be called ‘Europe Dances’ … Finally, Murrow decreed, ‘The hell with those bastards in New York. It may cost us our jobs, but we’re just not going to do it’.” 
And they didn’t. They defied the bosses—and gave CBS one of the biggest stories of the 20th century, the invasion of Poland.

And still the powers in New York resisted. Through the rest of 1939 and into the spring of 1940, Hitler hunched on the borders of France and the Low Countries, his Panzers idling, poised to strike. Shirer fumed, “My God! Here was the old continent on the brink of war…and the network was most reluctant to provide five minutes a day from here to report it.” Just as the networks and cable channels provide practically no coverage today of global warming.
...Never in my own long career have I been as tested as they were. Or as you will be. Our own global warming “phony war” is over. The hot war is here. 
My colleague and co-writer, Glenn Scherer, compares global disruption to a repeat hit-and-run driver: anonymous, deadly, and requiring tireless investigation to identify the perpetrator. There are long stretches of nothing, then suddenly Houston is inundated and Paradise burns. San Juan blows away and salt water creeps into the subways of New York. The networks put their reporters out in raincoats or standing behind police barriers as flames consume far hills. Yet we rarely hear the words “global warming” or “climate disruption” in their reports. The big backstory of rising CO2 levels, escalating drought, collateral damage, cause and effect, and politicians on the take from fossil-fuel companies? Forget all that. Not good for ratings, say network executives. 
But last October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientifically conservative body, gave us 12 years to make massive changes to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels and to net zero by 2050. On his indispensable site,, Tom Engelhardt writes that humanity is now on a suicide watch.
...Can we get this story right? Can we tell it whole? Can we connect the dots and inspire people with the possibility of change?

What’s journalism for? Really, in the war, what was journalism for, except to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it? 
Here’s the good news: While describing David Wallace-Wells’s stunning new book The Uninhabitable Earth as a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet, The New York Times reports it also offers hope. Wallace-Wells says that “We have all the tools we need…to aggressively phase out dirty energy…”; [cut] global emissions…[and] scrub carbon from the atmosphere…. [There are] ‘obvious’ and ‘available,’ [if costly,] solutions.” 
What we need, he adds, is the “acceptance of responsibility.” 
Our responsibility as journalists is to tell the story so people get it.
The Canadian media are somewhat less derelict in their coverage of the climate crisis. Some, such as The Tyee, or The National Observer, do give considerable coverage to this threat to our very civilization. The networks are bad to merely mediocre. The Sun papers and PostMedia are a disgrace to journalism as it was in Murrow's day. And look at the scribes themselves. How many of the elite accept paying gigs to deliver speeches to the Fossil Fuelers? Then there's that asshole incarnate, Rex Murphy, the English-literature grad who so freely denounces science. We have no reason to point fingers at FOX News, not with the mangy gang in our own media.

Scheer versus Trudeau - the Lesser of Two Weasels

Michael Harris has penned, "An Early Voting Guide to Trudeau (Bad) and Scheer (Worse)."

Before Liberal hearts soar, Harris says they're both lousy choices - Trudeau slightly less lousy. His choice?
Could it be time for change with risk? Could it be time to elect a government committed to saving the planet, rather than four bucks on a fill-up of gas?

If You Can't Believe the World Is Massively Overcrowded

Get an eyeful of this:

These are climbers queuing to summit the world's highest mountain, Mount Everest.
Hundreds of climbers hoping to make it to the summit of the world’s tallest mountain were forced to queue for hours in freezing temperatures at high altitude this week as congestion built up on Mount Everest
The delays have been linked to the deaths of at least three people on the mountain, according to local media. An American man and an Indian man and a woman all died as they descended, various sources said.

Another Bad Day for Justin

It wasn't the first time Trudeau's security officers have thrown a woman to the ground but, this time, it was a 74-year old granny, part of a group of Trans-Mountain pipeline protesters who turned up at a Trudeau speaking engagement.

Watch as Trudeau's burly muscle slams the old dear to the sidewalk. And Justin? He was already inside the venue.

 British Columbia is just not a good place for Justin these days. A lot of people out here have had their fill of Trudeau, his empty promises and that damned pipeline.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Just Make Sure No One's Looking

Ottawa is preparing to relax regulations governing the release of effluent from some Tar Sands tailing ponds. It was bound to happen in the Great Northern Petro-State of Canada.

Ottawa and the Alberta government are in the early stages of crafting new rules with industry to authorize discharges of treated effluent into the Athabasca River, even though the sector’s biggest companies have yet to show they can effectively clean the toxin-laced water on a commercial scale. 
The federal government is targeting final regulations for 2022 modelled on existing rules that authorize releases from metal, mineral and diamond mines, provided contaminants are within regulated limits for “deleterious” substances under the federal Fisheries Act, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail. The changes would also require approval under Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.
Now, don't worry. It'll all be done right, just as it always has been - in a way, sort of, sometimes. It's better if you don't look, just sayin'.

Ottawa says it would put in place stringent environmental controls before permitting any discharges, seen by some as a necessary step for cleaning up the tailing ponds and restoring them to their predevelopment state 
The industrial waste has attracted international scorn for killing migratory birds, including the deaths of 1,600 ducks in a Syncrude Canada Ltd. tailings pond in 2010 that led to a $3-million penalty for the company. 
In 2015, the Alberta government eased regulations and began developing policy and criteria for tailings water release after the industry said it could not meet more stringent cleanup standards.
Let's unpack that. The Bitumen Barons knew that they were bound by "stringent cleanup standards" when they built all those tailing ponds. They went ahead and built those leaky tailing ponds and filled them with all manner of toxic crap knowing full well about those "stringent cleanup standards." Then, after the deed was done they went to the Alberta government whining "I don't wanna" and so the Alberta government watered down those "stringent cleanup standards" to suit the industry. Now Ottawa is jumping on the dirty tailings bandwagon.

Those tailing ponds are a constant threat to the world's third largest watershed, the Mackenzie.

What could possibly go wrong?

There's an answer to that question in a companion piece in today's Globe. Think of it as the "orphan well hustle." It's sort of like reverse asset laundering. The giants unload 'end of life' wells onto companies that have no money for clean up costs. How in hell do they get away with that? Well the article describes them as "pliant regulators," a common feature in petro-states.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Your Friday Funny - George Clooney Says

It Will Take More Than Words to Deal With Climate Change

The Parliamentary Pissing Contest is well underway with Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau battling it out, each claiming to have the best chance of fulfilling Stephen Harper's 2030 carbon emissions targets.

No, this isn't about the 50 per cent cuts by 2030 that science tells us is our last, best chance of averting truly catastrophic climate change. No, they're fighting for 30 per cent cuts by 2030.  30, not 50. 30, as in 20 points short of the absolute minimum that's expected of us.

Canada, one of the top ten overall greenhouse gas emitters and a podium, top three ranking in per capita emissions, determined to ignore the whole '50 by 2030' business altogether.

The Liberals are hell bent on declaring a state of climate emergency exists in Canada but so what if they're still going to chase Stephen Harper's idea of emissions cuts? How does that deal with what they want to recognize as a grave emergency?

Chuckles will unveil his climate action brain fart in June. Apparently it will revolve around bitumen pipelines to the west coast and to the east.

Bank of Canada Warns: Beware of Carbon Dumpster Fires

Bad tidings for the Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill.  The Bank of Canada warns of looming carbon-asset "fire sales" that could destabilize our economy.

The shift to a low-carbon economy is "underway" and sectors like oil and gas, as well as the banks that loan money to them, are exposed to risks from climate change that could spill over into destabilizing "fire sales," the Bank of Canada said Thursday. 
The central bank listed climate change as one of six vulnerabilities in the Canadian financial system in a report released May 16. The report, called the Financial System Review, marks the first time the Bank of Canada has explored the issue in depth as part of its examination of risks to the nation's financial stability.
Excellent timing, Liberals. We're stuck with a $4.5 billion time-expired bitumen pipeline that'll need another $7 to $9 billion in expansion costs to deliver high carbon, high cost, low value bitumen to "tidewater."
The Bank of Canada's acknowledgement of climate-related risk in Thursday's report is significant, given that it's the institution that promotes economic and financial welfare in the country, including through setting the key interest rate and influencing the money supply.'
Oh dear, it sounds like someone panicked and let some slick Texans get the better of us. Hmmm.  I'll bet it's high-fives all round in the Lone Star state these days.

Louisiana Wakes Up, Looks Around and Cries, "We're Screwed."

One of the most backward, impoverished states of the entire UuuuNited States of 'Merica has figured out it's, well, it's screwed. The epiphany came in the form of a roadmap to sea level rise, storm surge, coastal and lowland inundation just released by the state government entitled "Our Land and Water" that's mainly about a lot more water and a lot less land.  The 1,500 page report warns that southern Louisiana is facing an existential crisis.
"There are ways for us to make coastal communities more livable, resilient and viable post-disaster, just by making the whole community more resilient ... so that businesses and government services can all get back to work more quickly after a disaster," said Pat Forbes, executive director of Louisiana's Office of Community Development, which produced the report along with the Foundation for Louisiana.

In other areas, people will have little choice but to leave as the water rises. The plan, in a departure from many adaptation reports, also focuses on how inland areas can prepare for an influx of new residents from the coasts.

"There's a sort of self-displacement that's occurring over the past 15 years or so," Forbes said. As large numbers of people move out of coastal communities, the shift is likely a sign that they are sick of flooding, worried about inability to get to schools or jobs or unable to pay rising flood insurance rates. "I'm sure it's a combination of all those things and more," he said.

"Silly Old Fart" or "The Conrad Black Story"

Just trying to come up with titles for a biography of Conrad Black, Lord Lightfingers of Piddle Puddle.  Wait, how about, "Black, the Dotage Years" or "Conrad Black, You All Look So Small From Way Up Here" or "Conrad Black, I'm Still a Baron.That Must Count for Something"? How bout "Black, These Boots Were Made for Licking, This Butt Was Made for Kissing"?

What I admire most about Conrad is that he did nothing wrong. Why, he says as much himself. I'm sure Barbara does too and now even Donald Trump, Exalted Pharaoh of the United States of America vouchsafes Conrad's innocence. How else can you explain that except to conclude that Conrad did nothing wrong?

You see, here's where the confusion lies. If you or I or any of our fellow "lessers" had done that, well then we would be justifiably and inarguably guilty as charged, guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice. And we wouldn't be getting any four or six years for it either. No siree, our butts would be in the slammer for a long, long time.  But isn't that really our problem, not theirs? We know it's wrong but that doesn't mean they have to.

Crimes do not cross class lines naturally. Here's a perfect example. If a pleb deprives another pleb of that person's lawful property, it's theft or worse and only jail will do. He knows he's committing a crime. It's a criminal act. When the privileged do it, it's business, a way of life. It's almost a public service to keep the wheels of wealth turning. It is them, our betters, honouring a tradition that predates even Runnymede and Magna Carta. The distinction is lost on us but it's practically a way of life to higher order people such as Conrad and his benefactor, the Moist Regal Sultan of the United States. They know things so that we don't have to. Noblesse oblige.

Let us not forget Conrad's service as a champion of prison reform. He reminds us that prison is no place for the privileged, those of high birth. The low are not familiar with such things as pedicure and silk boxers so they can't experience the depths of despair endured by their genetic betters. The unwashed never had private chefs or waterfront estates or so many other accoutrements that the privileged must forego in the Greybar Hotel.

Try to show just a little compassion when Conrad says he won't answer criticism of his pardon because it's "not worthy of response." Conrad has spoken and I believe that settles it.

And let's be mindful, politely mindful, of Conrad's age. Perhaps we ought to be grateful if he doesn't put up too much of a fuss at bath time. And let's celebrate a lifetime of service even if it has been spent mainly feathering his own nest and inflating his delicate ego.

Now, all in favour of imploring the Marquis to accept a reinstatement of his Canadian citizenship, please raise your hands.  A show of hands. Anybody? The gentleman in the blue shirt, third row from the back. I thought I saw your hand. No? Oh, alright. Damn!

Changing World, Changing Words

It's a sign of these fast-changing times. The Guardian is changing its lexicon of climate change terms beginning with "climate change."  What was appropriate 20 years ago doesn't work that well today.

Instead of “climate change” the preferred terms are “climate emergency, crisis or breakdown” and “global heating” is favoured over “global warming”, although the original terms are not banned.

“We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “The phrase ‘climate change’, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.” 
“Increasingly, climate scientists and organisations from the UN to the Met Office are changing their terminology, and using stronger language to describe the situation we’re in,” she said. 
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, talked of the “climate crisis” in September, adding: “We face a direct existential threat.” The climate scientist Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a former adviser to Angela Merkel, the EU and the pope, also uses “climate crisis”
In December, Prof Richard Betts, who leads the Met Office’s climate research, said “global heating” was a more accurate term than “global warming” to describe the changes taking place to the world’s climate. In the political world, UK MPs recently endorsed the Labour party’s declaration of a “climate emergency”.
So, I guess we'll settle in with Climate Lexicon, Mk. 2, for now. I don't want to dwell on what awaits Climate Lexicon, Mk. 3.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

China's Long Game - Waiting for Trump to Bring Down the United States

China's economic prowess is just part of its rivalry with the United States. This is a standard part of an ascending power taking its rightful place alongside a once-dominant power.

According to research analyst, Laban Yu, Trump's trade war won't stop China's long game.

“China can only conclude that the U.S. is in long-term decline as President [Donald] Trump actively undermines the liberal international order with his tariffs on allies as well as adversaries, contempt for multilateral institutions and belligerent tweets … [China is] betting on American political decay … We believe China will test America’s pain threshold with the belief that U.S. politicians are beholden to interest groups (farmers, retail industry, corporations).” 
Mr. Yu sees the economic pain from an extended trade war as more or less evenly distributed, with the two-sided imposition of tariffs “not punches thrown at the other boxer but head butts which hurt both sides equally.” 
Citi economist Willem Buiter described similar concerns about U.S. politics in “How to Think about Political Risk and the Economy,” 
“Policy uncertainty affecting trade, sanctions, regulation, diplomatic norms, and the strength and independence of institutions is the greater risk going forward. The obstacles to appropriate countercyclical [stimulative] policy when global recession threatens are likely to stem from weak political capacity and will, owing to political fragmentation.”
Globe and Mail market strategist, Scott Barlow, concludes:
There were signs of institutional failure ...almost a year ago – political extremism, pathetically low approval ratings for U.S. congress, and an anti-vaccination movement that showed disdain for medical experts – but there was no clear battleground to test the relative strength of western democracies. 
Trade negotiations might be providing the arena that was missing. A deal that cools tensions could, of course, be signed at any point but Mr. Yu believes, “Even if a deal is signed next week, it is now clear to us that the China-U.S. relationship will be fraught for decades to come.”

CBC - Winds of Change Sweeping Across Canada

The CBC's Eric Grenier has discovered that the Canadian people are developing an appetite for change.

Grenier focuses on Canada's traditionally stodgy politics.

Not since the Great Depression disrupted sitting governments across the country has any prime minister presided over a period of such sweeping political turnover as Justin Trudeau has ahead of October's federal election. 
Another government could be added to the tally if Dwight Ball's Liberals fail to secure re-election in today's vote in Newfoundland and Labrador — a defeat that would make Trudeau's term in office the bloodiest for an incumbent government in Canadian history.
Unless I missed something, these turnovers and upsets have been relatively bloodless but, I suppose, I could be wrong.  Here's the thing that Grenier may have overlooked - the world has been swept up in change and it's only just getting started. And this change can alter many things, our politics just one of them.

The Redneck Rampage that has infested the country from the Rockies to the Ottawa River is worrisome yet you can't lay that at Mr. Trudeau's feet.  However, like swarms of cicada, they have arisen, promising to set right any manner of wrongs and grievances, often more imagined than real. They run about setting Reichstag Fires and pointing at everyone but themselves as the culprit.

My guess is that this nonsense will get old and soon. Doug Ford has no answers to Ontario's problems. Jason Kenney is a bag of wind. Moe, Pallister - ditto, ditto.  The 80s are gone. We're about to march into the 2020s and anyone keen on change will get a belly full and they won't like it when these clowns can't help them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

He'll Always Be a Felon to Me

Lots of people make mistakes, run afoul of the law, get convicted and do a stretch in prison only to eventually receive a pardon.

Here's my take. The significance of a pardon depends no end on just who is granting absolution. When that someone is Donald Trump, someone you have faithfully shilled for in the pages of the equally dodgy National Post, it's not quite like a real pardon. It's a Trump Pardon, meh.

So an unindicted felon, Trump, grants a convicted felon, Black a pardon. That really doesn't change things. One larcenous swine knows a thoroughly unprincipled swine and, voila, swine things ensue.

Perhaps his Lordship should now di di mau to Westminster to receive the warm Welcome Home from his fellow peers. We should get something out of this if only to see his heels out of our country.

Greenwashing the House of Commons

If you want to gauge the sincerity of our political parties' plans to tackle climate change, a good starting point would be to see if they're turning it into a political football in time for the October federal elections.

Guess what? They are.

They're all in a tussle to set each other up - Trudeau, Singh and, eventually, Scheer.  Not one of them will present a coherent plan to cut Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030. That's because it would mean a wholesale change in our environmental and energy policy, what Hans Joachim Schellnhuber termed the "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industry.

And Let the Chips Fall Where They May - BC Plunges Into Money Laundering

And, when those chips fall, a lot of them will probably land at the feet of the former BC Liberal governments and their premiers, Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark.  My guess is there'll be an overflow that will reach straight into Ottawa.

British Columbia's NDP government has directed a public enquiry into the province's rampant money laundering scandal.
Premier John Horgan announced the decision Wednesday after a cabinet meeting in which his ministers debated the pros and cons of an independent commission of inquiry into how criminal organizations have laundered dirty drug money through the provincial economy. 
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen was appointed to head the inquiry to look at the full scope of money laundering and its impact on real estate, gaming, financial institutions, the corporate and professional sectors as well as regulatory and law enforcement hurdles. 
Cullen will be given the power to compel witnesses and order documents be disclosed.

"We've Run Out of Elections to Waste" - McKibben

Bill McKibben has a warning - "We've run out of elections to waste - this is the last chance to make a difference on climate change."

McKibben, of, has been waging a war against climate change and the political caste that ignores it since his first book was published in 1989. Now he's written an urgent plea to Australians as they head to the polls.
I can say with confidence that if Australians want to play a serious role in fixing the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced, this may be about the last election where people retain enough leverage to make a real difference
Global warming, after all, is a math problem: how quickly can we reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its report last year, said that unless a fundamental transformation was fully underway by 2030, we stood no chance of meeting the targets the world set in the Paris climate accords. No matter what country you’re in, “fundamental transformations” don’t come overnight; if you want to dramatically trim carbon emissions in 2030, it means you better start in 2020
That means that if Aussie politicians of all stripes are still passing around lumps of coal and fantasising about huge new coal mines, that’s not going to happen. 
The good news is, if you want change, the timing couldn’t be better: the engineers have done their job so well that the cost of renewable energy just keeps falling. In much of the world it’s now the cheapest way to produce electrons (and that’s even without charging fossil fuel a penny for the damage it’s doing). That means we’re in a position to make truly fast strides in the right direction (especially those of us lucky enough to live on a continent washed by wind and bathed in the rays of the sun). 
...A decade is an eternity in climate time now. We’ve wasted three decades since scientists first raised the warning – that’s guaranteed that we’ll have massive increases in temperature.It means we’ve run out of decades to waste, and hence of elections to waste. Every election matters – it registers who we are at a certain moment in history, and it sets the course of the next few years. 
But this election will matter forever.
McKibben's warning should resonate with every Canadian who will vote in our federal elections in October.  Ours will also be an election that will matter forever. This year may be our last election where the Canadian rank and file, you and me, retain enough leverage to make a real difference.

Here's the thing. We've run out of elections to waste. So too have those who plead for our votes. When it comes to this issue, this existential threat, climate change, they've wasted three decades of elections ignoring the clear warning of science.

They'll waste this election too, if you let them. They will do no more than they absolutely must to win your vote. In fact, experience shows us, they'll do far less when the dust settles, after the votes are counted. Justin is long on promises and very short on action.

So, if you can't rely on them to do what is so critically necessary, don't vote for them. Why waste your vote in this, our most important election? Scheer and Trudeau between them will still get most of the votes. Whoever gets closest to 39 per cent of the vote will stand a good chance at winning an undemocratic, false majority virtually guaranteeing no meaningful action on climate change. Bump that down from 39 to 35 or 30 per cent and it's a different dynamic.So, no false majority. Minority government. Coalition government. Government that can no longer ignore the needs and security of the Canadian people. 

This election is too critical to squander on empty campaign promises and weasel words.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

When All That Held You Together was Graft

The British Columbia Liberal Party, successor to the market fundamentalist, social conservative Social Credit party, had a good run governing British Columbia. Good for the BC Libs, not so much for the province and people of British Columbia.

They earned a richly deserved reputation for corruption and venality on a scale that would make Grant Devine envious. Christy Clark's BCL government even made the pages of the New York Times not once but twice for its fondness for dirty money and shady deals.  Clark's policy on bitumen pipelines and supertankers 'evolved' with every cheque from the Calgary Petroleum Club. Scandals abounded such as BC Hydro and BC Rail and more - much, much more.

The BC Liberals, like their SoCred predecessors, were not always a cohesive bunch. They were mainly a loose gaggle of miscreants defined largely by the fact they weren't New Democrats. It seemed that graft was the glue that held them together. That's one of those perks you lose when you're out of power.

Today the BC Liberals are beginning to fracture. It's a social conservative thing - abortion.
It’s a tough time for the BC Liberals.

A devastating report on money laundering left former Liberal governments looking incompetent, or much worse, for failing to act as a tidal wave of crime enriched the party’s big donors and hurt ordinary British Columbians. 
And two high-profile Liberal MLAs’ anti-abortion comments showed the challenge leader Andrew Wilkinson faces in holding the centre-right coalition from imploding. 
Former premier Gordon Campbell did it from 1993 to 2010. Former MLA Bill Bennett offered an inside look at the process when he was fired as a cabinet minister in 2010. Being in Campbell’s caucus was to submit to battered wife syndrome, he said. Preventing internal rifts is the most important task for any Liberal leader. In a two-party race, the centre-right coalition starts every campaign with a big advantage over the NDP.
The Liberals are far from splitting. But the decision by MLAs Rich Coleman and Laurie Throness to jump into the abortion debate — and make trouble for Wilkinson — shows there are cracks in the coalition.
Both spoke at an anti-abortion rally on the legislature steps. Coleman told the crowd he was praying for them. 
“There really are things in our society we have to stand up for,” he said. “The fact that somebody wants to do things with the right to life at the end of life, or the right to life at the beginning of life, is totally, totally wrong for me.” (Coleman later noted he didn’t use the word abortion, a distinction without a difference, and claimed his religious freedom was under attack.) 
Throness unequivocally staked out a position at the extreme end of the anti-abortion campaign. “I’m pro-life because it’s a matter of faith and natural law, that life is sacred from conception until natural death,” he told about 100 people who attended the march. 
Our democracy would be stronger if politicians were free to discuss their own policy views even when they differ from the positions of their parties. (Watch Sean Holman’s documentary Whipped to see the damage done by the required slavish devotion to the party line.) 
But the abortion debate isn’t a policy discussion. It’s mainly an attempt to impose one group’s religious views on society, as Coleman and Throness confirmed in their speeches.
...Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson took [the position that the debate is settled] after Coleman and Throness spoke. “Our position as a party has not changed in that we support a woman’s right to choose,” he tweeted rather tersely, without saying why he felt it necessary to share that information.

But two powerful MLAs had just said they believed the Liberal position was not just wrong, but immoral.
...The BC Liberals are an uncomfortable coalition. Federal Liberals and Conservatives set aside their differences. Social conservatives, fundamentalist Christians, progressive free market types, northern resource workers, Vancouver real estate developers and anti-government zealots all cram into the “big tent.” 
So when two prominent Liberal MLAs say to many of the people sharing the tent the party is wrong on an issue they believe is vitally important, things get complicated — especially for the leader.

Climate Change Denialism Still Lurks in the Heart of New Dems

Many thanks for veteran New Democrat Cam Holstrom's acknowledgement that NDP doctrine is to do just as little as possible even on existential threats such as climate change.

Holstrom reveals all in a scathing critique of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh's suspect and entirely self-serving ephiphany on climate change and the carbon economy.  Holstrom is particularly incensed at Singh's demand that Canada meet the UN call for a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Yesterdays announcement came off to me as an abandon of any pretense of what the NDP has been traditionally; a balance between urban lefties/environmental movement and rural, unionized, resource sector and industrial workers. For as long as I can remember, the NDP has walked that line, trying to balance two important constituencies in a way that benefits both. That is never easy, and if you’re all about ideological purity, it’s not emotionally satisfying. But it gets better results, results that the vast majority of people can sign onto and bring people along.
I don't know what part of the 12 year window to thwart catastrophic climate change Holmstrom doesn't get but he obviously doesn't. And exactly what "better results" can he point to? Would it be the fact that little old Canada is in the Top Ten nations on total emissions or how Canada has managed to rank in the Top Three for per capita emissions?

'Slow and easy' is the New Dem path, says Holstrom.
The fact is that the vast majority of New Democrats, including folks like Rachel Notley, Ryan Meili and John Horgan, support a transition to clean energy. The key word there is “transition”, because a transition takes many steps and takes time. It’s not a simply “A to B” proposition. That means having to work with everyone to help make that transition happen and yes, that even includes energy companies that have oil and gas holdings.
Ignore those annoying climate scientists with their fancy knowledge and research and facts. What do they know? What does climate change have to do with science when it's plainly a political matter?

This recalls a post from Sunday on truth and the modern tendency of political thought to be belief-based in preference to fact or knowledge-based truth.

But Mr. Holstrom isn't against taking action. For example he suggests the federal government should start pouring money into the cleanup of Alberta's orphan wells, the bastard children of Conservative and New Democrat governments promiscuously cavorting with "cut and run" oil producers, because, if Alberta won't make polluters pay, Ottawa should cough up the money. That's Dipper thinking for you.

Money desperately needed for climate change mitigation and adaptation should instead be funneled into continuing fossil fuel subsidies and cleaning up the environmental catastrophe those companies leave when they bolt. That'll change things, won't it? They've got a quarter-trillion dollar (Alberta government figures) clean up disaster in Athabasca. A federal whip-round for that too, Cam?

My impression is that Mr. Holmstrom doesn't recognize how close to the edge we are. We, as in Canada and every other nation. Science tells us - oh, so dispassionately - that human civilization is in peril. That's not belief. That's the result of scientific observation, testing, analysis and review - the 'scientific method' for which New Dems plainly have little appetite, preferring instead their beliefs.

Stiglitz - Neoliberalism has Gutted the Middle Class

Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist, Joe Stiglitz, contends we urgently need to replace neoliberalism with progressive capitalism.

Three years ago, President Donald Trump’s election and the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum confirmed what those of us who have long studied income statistics already knew: in most advanced countries, the market economy has been failing large swaths of society. 
Nowhere is this truer than in the United States. Long regarded as a poster child for the promise of free-market individualism, America today has higher inequality and less upward social mobility than most other developed countries.
After rising for a century, average life expectancy in the U.S. is now declining. And for those in the bottom 90% of the income distribution, real (inflation-adjusted) wages have stagnated: the income of a typical male worker today is around where it was 40 years ago. 
Meanwhile, many European countries have sought to emulate America, and those that succeeded, particularly the U.K., are now suffering similar political and social consequences.
Contrary to what many in the financial sector would like to think, the problem was not too much state involvement in the economy, but too little. Both crises were the direct result of an under-regulated financial sector.

Now, the middle class is being hollowed out on both sides of the Atlantic. 
...Reversing this malaise requires that we figure out what went wrong and chart a new course forward, by embracing progressive capitalism, which, while acknowledging the virtues of the market, also recognizes its limitations and ensures that the economy works for the benefit of everyone
We cannot simply return to the golden age of Western capitalism in the decades after World War II, when a middle-class lifestyle seemed within reach of a majority of citizens. Nor would we necessarily want to. After all, the “American dream” during this period was mostly reserved for a privileged minority: white males. 
We can thank former President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for our current state of affairs. The neoliberal reforms of the 1980s were based on the idea that unfettered markets would bring shared prosperity through a mystical trickle-down process.
...We were told that lowering tax rates on the rich, financialization, and globalization would result in higher standards of living for everybody. 
Instead, the U.S. growth rate fell to around two-thirds of its level in the post-war era — a period of tight financial regulations and a top marginal tax rate consistently above 70% — and a greater share of the wealth and income from this limited growth was funneled to the top 1%. 
Instead of the promised prosperity, we got deindustrialization, polarization, and a shrinking middle class. Unless we change the script, these patterns will continue — or worsen
Fortunately, there is an alternative to market fundamentalism. 
Through a pragmatic rebalancing of power between government, markets, and civil society, we can move toward a freer, fairer, and more productive system. Progressive capitalism means forging a new social contract between voters and elected officials, workers and corporations, rich and poor.
Stiglitz spared Mulroney, as much a champion of the "new economy" as Thatcher or Reagan.  Those three genuinely did drink the KoolAid of von Mises, Hayek and Friedman. They drove us into the ditch and none of their successors has had the vision, the courage and the strength to pull us back out.

Today we have Team Trudeau/Morneau and they're avowed disciples of market fundamentalism. Neither has shown the inclination much less the vision to pry us loose from neoliberalism's grip. After all, that's been the source of their considerable riches.

It's a Manly Thing. Jagmeet Now Opposes Fracking.

Just days after the New Dems were tossed in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election by the Green Party candidate, Paul Manly, a clearly panicked Jagmeet Singh has become "woke" on climate change.

Canada must meet the UN call for slashing greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030, now urges Mr. Singh. But wait, there's more. The federal NDP now opposes fracking for oil and gas. Wowser.

It's funny how environmentally conscious the New Dems become when they're soiling their dainties. What's not funny is how quick they can be to shed the environmental fervor when the moment passes sort of like Justin Trudeau's solemn campaign promises.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sure, Jagmeet, But How?

When a New Democrat talks about climate change they need to be very specific and entirely candid. We've heard their talk before and it's usually just empty words.

Jagmeet Singh, perhaps desperate enough to go for the low-hanging fruit, says an NDP federal government would cut Canada's greenhouse gases by half over the next decade.

Two points. There's about a zero chance of the NDP winning power in October. Second, to make that claim the New Dems would have to present a credible plan on how they would implement those cuts.

I expect something entirely sophomoric, bordering on utterly insincere, from Jagmeet's proposal. There'll be nonsense about getting rid of gas guzzlers and everybody suddenly zipping about in electric chariots.

As described in my previous post such drastic cuts will require a wholesale rejigging of our economy. The UN which is promoting global emissions cuts doesn't pull any punches on that score.
On Friday, Luis Alfonso de Alba, the top UN envoy entrusted with preparing September's [climate change] summit, called for a "drastic" rethink of the global economic model. 
Required was a "transformation of the way we consume, the way we produce," de Alba said. "This is not a process in which we can aim at a gradual increase of ambitions."
Jagmeet, like Justin, has reason to worry about climate change. It's an issue that threatens to bleed away NDP and Liberal support to the Greens. And so, out of the blue, Singh becomes an environmental chameleon. This is blatant posturing and Singh isn't very good at it.

We've seen enough greenwash from the NDP to know it's probably a ploy.

What Would It Really Take?

We all know the injunction - cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030 and entirely by 2050.

To some that conjures up visions of the end of fossil fuels, a switch to alternative green energy, electric cars instead of gas guzzlers, baseboard heaters instead of oil or gas furnaces, simple stuff like that.  Easy-peasy.

Only it's not so simple. It would require wholesale change to our economies, what we produce, how we trade. There would be a focus on curbing inequality, not just within national societies but on a global scale.

The UN official in charge of this September's climate summit in New York, recently hinted at what's in store if we're to avoid runaway climate change.
On Friday, Luis Alfonso de Alba, the top UN envoy entrusted with preparing September's [climate change] summit, called for a "drastic" rethink of the global economic model. 
Required was a "transformation of the way we consume, the way we produce," de Alba said. "This is not a process in which we can aim at a gradual increase of ambitions."
We have to rethink the global economic model. That's a reference to neoliberal globalism. What would a drastic rethink of hyper-capitalism look like? How do our leaders sit down and formulate neoliberalism's successor?

de Alba rejects any "gradual increase of ambitions." That sounds to me like a warning that we have to find better, more sustainable goals than the pursuit of perpetual exponential growth in GDP that has been the hallmark of the postwar era.

We seem to have reached a point where theories of classical economics, already slammed by some as a "mental illness," crash into the concrete wall of environmental reality. It was bound to happen. Infinite growth is not compatible with a finite ecosystem and Earth is sublimely finite.

Think of this Earth as the source of almost all our resources (other than solar energy) which is very much what it is. Earth provides all our soils that sustain life and support modern agriculture. Pretty much everything we do from basic hygiene to our morning coffee to industrial manufacturing requires clean water, enormous volumes of clean water. Again, that is provided by Earth.  Minerals that we use for fossil fuels, metals and other products - that's also Earth. The atmosphere, that's Earth.

Earth, then, is life. It is wildlife and it is human life. Yet it's finite. There's only so much Earth and, because Earth is finite, the planet's carrying capacity, its ability to support life is limited.  It can go only so far and no further. It is our host and we are obliged to respect our host's boundaries, its limits, or we will pay dearly for abusing the environment. And that is where we are today.

We have grown too large for our host. This manifests in several ways. Climate change is one - but only one - of them.

Earth is regenerative. It has cycles. Two of the most critical are the carbon cycle and the hydrologic or water cycle. Here's a depiction of the Carbon Cycle -

And here's the hydrologic or Water Cycle -

Humans have messed up both cycles. We have skewed the carbon cycle by digging up once safely sequestered fossil fuels that, when burned, have significantly increased atmospheric carbon loading causing changes including global warming, the capture and retention of additional solar energy.

The increased retention of solar energy has likewise altered the water cycle through atmospheric warming.  Hotter surface temperatures result in increased evaporation and hotter atmospheric temperatures increase the atmosphere's ability to hold greater volumes of water vapor. Hotter atmospheric temperatures also change how the atmosphere moves, jet streams and circulation patterns influencing floods and droughts. Hotter, moister air also generates more powerful severe weather events - hurricanes, tornadoes.

Both of these now significantly modified cycles are not only caused by man-made activities but have a powerful effect on how the Earth, our host, responds to us. They degrade the Earth's environmental carrying capacity, the very essence of life. It's wildly beyond counter-intuitive for us to imagine that we can continue our pursuit of perpetual exponential growth, increasing our perpetual exponential burden on Earth in the process.

We're running amok. We've grown like a malignancy. The recent UN report on biodiversity loss and extinction is an indictment of the neoliberal obsession with unrestrained endless growth. A million species are in serious risk of extinction, among them many "keystone" species whose loss will have knock-on effects on other species.  In forty years, the rough lifespan of neoliberalism, we have depleted the numbers of both terrestrial and marine life by more than half through direct predation or habitat loss.

When you follow these worrisome developments long enough, the manner and depth of their interconnection is inescapable. There are no "stand alone" existential threats even if we do prefer to treat them as such.  Climate change and biodiversity are linked and, together, they produce knock-on effects in other areas that can demonstrate both the robustness and the fragility of our natural world and its systems.

And so I hope that I have at least imperfectly explained how, when we're debating greenhouse gas emissions or biodiversity loss or a new economic model for the Anthropocene, all of these things are related. Common threads run through them all. When you step far enough back and look on these threats one thing emerges from them all - humans urgently need to find ways to live in harmony with Earth's ecology. We have to live within the safety bounds of our environment and we're way past that today. If we can't or won't get back inside, we're done.

de Alba is right. It's time for a "drastic rethink."

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Will We Be Putting Our Leaders on Trial?

An aboriginal claim hits the United Nations tomorrow. It is brought by Australia's Torres Strait Islanders. A coastal group facing devastating sea level rise, they contend that their government and, by implication, every government, owes its people a fundamental duty to ensure a livable environment.

...the Australians’ argument is the first to seek the weight of the United Nations behind such a climate claim, and it could set a precedent for how the populations most vulnerable to the effects of global warming can seek redress under international law.

It is also the first time that the Australian government — which has failed to meet emissions reduction targets and continues to approve embattled coal mine projects — has faced climate change litigation that asserts a human rights violation. The claimants call on the country to help fund sea walls and other infrastructure that might save the Torres Strait Islands, which have a population of about 4,500, and to meet the emissions targets set under the Paris climate agreement.

If successful, the case “would really break new ground internationally,” said John Knox, a professor of international law at Wake Forest University and a former special rapporteur on human rights and the environment to the United Nations.
A fundamental duty to ensure, i.e. safeguard, a livable environment. You might think that goes without saying. On the other hand, if you're part of the fossil energy economy you might find such a claim outlandish - as long as you're getting yours.

A livable future as a fundamental human right. There's an idea that is long overdue.

Is This the Set-Up for War?

The timing couldn't be more obvious, not with a US navy carrier task force bearing down on the Persian Gulf and Trump spoiling to kick a little Iranian butt.

Four commercial vessels have been targeted by "sabotage operations" near territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, its foreign ministry says. 
The sabotage attempt occurred in the Gulf of Oman, the statement said, but the ministry gave no details of what form it took. 
There were no injuries or deaths. 
Tensions are high in the area - a crucial oil and natural gas corridor. In recent days the US has sent additional warships there. 
The UAE foreign ministry called the attempted sabotage a "dangerous development" and called upon the international community to "prevent such actions" in future.
From AlJazeera:
The incident comes as the United States has warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as the US deploys an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. 
The US navy's Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said it was aware of the report but referred queries to UAE authorities.
America has a dodgy history of interfering in the Middle East including manufacturing a convenient 'casus belli' out of thin air. But, hey, with a team like Donald Trump, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo gunning for Tehran what are the chances they would do it again?

Apparently Iran is a bit nervous. I wonder if this map showing US military installations in Iran's neighbourhood might have something to do with that?

So, Like, Where Do You Find Your Truth?

This being the Sabbath and all I thought it a good time to consider the idea of truth and what it means to us, to me and to you.

As far as I can tell there are two main types of truth, one that is becoming vastly more popular than the other. There is truth founded on belief. That's the sort of truth you'll find preached in pews wherever Christians gather today. It's a lot like the truth our Jewish brethren exchanged yesterday and the children of Islam delved into on Friday. When it is embellished with religious overtones we call it "faith."

'Truth' founded on belief is a lot more prevalent than you might imagine. It has a vast secular dimension.  As John Ralston Saul observes in his book on globalism, all ideologies, economic or political, are belief-based. He devotes several pages documenting how economic models, at least historically, have lasted on average about 30 years before they're replaced by the next great thing which we believe to be more sound or convenient, a correction to our former flawed notions. Political ideology is likewise a belief-based construct. Communism, socialism, social democracy, capitalist democracy, oligarchy, plutocracy - they're belief based and, perhaps with a bit of occasional blood-letting here and there, interchangeable.

The other side, fact-based truth, that's in trouble. It impedes things like unfettered commerce. Ask Monsanto or Exxon. The last thing they want to do is confront facts, particularly scientific fact. Not for nothing do they attack science as a modern "religion." It may not cut much ice with the scientific community or those who prefer fact-based truth but that doesn't matter. It works just fine with their target audience - those who need to believe and will reject what Al Gore called the "inconvenient (fact-based) truth."

This leads to the now predictable faith-based response to fact-based truth, usually in the form of attacks on Gore for the size of his house, Suzuki for the number of his children or scientists generally for their massive (five figure) salaries. It becomes like a mantra, more compelling with each additional chanter. It's a bit like a quasi-hypnotic reaction, a mass psychosis.

Our political leadership has become disturbingly belief-based. Our current prime minister solemnly pledged that his government would follow the science. He left out the part about 'how far' because the honest answer would be 'not very.' His mandate letters to his ministers made each and every one a vassal to the nation's economy and his neoliberal vision of what that should be.

Mr. Trudeau is a disciple to the cult of perpetual exponential growth. It's entirely belief-based given the premise that our economy can continue to grow, steadily ever faster, endlessly on a planet that is decidedly finite, not growing, not a bit. If anything, our rapidly metastasizing human civilization is shrinking, as in degrading, the planet's ecosystem. Earth's carrying capacity is no longer what it historically was. Doesn't sound like someone is 'following the science.'

Like all cults, neoliberalism's quest for perpetual exponential growth is entirely belief-based and, like all belief-based truth of its dimension, it won't end well. It may end abruptly but it won't end well.

Like all cults, the neoliberal order and its High Priests ignore whatever doesn't suit their belief-construct. They still chase a toxic growth paradigm even though the Earth's envrionment, its biosphere is already reeling.

Neoliberalism's cult needs a collaborator to spread the news. Enter the mainstream media. This bit posted to Facebook gives you the idea:

Like it or not, we're at a moment when we need a lot more fact-based truth and not so much faith-based 'truth' whether that's religious, political or economic belief. One and only one of them leads us to a future. The other only leads us to Armageddon, extinction.

We're coming to a point where we need solid, fact-based leadership. We're in a jam. It's man-made. A lot of this mess traces straight back into belief-based thinking, really messed up ideas that flew in the face of knowledge, fact and truth. It worked, or so it seemed, for a few decades but it's not working any more. The economic model we continue to cling to has outlived its utility. It's not working for us any longer. It's working against us, driving critical resource exhaustion, climate change and the looming collapse of biodiversity. Now, more than ever, we need leaders clear-headed enough to try to steer us in another direction.
On Friday, Luis Alfonso de Alba, the top UN envoy entrusted with preparing September's [climate change] summit, called for a "drastic" rethink of the global economic model. 
Required was a "transformation of the way we consume, the way we produce," de Alba said. "This is not a process in which we can aim at a gradual increase of ambitions."

I Know, You Know, So Does Antonio

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, says the political will to fight climate change is "fading." From Deutsche Welle.

Guterres said the world was "not on track" to confine the rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as agreed in the 2015 Paris agreement. 
"The paradox is that as things are getting worse on the ground, political will seems to be fading," said the UN secretary general. 
"Climate change is running faster than what we are … the last four years have been the hottest registered," he said, adding that political inadequacy was evident "everywhere."
Gutteres urged the world community to, "protect the lives of our people."  As if.
His remarks precede a Climate Action Summit he plans to convene in New York in September where nations will be asked to present "concrete, realistic plans" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade and reach net zero by 2050. 
On Friday, Luis Alfonso de Alba, the top UN envoy entrusted with preparing September's summit, called for a "drastic" rethink of the global economic model. 
Required was a "transformation of the way we consume, the way we produce," de Alba said. "This is not a process in which we can aim at a gradual increase of ambitions."
"Concrete, realistic plans" by September? With Canada in an election campaign? Canadian governments don't do "concrete" or "realistic." Our governments are, however, world class when it comes to peddling horse shit.

And, as for a "drastic" rethink of the global economic model, Justin, like Chuckles, is an avowed neoliberal.  So that idea is simply not on.

Meanwhile, in Canada, it's wildfire season, again.  The 2019 season was officially kicked off with a state of emergency declared for the Fraser Lake area.
The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako issued a state of emergencySaturday night and ordered people to leave an area near the community of Lejac, about five kilometres east of Fraser Lake. 
An evacuation alert is in place for a larger area, meaning people there have to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.
A big shout out to the home team, the oil heads of Team Carbon Canada - Alberta and Saskatchewan, Scheer, Kenney and Moe, and Kid Pipeline, Justin Trudeau.