Yes, we have a climate emergency; Alberta and the rest of Canada both need to listen up.


@JKenney, Premier of Alberta, tweeted out this cartoon by Vance Rodewalt last January, while saying that the rest of Canada needs to understand that a hurting Alberta is bad for the *entire* country.

Poor Alberta and Saskatchewan

We’ve been hearing a lot in Canada about western alienation.  Apparently, citizens living in Alberta and perhaps Saskatchewan are feeling neglected by the rest of us, during their economic downturn.  We who don’t live in either of those provinces are accused, en masse, of insensitivity, even of downright hostility to their plight.  Some of them are threatening to secede, although its unclear whether Alberta would somehow join the USA, or become an independent land, a sort of North American Paraguay.  They’d not be permitted to join the United Nations list of 32 LLDCs – landlocked developing countries – too developed for that, but they might form some sort of alliance with Switzerland and Austria.

The alienation appears to stem from the lack of willingness of the rest of Canada to let them build pipelines to any port they deem worthy of their attention, or even to just lend a sympathetic ear in their time of need.  It’s true that a number of pipelines proposed in recent years have failed to materialize.  There’s the Keystone XL that would have increased the capacity to ship crude oil from Alberta to the mid-west USA refineries, and that still might happen someday, although nobody is holding their breath.  There’s the Northern Gateway that would have delivered diluted bitumen to the Pacific coast of British Columbia, at a new terminal to be developed at Kitimat, over 100 km upstream through torturous fiords from Hecate Strait and the Pacific Ocean.  That one was cancelled by the federal government in 2016, given numerous environmental concerns, including the sheer brilliance of planning for a major oil terminal that far from the real coast.  There’s the Energy East that would cobble together existing and build some new pipelines to carry Alberta crude or diluted bitumen to refineries and ports in New Brunswick.  That one was killed in 2017 by TransCanada Pipelines when it realized that opposition to this plan was too strong to warrant the cost and effort to have it approved by government.  Then there was the now forgotten Arctic Gateway that would run north from Alberta through the Mackenzie Valley to the Arctic Ocean.  And finally, there is the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver, well actually to Burnaby.  This proposal is for twinning an existing line thereby tripling its capacity to ship diluted bitumen.  Funny how twinning = tripling, but that’s pipeline math and as an environmental scientist I just have to accept it.  This one is still inching forward and will likely get built.  Of course, its original owners, US corporation Kinder-Morgan saw the looming lack of profitability and sold the existing line to the Federal Government of Canada.  That’s right Alberta, the Federal Government paid $5 billion to buy the existing line and has committed to paying billions more for the expansion.  How’s that for the rest of Canada not offering you help? (And if you think I’m just being a selfish easterner, take a look at what economics reporter, David Parkinson, wrote in the Globe & Mail on 8th November.)

The fossil fuel industry, notably CAPP, and Alberta, claim that a lack of capacity to deliver product to market is limiting the value of Canadian oil and gas.  So, there is an economic argument that one or more of these pipelines is needed, and a long time has passed with notable lack of success in approving and building them.  I’ll return to this point later, because the economic case is less straightforward than it might appear.

And Then There is the Global Climate Emergency

There is also the global climate emergency.  Alberta seems to brush that one aside pretty quickly, but let’s briefly recap our perilous situation.  On November 5th, a warning to the world was delivered by way of a ‘viewpoint’ article in the journal BioScience.  The five listed authors of the article were joined by 11,224 fellow scientists who signed onto the statement, affirming their agreement with its content.  I was among those 11,000 plus, I’m proud to say, and I have scanned the list of signatories.  Many of us are graduate students, but most are established scientists in a broad range of fields, at all stages from recent PhDs to hoary old emeritus professors like me.  We come from 153 countries, and the list is peppered with the names of recognized leaders in the environmental and climate sciences.  The article is not behind a paywall, so it really is accessible to anyone who wants to read it.  It is also not the first time the global science community has done this.  The lead author, Bill Ripple of the Forest Ecosystems and Society department at Oregon State University, produced what was called the second warning by the science community in 2017. The Union of Concerned Scientists had published what was called the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in July 1992.  Needless to say, scientists have been speaking out on this topic for a long time.  The extent of our concern has spread greatly over the last decade.

This month’s warning was released on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference held in Geneva in 1979.  Scientists there agreed that alarming trends for climate change made it urgently necessary to act.  We’ve been stressing the urgency ever since and it is numbing my mind.

Figure 1 from the global scientists’ warning, which tracks changes in “global human activities”.

This latest warning comes with two figures.  Figures that are numbingly reminiscent of ones I’ve seen numerous times before as groups of scientists attempt to put into pictures the broad range of causes and effects that contribute to our existential crisis.  The first figure this time documents human activities of concern.  Each panel displays an indicator, with a line representing the change in that indicator over time.  Eleven of the indicators pictured have clear positive trends over the decades measured – that is, they are getting worse.  Of the other four, the drop in female fertility and in the loss of Brazilian forests are good news – fewer children per women must ultimately slow population growth and reduce demands on the planet, and less forest being lost means better retention of the important carbon sequestering services forests provide.  The remaining two non-positive trends are just bad news – the price on carbon has actually been falling when we need it to rise if we are to curtail our emissions of CO2, and the level of fossil fuel subsidies, which had been falling sharply is back where it started.  We are paying the corporations to bring fossil fuel to market when we should be paying them to go out of business!  Overall, this first image is not a sign of a system under control; more like a train going rapidly off the rails.

The second figure is similarly unsettling.  This figure includes panels displaying trends in 14 climatic responses over time.  Every one of these, whether increasing (nine do this) or decreasing (the other five), shows a dramatically worsening trend over the decades examined.  There are no encouraging reversals of trends in recent years, something we might have expected if climate policies by governments were starting to have an effect.  Instead we see CO2, CH4, and N2O all increasing in the atmosphere, surface temperature and ocean heat content also both increasing, Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic ice mass, and glacial thickness all falling, ocean pH falling as the ocean acidifies, sea level rising, and area burned, number of extreme weather events and annual costs due to weather-related damage all increasing.  Again, not a sign of a system under control.

Figure 2 from the Global scientists’ warning, which tracks climatic responses to our activities.

This time around, having summarized the situation described by these two figures, the authors provide some explicit recommendations for action, and they put these under six headings: Energy, Short-lived Pollutants, Nature, Food, Economy, and Population.  Putting things bluntly, it is not going to be sufficient for the world to gradually, more-or-less, as the economy allows, wean itself off the use of fossil fuels for energy, we also have to rapidly curtail our emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and HCFs (Hydrofluorocarbons – the chemicals we adopted when we phased out use of CFCs because CFCs were gobbling up ozone).  We have to treat all of these emissions-related goals as urgent because otherwise we will fail to bring warming to a halt and will find ourselves in a very uncomfortable world.

Nor is it just energy sources and short-lived atmospheric pollutants we must address.  Under the heading Nature, the authors plea for protection and restoration of Earth’s ecosystems, arguing that these can do much to sequester carbon and cycle nutrients.  In fact, up to one third of reductions in emissions needed by 2030 could be achieved by restoring and protecting healthy ecosystems.  They also recommend a transformation of the human food supply, shifting the world towards a more plant-based diet, and a transformation of the economy away from an emphasis on “GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality”.  Finally, and I am very happy to see this being included more and more often, we have to confront the seriousness of the growth of the human population, and work to encourage choices that slow and eventually reverse human population trends.  The sheer scope of these recommendations accurately reflects the extent of the transition we have to make.  We’ve been warned before.  We have to do this.

For those of you in Canada, as winter approaches, just imagine India in a plus 4oC world.  Large expanses of that subcontinent will be unsafe for humans outside of air-conditioned spaces.  Unsafe means unlivable, too hot for the human organism to survive.  Can I put it any plainer (and it’s not just India that will reach such conditions in the world to which we are currently headed)?

Back to Alienation

I recently heard a clip from CBC’s The National for 7th November, of Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan, speaking about the need for the Federal Government to do more for the west.  In it, with reference to the carbon tax, he spoke confidently of being able to find some ‘opportunities for give and take and for a new direction’ with Justin Trudeau, confident that with good will, agreements that would be mutually satisfactory would be reached.  Later in the interview, responding to a question about whether as a Premier he had a responsibility to tamp down the alienation, he talked about it being incumbent on Premiers and the Prime Minister  “to work together to try and find common ground, not to legislate… for climate policies that you [the federal government or CBC?] feel are ideologically correct, like a federally imposed carbon tax imposed on Provinces across this country…” 

I realized as I listened that Premier Scott Moe just does not understand that conventional politics do not apply when dealing with the climate emergency.  The science says we need to curtail emissions to keep the world from overheating.  Canadians agree we need to do our part.  Therefore, it is incumbent on us to reduce carbon emissions and every part of Canada must be part of this process.  There is no room for give and take on this.  Until now, Saskatchewan has not put in place its own mechanisms to price carbon and curtail emissions.  The Federal carbon tax exists as a fall-back case for those Provinces which failed to put their own carbon policies in place.  It only gets imposed on those Provinces that are dragging their feet.  But Premier Moe wants a year’s reprieve because his province has failed to act.  Why?

Still, Scott Moe comes off sounding a whole lot more reasonable than his Alberta colleague, Premier Jason Kenny.  At least Moe sounds like he wants to keep the country intact.  On 10th November, Jason Kenny gave a speech at the Manning Centre in Red Deer, Alberta.  He claimed that “Albertans have been working for Ottawa for too long, it’s time for Ottawa to start working for us.”  He then went on to describe a series of measures that would expand Alberta’s autonomy within Canada.  He described it as a fair deal for Alberta that would “get Ottawa out of the way so that we can do what we do best—what Alberta has always done: grow our economy, create jobs, get back to work, and generate an oversized contribution to Canada’s wealth”.  Gee, thanks.  I did not know Alberta has taken on this ‘older brother’ role for the rest of the country!

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator Ð Friday October 25, 2019

MackKay captures Jason Kenney’s new push to be the most alienated one of all.  Cartoon © Graeme MacKay, Hamilton Spectator.

According to the Globe & Mail, Kenny also referred to Justin Trudeau’s government having been “actively hostile” towards his province’s energy industry and claimed he has seen fear in the eyes of Albertans. He said the resulting decline in the province’s oil and gas sector, compounded by Ottawa’s indifference to his province’s pain has led to a spike in suicides. “This literally, for many people, is a life or death question.”  I’ve not seen a transcript but it’s possible we may have a nascent Trump in our midst – oh, the damage those tar sands fumes can do to one’s brain.

Getting back to reality, the lack of ways of getting tar sands bitumen to market is as much a failure of the industry to properly plan for and execute construction projects as it is of governmental red tape and environmentalist obstruction.  If you know that your drilling efforts are going to yield large quantities of toxic, explosive stuff that you will want to ship off to markets elsewhere, would it not be prudent to put in sufficient effort to build the transport system before it is needed?  Would it not have been even more prudent, given the nastiness of this product, to build more refinery capacity right in Alberta.  After all, surely as leaders within Canada, Albertans would be keen to move beyond a primitive ‘dig and ship’ mentality towards development of a mature industry with high value refined products? 

And, just by the way, are we really so sure that the lower prices for tar sands diluted bitumen are really because of a pipeline bottleneck.  There are well-placed sources that point to other factors, including the difficulty and cost of refining this lower-quality product (their words not mine).  I’ve blogged about these issues several times, most recently last January, and don’t need to repeat myself.

Canada cannot afford to continue expanding the mining and export of Alberta’s bitumen.  That is incompatible with an effective response to the global climate emergency, because it is impossible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent required and leave this polluting industry free to continue and to grow.  (I say this on the assumption that an emissions-free process for exploiting bitumen is not about to be discovered – that could be a game-changer.)  Canada, as a middle-sized country, cannot afford to be seen as ignoring the major global emergency of our age.  We are way behind where we should be, and have got to up our game, not make further concessions to an industry that is the major cause of our high level of emissions.

The oil sector, and the Province of Alberta have been assuming all along that either climate change does not matter, or that the rest of Canada will make adjustments to curtail our overall national emissions.  It has been inconceivable to them that this industry should plan for an orderly shutdown long before reserves of exploitable bitumen run out.  Sorry, just because we have resources in this country does not mean that we are obliged to dig them up and export them!  If Jason Kenny really wants a new deal for Alberta, he should start with an economically sound plan for how to phase out the tar sands industry and replace it with modern, knowledge-intensive, forward-looking industries capable of providing rewarding, carbon-free employment for the talented people of Alberta.  He’d discover the rest of Canada would love to help him in that process.

Categories: Canada's environmental policies, Climate change, Economics, Politics, Tar Sands | Comments Off on Yes, we have a climate emergency; Alberta and the rest of Canada both need to listen up.

Climate Change and the Canadian Federal Election – One ecologist’s perspective


It’s been ages since I added to this blog, but Canada is embarking on a Federal election and climate change is high on the list of topics being discussed.  Lots of Canadians think acting on climate change is important, but many are unsure just how important it should be, compared to other issues.  Some Canadians think climate change is relatively unimportant.  How to decide?

Canada currently contributes less than 2% of the greenhouse gases humanity currently releases into the atmosphere.  Canada has an economy that is substantially dependent on the extraction of natural resources, especially oil and gas.  Curtailing our production of these fuels, especially the still mostly untapped bitumen reserves in the Athabasca Tar Sands, will dampen our economy and cost jobs.  In fact, what Canada desperately needs is a further investment in pipelines to coastal ports because the overwhelming majority of Canada’s gas, oil and bitumen is exported, and those exports are being limited by lack to ability to transport product to the coast.  There is more than enough global demand over the next several decades to provide lucrative markets for Canada, and we have a moral obligation to make use of the bounty Nature has provided for us in Athabasca.

Apart from referring to the Athabasca Tar Sands (their correct name) instead of the politically correct oil sands, which they definitely are not, that paragraph pretty well sums up one side of the argument that would suggest Canada has little need to do anything special about climate change – because we are such a tiny player in greenhouse gas pollution – but a great need to strengthen our economy by continuing to invest in a growing energy sector based largely on the mining of bitumen for export.

The other side of the argument is more nuanced, a little more sophisticated, and, I believe, the side that will be proved right in hindsight from somewhere a few years ahead.  This argument hinges on 1) the science of climate change, 2) the art of diplomacy for middle tier countries, and 3) the economic opportunities inherent in acting aggressively on climate change.

Climate Science

The science is pretty clear.  Climate scientists have known since the 1960s that the global economy was pumping sufficient CO2, CH4, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, that concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere were measurably changing, and that these changes were causing a warming of the planet.  There is no disputing the data and the physics of greenhouse gases is quite clear – science understands what is happening to the atmosphere, how that affects the radiation of heat away from the planet, and the consequences in terms of planetary warming.

The data on atmospheric concentration of CO2 atop Mauna Loa are inexorably clear, and freely available on the web.  Unless one believes in government conspiracies (in this case involving both a major government agency and a major university who have collaborated in this charade for 51 years), the simple fact that CO2 concentration has been going up at an ever increasing rate since 1958 when the instruments were first installed to measure it, is about as self-evident as reproductive organs on a canine.  Similar graphs show similar changes in atmospheric concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide – all due to us.

Once we get it through our collective thick head that our global economy really is altering the composition of the atmosphere, the rest falls into place.  Increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases (such as these three) progressively impede the radiation of heat away from the planet without impeding the arrival of solar energy as light.  Ergo, the planet warms up.

We then must turn to another sphere of climate science, that to do with weather, to comprehend what is likely to happen to our climate as our planet warms up.  If there is any uncertainty in the science underlying climate change, it lies in our incomplete understanding of the ways in which warming the planet lead to altered weather.  Some of the multiple causal pathways involved are quite well understood – for example the way warming of the planet translates into higher average temperatures from place to place.  Other pathways, such as the one that begins with warming’s effects on the melting of ice, and ends up dealing with the contributions of massive loss of glaciers on climate, fresh water supply, and sea level rise, are still processes about which we have a lot to learn.  Understanding the details of how warming alters availability of fresh water which in turn alters agricultural production still has a fair way to go.  But anyone who claims the science of climate change is so poorly understood that we should hesitate to make any policy decisions until the science is better defined is really only looking for an excuse to do nothing.  If we all continue doing nothing, but continue our economic business as usual, it does not require great forecasting skill to project an increasingly alarming future for the planet.  And all the signs suggest that future is already upon us and getting worse daily.  To sum up, the science is very clear that climate change is upon is, is huge, and must be curtailed if we want to preserve any semblance of a stable world order with thriving economies and high quality of life.

Art of diplomacy

Canada is a mid-tier nation.  We are wealthy, have a relatively high standard of living for most of us, based on a relatively advanced economy.  We also have a relatively tiny population spread over an enormous country.  We have a miniscule capability in conventional warfare, no capability in nuclear war, and a lack of experience in terrorism as a way of getting our wishes fulfilled.  We know there are plenty of countries quite capable of rolling over us without pausing for breath.  We live next door to one such country and across the Arctic Ocean from two others.

Canadians are remarkably intelligent people, or we’ve been blessed to have remarkably intelligent leaders over the years.  We’ve not had to learn our relative weakness by having our faces ground into the dirt; we’ve somehow sized up the situation and decided that discretion, or, more aptly, effective diplomacy is the better part of valor.  We are collectively the skinny kid in the schoolyard who knows that massively armed bullies are best dealt with diplomatically.  Over the years, we have actively supported international agencies that seem the best places in which to allow hotheads to cool their ardor, and we have forged strong partnerships with likeminded nations.  We understand that not only is the glass half full, but several can drink from the same glass to mutual benefit.

At the present time, the world seems to be becoming a place where the advantages of such diplomatic, cooperative, win-win behavior by nations seem to be being discounted.  In too many nations at present, people have found their way into leadership positions who doubt there is such a thing as a treaty worth upholding or a problem which can be resolved in a win-win way.  Maybe Canada should wise up and start planning on going it alone?

Think about that for a moment.  We could arm ourselves to the teeth, build a wall along our southern border, develop much less lenient policies on immigration in order to keep undesirables at bay, and try to refocus our economy so that we minimize the importance of international trade.  Does that sound like a reasonable plan?  Or maybe we could go along as at present, relatively weakly capable of our own defense, but convinced that so long as we remain nice people – Canadians are so very nice – the rest of the world will leave us to our own devices even as the planet changes and quality of life degenerates for many people in many places.  The USA would never dream of taking Canadian water from the Great Lakes would it?  Even when vast areas of the US Midwest and Southwest become veritable deserts?  No, of course our American neighbors would never dream of taking our water.  As for Russia and China, on the other side of a rather small sea that will soon be navigable for much of the year, they’ll play nice so long as we do.  Right?

I think it should be very clear that, at this particular time, when the usefulness of international diplomacy is being so widely questioned, Canada is one of those nations that cannot avoid doing its best to keep the world order on track.  But, in order to continue to be recognized by others as one of the nations that contributes positively to international good governance and cooperation, Canada has to be seen to be acting in ways that are appropriate to the situation the world faces at the present time.  Given the science of climate change, given the future that is upon us, can Canada afford not to be pursuing international efforts to limit the extent of climate change, by deeds rather than by words?  Far better Canada be seen to be a nation doing its best to support the global effort to mitigate climate change, than to be seen as yet another rich country that does not give a damn, and worse yet, that is actively expanding its production and export of the fuels that are contributing so much to climate change at present.

Canada should be a strong, a leading, supporter of international efforts such as the Paris Agreement, and actively seeking ways to do even more to bring climate change under control, not because we are nice, cooperative people, but because it is in our own self-interest as a mid-tier nation attempting to support the existing world order. 

This image shows total GHG emissions per capita for 2016 and only includes nations with 10 million inhabitants.  If we look only at CO2 emissions, Canada’s 15.6 tonnes per person remains close to the highest.  The same is true if we consider our releases of all greenhouse gases.

If any of us Canadians need any more reason for the need to act on climate change, let’s remember the following.  Although Canada contributes under 2% of greenhouse gas emissions at the present time, we are still the tenth largest emitter nation, and our per capita emissions, at 15.6 tonnes CO2 per person, are the third highest in the world among developed nations (all data come from the Global Carbon Atlas for 2017).  Canadians waste energy and our emissions per capita show that.  We trail the USA and Australia in this, but seven small oil-producing countries, including Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, also have higher per capita emissions than Canada.  If our contribution to the problem is trivial, as some Canadians claim, why should any nation on the planet do anything to rein in emissions.  Oh, and by the way, Canada has failed to live up to every international climate treaty it has entered, withdrew in disgrace from the Kyoto Accord, and is currently failing to achieve the emissions reductions we committed to under the Paris Agreement.  If we continue this sorry performance, how long before other nations will start to see us as the phony we are proving to be – all talk, not much walk.

Carbon Action Tracker’s thermometer shows very clearly the extent of the work that needs doing globally on climate.  Canada is not the only country to have pledged to do too little and to have failed until now to live up to even its insufficient pledge.  Ponder what a 3oC warmer world might be like.  For starters, Canada would be a lot more than 3 degrees warmer – higher latitudes are warming more than equatorial latitudes.

Economic Opportunities

Many who seek to defer any action on climate argue for the need to protect Canada’s resource-based economy.  Increasingly, this argument is sounding more and more like the argument that may have been made at the turn of the 20th century to protect the industry built on making and repairing buggies, breeding and caring for horses.  Somehow the automobile took care of that issue.

The market, so often revered by those who argue against any government regulations that ‘impede’ business, is already shifting away from fossil fuels, and particularly the especially difficult and costly to produce fuels such as bitumen extracted from the Athabasca tar sands.  The global investment in oil production peaked in 2014 at about $550 Billion, but in 2018 it was down to $350 Billion.  Companies like Exxon-Mobil are narrowing their focus to the oil that is likely to be the most profitable in the midterm, such as the Permian Basin back in Texas.  Exxon-Mobil announced earlier this year that it was delaying development of its large $2.6 Billion Aspen project in the Athabasca region because of ‘uncertainty’ while simultaneously expanding its investments in the Permian Basin and off the coast of Guyana. Koch Industries sold all its tar sands leases in August, exiting Alberta completely.  And Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund, which was built initially with revenues from oil – hint, hint, Alberta, and is now valued at about $1 Trillion, announced in June a major program of divestment from fossil fuel projects around the world.  The planned divestments will amount to about $13 Billion.  When the big players leave the game, you know something is afoot.

What’s afoot for the Alberta tar sands is collapsing profitability as the global demand for oil falls and purchasers choose the less expensive supplies with the lowest carbon footprints.  As some of the dirtiest fuel in the world, difficult to extract and refine, Alberta’s so-called ethical oil won’t stand a chance.  So far, our governments (federal and provincial) have propped things up by charging only modest royalties for the product being extracted, providing many favors on taxes for the producers, and now buying a pipeline that may eventually get expanded.  But putting large quantities of bitumen that nobody wants to buy on the BC coast seems a plan unlikely to succeed in stimulating Canada’s economy.

By contrast, there are enormous growth opportunities were Canada to embark on a major effort to decarbonize the economy – everything from installation and operation of renewable sources of energy supply, to retrofitting of buildings to lower energy costs of operation, to creating high-speed train, light rail, and other energy-efficient transportation solutions for this enormous country.  Then there are the ancillary benefits in quality of life, such as improvements in overall human health – an important issue in a nation that has most of health costs covered from government funds.

The phase-out of Ontario’s polluting coal-fired power plants completed in 2014 eliminated emissions of 28 megatonnes of CO2 and 320 kg of mercury, a known, bio-accumulating neurotoxin.  The average of 53 smog days per year in Toronto fell to zero (although air quality improvements south of the border also helped here).  Based on the growing evidence of beneficial health impacts in Ontario, the Federal government was able to claim earlier this year that its planned phase-out of coal power generation across the country would yield “260 avoided premature deaths, 40,000 fewer asthma episodes, and 190,000 fewer days of breathing difficulty and reduced activity — resulting in health benefits of $1.2 billion, from 2019 to 2055” for a cost of $2.2 Billion.  Yes, the phase-out will cost money, but half the cost is offset by health savings.  And independent auditors have judged those claims of health savings to be reasonable (and less than some advocates have suggested).

In short, a perusal of what is happening in places such as Europe where countries are further along the path towards decarbonizing, and some back of the envelope calculations on likely costs and benefits for Canada make clear to most people who bother to enquire that there are substantial pluses in a forward-looking economy that operates as Canada shifts away from use of fossil fuels.

Brian Gable’s cartoon says it well: Canada can cling to the belief that tar sands bitumen will always be an important part of our economy, or we can open our eyes, look around, and realize that the world has changed, and will continue to change, in ways that do not make that bitumen look like much of a hot commodity.  There is no economic argument to avoid the decarbonization that is needed.

Above all, Canada needs to put in place an organized phase-out of tar sands bitumen production, done by the energy sector in collaboration with Alberta and Federal government, with due recognition of the need to sustain employment opportunities for displaced workers, while minimizing investment losses.  An unplanned collapse, which is what will happen if we collectively do not tackle this problem, will do considerable damage to Canada’s economy and the quality of life of Canadians working in the energy sector.

Putting it all together

Lest there be any doubt about the seriousness of climate change, just as I was preparing to post this, I looked at this week’s issues of Science and Nature.  Nature had an editorial on how time is running out to act.  In it, they state, “Last year, the IPCC warned that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels would be a colossal undertaking, requiring greenhouse-gas emissions to be cut in half by 2030. The transition to renewable energy alone would cost US$2.4 trillion annually. And yet, without such drastic measures, the world is likely to exceed 3 °C of warming by the end of the century, and will experience more frequent and more severe catastrophic effects, including weather extremes, rising seas and drought.”  Nature backs this up with a short article by Jeff Tollefson including scary graphics to show just how little progress is being made.  He begins by quoting Argentinian 18 year old Bruno Rodriguez, “There is no middle ground.  We need radical industrial transformation.”  He then draws attention to Friday’s global climate strike, and presents graphs showing how national emissions have been growing, how inadequate the commitments made under Paris really are, and a map showing which countries have been showing least progress.  Canada is among the poor performers.

This graph, from Tollefson’s article shows how many million people worldwide will be impacted in each of several ways, and in which locations the risk is greatest, if climate is allowed to warm by 3oC (we are heading for more than this).

Science posted a new review article online today from Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and a group of scientists active within the IPCC that looked again at the consequences of particular levels of warming, 1.0oC, 1.5oC and 2.0oC.  The point out that commitments under the Paris agreement are “woefully inadequate” to achieve a 1.5oC goal, and state, “Warming of 1.0°C since the pre-industrial period has fundamentally transformed our planet and its natural systems. Multiple lines of evidence reveal that a 1.5°C world will entail larger risks to both human and natural systems. The risks of a 2°C world are much greater. This places us at a critical time in human history where proportionate action taken today will almost certainly minimize the dangerous impacts of a changing climate for hundreds of millions of people.”  I frankly do not know how much clearer the problem can be stated.  We really are in a global climate emergency and the time for half-measures is long past.

So, is climate change a major issue in the minds of Canadian voters?  And should it be?  All but one of the political parties have statements concerning actions to curb climate change in their platforms.  Most Canadians are capable of reading these statements and making informed judgements.  Some of these platforms are a lot stronger than others, and the media have been providing helpful evaluations of each.

The Green Party policies on climate change stand out from the pack in being significantly more ambitious and have been criticized because of this.  The NDP also proposes a more aggressive ramping down of emissions than is currently planned.  Neither of these parties is likely to form a majority government, and so their policies can be viewed more for what they might be able to extract from the Liberals or Conservatives in the event of a minority government.  From this perspective, the Green Party seems better positioned with a clearly enunciated set of policies and goals on climate change.  Nor, by the way, is the Green goal of reducing Canada’s emissions by 60% from 2005 levels by 2030 (double the reduction planned by the Liberals) an unrealistic response to the need to act.  It is not an impossible goal and could be achieved with a rapid but well-planned phase out of tar sands production.  That it seems so different to the policies of the other parties is more a reflection of how far the other parties need to go to fully understand the immensity of the climate problem that confronts us.  (A lot of Canadians, not just the political class, also have yet to comprehend just how severe the climate problem is.)

The Liberal and Conservative parties both have reasonable chances of forming government, though not necessarily a majority government.  Of the two, the Liberals have a set of climate policies, as well as climate actions already taken that suggest they comprehend the need to act in a meaningful way on climate.  The Conservative policies, in contrast, rely too much on business-as-usual and the effectiveness of the private sector taking steps that make sound economic sense.  Without a firm hand setting clear goals, the ‘market’ is not going to shift us out of fossil fuels at a pace remotely commensurate with the need – the market has too much interest vested in the existing fossil fuel-driven economy to change at the pace required.

I had high hopes for what the Liberals would accomplish four years ago, and I’ve not yet given up hope completely.  But the Liberals got tangled up in the political game of telling people what they wanted to hear – you cannot plan for an orderly phase-out of Canada’s exploitation of tar sands bitumen without discussing with the energy sector the need for such a planned, orderly phase-out!  Gentle suggestions, designed not to ruffle the feathers of an Albertan oil man, ain’t gonna’ get us where we need to be.  And now that the government owns a pipeline, they may find it even more difficult to walk the correct walk than they have over the past four years.

So what is a Canadian voter to do?  The science and the geopolitics say Canada needs to act aggressively on climate change.  One of the two parties most likely to form the next government seems far more likely to attempt to respond appropriately to climate change.  One of the other parties is the only one that has a set of policies on climate change that point us in the right direction with a sufficient effort; that party could play an effective role on climate in a minority or a narrowly majority government. 

As always in Canada, we are hobbled by the first-past-the-post voting system, so that in some ridings voting your conscience results in the candidate you least want to see elected winning the seat.  In such ridings, a more strategic approach to voting, if adopted by significant numbers of voters concerned about climate, could help elect more candidates with policies favorable to acting on climate.  In a few ridings the Greens have a possible path to victory and I hope they gain seats in the Parliament.  In other ridings, however, voting for anyone other than a candidate from one of the two major parties is merely a protest vote.

And finally, there is the question – how important is the need to act on climate change relative to all the other things that political parties promise?  That is something each individual voter must decide but let me provide a few estimates of impacts of climate change in a warmer world (we are currently heading towards a 3.3 degree increase in average global temperature as shown on the CAT thermometer graph above). 

In November 2017, The Guardian reported on impacts of sea level rise in a 3 degree world, using UN data and analyses by Climate Central.  They estimate 275 million people currently live in areas that will be flooded by 2100; most of these people live in Asia.  Among the most affected cities are Shanghai with 17.5 million people affected, Hong Kong with 8.5 million and Osaka with 5.2 million people, but even Miami, with 2.7 million people is essentially eliminated by 2100 in a 3 degree world.  And it’s not just Miami, even at 2 degrees projections show the southern third of Florida, from Lake Okeechobee south, home to 7 million people, essentially under water.  When sea level rise is affecting cities all over the world, its unreasonable to plan on building shoreline defenses.  Those people have to move!

An even more disturbing set of information has been compiled by the respected website, CarbonBrief.  It reports a wide range of consequences for 1.5o, 2.0o, and warmer worlds.  I am cherry-picking here but encourage you to peruse the site because it is definitely disturbing.  Just remember, while perusing that each effect, in each location is happening along with all the others, making the overall impact on our lives considerable.  For example, marine heatwaves, very destructive of coral reefs and of plankton production and hence of fishery yield, are projected to be 16 times more frequent in a 1.5o world than in the past, but 41 times more frequent in a 3.5o world and the AMOC (Atlantic meridional overturning circulation), which drives the circulation of the oceans, is destined to slow by 11% in a 1.5o world but by 34% in a 2.0o world.  Slowing of the AMOC leads to cold winters in Europe and a variety of other changes.  Similarly, at 1.5o ocean acidification will increase by 17% by 2050, but in a 2.0o world the increase in acidification will be 29%.

On land, the proportion of species losing 50% or more of their range in a 1.5o world ranges from 2% for birds to 8% for plants, but in a 4.5o world (definitely within the realm of possibilities this century) those percentages become 40% and 67%.  (If two thirds of all plants lose at least half their native range you know that many of them will go globally extinct.)  Global per capita GDP is projected to fall 8% in a 1.5o world, but 13% in a 2.0o world.  I could go on. 

Each of these projections has some uncertainty, but taken together, a 3 degree or warmer world is going to be a very different place to where we now live, and even 1.5o causes significant problems for us.  (And just because the examples I grabbed were not Canadian ones, bear in mind we have a rapidly thawing Arctic and no plans for how we will deal with the economic, sociological and environmental upheavals that are coming in our North.) Yes, the Greens are correct: climate change is a serious problem that requires urgent solutions, and yes, Canadians should be concerned and trying to ensure they elect a government capable of providing us with leadership in the struggle to achieve important climate goals.  The casual ‘let’s do a little bit and see how we fare’ approach in place up until now has got to be replaced with a much greater commitment.  Vote carefully this October, Canada!

Brian Gable scores with yet another cartoon!

Categories: Canada's environmental policies, Changing Oceans, Climate change, Politics, Tar Sands | 1 Comment

Environmental News – Lots of Confirmation of Expectations, Some Signs of Progress

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Students marching on Ave. Parc, Montréal on 15th March, part of the worldwide student march that day, and one of the largest efforts in Canada.  The kids understand what is happening.  Image © John Mahony, Montreal Gazette.

So, what has been happening in the world of climate change and environmental decline?  School students around the world are showing up the rest of us, and there is a continuing, some would say mind-numbing, flow of environmental news in the media.  It is difficult for the casual browser to cut through the mass of information to see anything really new.  Even as a scientist, more or less in tune with what is going on, I have difficulty sorting the wheat from the chaff.  Not that there is anything wrong with chaff – we need the accumulation of detail in order to model processes and make future projections that are likely to fall even closer to reality.  The following stories caught my eye over the past couple of weeks, mainly in the pages of Science or Nature, rather than in the general media.  Mostly they confirm what we already knew but each adds needed detail.

Nicholas Gruber, an environmental physicist at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, with 17 co-authors from institutions across Europe, the USA and Japan, published an article in Science on 15th March, 2019.  It was called “The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 from 1994 to 2007” and dealt with the global distribution of inorganic carbon dissolved in ocean waters.

As we add CO2 to the atmosphere through our burning of fossil fuels, cement manufacture, and changes in land use, a portion of this ‘extra’ CO2 dissolves into the oceans.  A second portion is taken up by plants and microorganisms and incorporated into soils and biomass on land.  The remainder remains in the atmosphere causing the planet to warm. 

In the ocean, CO2 combines chemically with water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3) which promptly dissociates into HCO3and H+ ions, thereby lowering pH and acidifying the ocean. CO2 concentrations in surface waters are at or near an equilibrium with the atmosphere, but dissolved carbon is only slowly distributed to the deeper ocean, meaning that most of the ocean is less saturated than are surface waters.  It is this slow redistribution of dissolved inorganic carbon to deeper waters that makes it possible for a continuing net flux of CO2 from atmosphere to ocean surface waters.  Over time, over a long period of time, the concentration of carbon in deeper waters will become closer to that in surface waters, and the oceans’ capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere will decline.  One question Gruber and colleagues were exploring was whether the rate at which CO2 was dissolving from the atmosphere to the oceans was starting to slow down yet.

Oceanographers produce the neatest illustrations and I admit to being first attracted to this article by a wonderful diagram, looking a bit like a three-bladed, rather square propeller, that depicts how the rate at which carbon concentration was increasing at different latitudes and depths in the three oceans – Atlantic, Pacific and Indian – during the period 1994 to 2007.

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The rate of increase in concentration of dissolved carbon is shown on a color scale from blue (low) to yellow (high) for different depths and latitudes in a slice taken through each of the three oceans from vicinity of Antarctica to the most northerly extent of that ocean.  Figure © Science.

An amazingly effective way of compressing vast quantities of data into a single, understandable image.  Still, what does it tell us?  Over the period 1994 to 2007 the oceans of the world have continued to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  Gruber and colleagues estimate that 34 ± 4 petagrams of carbon (Pg C) moved from atmosphere to ocean during those years, an average of about 2.6 petagrams carbon per year.  That’s a lot of carbon (2.6 billion tonnes of carbon or 9.5 billion tonnes of CO2 per year).  Let that sink in for a minute: 9.5 thousand million tonnes of CO2, which is just 31% of the amount of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere.

That those billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide did not remain in the atmosphere is just as well, because if they had remained there, that would really have boosted global temperatures.  Gruber and colleagues refer to this fact as an example of the oceans providing a service to humanity – literally cleaning up after us!

Gruber and colleagues report that, as expected, the oceans have continued to take up anthropogenic carbon dioxide at about the rate they were in the early 1990s, however, their results show marked differences from place to place in the rates at which carbon is being distributed toward deeper waters (the redness in the figure marks places where rate of addition of CO2 is greatest).  This variability is understandable given our knowledge of ocean circulation, but the extent of the differences was surprising.  Future warming-caused changes to ocean circulation, such as the anticipated slowing of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which transports North Atlantic surface waters to deeper layers, could have serious implications for future rates of CO2 uptake by the oceans.

Take home message?  The oceans continue to play a very important moderating role as the world warms, but there is a limit in how much longer they can continue to do this, and all that CO2 taken up by the oceans has serious consequences for ocean pH, and therefore for the lives of many marine organisms.

Anna Woodward of Lancaster University, UK, and four co-authors from British and Swedish institutions, provided a perspective on the human consequences of the changes taking place on coral reefs because of climate change.  Their article, in Functional Ecology, was published on line on 28th March as Coral reef ecosystem services in the Anthropocene.

Reef ecologists are becoming aware that the reefs of yesterday are not coming back any time soon.  The extra warmth added to ocean waters since the 1950s has changed the frequency and severity of el Niño events to produce more frequent periods of warmer than usual water, warm enough to lead to profound bleaching events.  As a consequence, the rates of mortality of various coral species have been altered from what they were, with the result that reefs have less living coral present, living corals are, on average, younger, and the mix of species has also changed because some species are more susceptible to warming than others.  Its still too early to say what the reefs that exist in 2050 will be like, except to note they will be fewer, less coral-dominated, and with a different mix of dominant coral species.  But its not too early to admit they will be ecologically different to today, or to the reefs of the 1950s.

Woodward and her colleagues use this new awareness that reefs are changing in many ways to anticipate likely impacts of those changes on humanity.  Hundreds of millions of people depend on coral reefs for their livelihoods, for important protein food, for coastal protection, and for esthetic, emotional, spiritual support.  As coral reefs change, their ability to provide these services will also change, but at present there has not been sufficient effort made to understand the nature or extent of those changes.  Woodward and colleagues review some of the ways in which other components of the reef ecosystem, such as fishery species, are likely to respond to changes in abundance and both age and species distribution of corals.  The4y provide some useful suggestions for future research.  I found this article important for highlighting the need to consider how the value of coral reefs must change as the reefs are changed, because if we understand more clearly the likely changes in fishery yield, storm protection, or effectiveness for stimulating tourism, we will presumably be in a much better position to plan for adaptation to these changed circumstances.

On the other hand, I was disappointed to see just how little Woodward and colleagues were able to provide in terms of definitive projections of future state, or even in terms of ways to advance the needed understanding.  Beyond suggesting that the provision of an ecosystem service is governed by an interaction between ecological and societal processes that respectively deliver and select for the service, or advocating a trait-based approach to identifying how particular ecological actors, such as fishery species, will respond to particular changes in the reefs, they seem to suggest scientists are at the very beginning of understanding how changes to reefs will affect people. 

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It seems unlikely that substantial changes on coral reefs will not have impacts on adjacent coastal habitats such as seagrass beds or mangroves.  Image © Smithsonian Institution.

I think it is also true that we have relatively limited understanding of how changes to reefs likely over the next couple of decades will ramify to impact those other ecosystems that share continental shelves with reefs.  How will a general decline of reefs impact seagrass systems or mangrove forests?  To what extent will loss of reefs lead to substantial ecological reorganization of tropical coastal seas.  While this may all sound like reef scientists have been asleep at the switch, I fear it is safe to say that scientists more generally, and humanity more broadly, are both uncomfortably naïve concerning the degree to which our direct perturbations of specific ecosystems – such as reefs, or salt marshes, or tropical forests – will ramify across the biosphere.  Hopefully, the article by Woodward and colleagues will spur reef scientists, in particular, to delve more deeply into the consequences of what we are doing.  Otherwise, the Anthropocene is likely to be far nastier than most of us expect.

In the March 22nd issue of Science, Warren Cornwall of the National Sea Simulator in Townsville, Australia, provided a Feature article (Science is becoming more like a trendy magazine and less like a dreary technical journal every month) titled, The Reef Builders.  Copiously illustrated with glorious pictures of corals spawning, it’s a pity it is hidden behind the paywall, instead of being on open access (I really do not understand why Science did this!).

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Acropora millipora spawning in a tank at the National Sea Simulator, Townsville, Australia.  Tourists to the Great Barrier Reef can book night dives to see this, assuming they can be at the reef on the right night.  Photo © Mikaela Nordborg, AIMS

The article reports on the research program of Madeleine van Oppen, now at Melbourne University, and the late Ruth Gates of University of Hawaii.  Ruth died, far too young, in October 2018, and I was gratified to this fruitful collaboration is continuing despite that setback.  Van Oppen, Gates and their collaborators and students have been pioneering efforts to manipulate the genetics of corals and their algal symbionts to see if it is possible to breed greater resistance to warmer water.  Such genetic research, using techniques ranging from straightforward selection of apparently more resistant individuals for breeding to use of genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPr-Cas9 for directly manipulating the genome, is nothing new in animal husbandry or crop science, but it is radically new in the world of coral science. 

To begin with, there is the problem that many corals breed just once a year, on a particular night.  If you don’t catch them at the right moment, you have to wait a year for the next opportunity.  Then there is the nasty fact that the algal symbionts, single-celled dinoflagellates of several species, live in intimate, intracellular association with the corals.  Using conventional approaches to collect genetic material from cells yields a mixture of coral and algal sequences.  And third, there is the daunting challenge, political as well as ecological, of putting lab-reared corals back into the ocean to see if they are indeed a tougher strain.  Australia has a long and unhappy history of introducing creatures that became unwanted pests on its landscape, and the last thing anyone wants is a plague of ‘bad’ corals on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Corals being grown under controlled conditions at Australia’s National Sea Simulator. 
Photo © Christian Miller, AIMS.

And yet, if we do not explore all possible tools to assist coral species, we are very likely to watch them disappear one by one as oceans warm.  Far better to explore possible ways to strengthen corals’ abilities to survive warming, than to engage in the harvesting of coral nubbins to be fragmented and grown up in a coral nursery and then planted back on the reef.  While reef restoration, as it is called, is being practiced in many places around the world, I fear there is little point in rearing and then out-planting tiny colonies of corals that will simply bleach the next time warm water passes by.  Such activities may be useful in small, high-value locations adjacent to tourist enterprises, but they seem unlikely to be a solution to our killing off of coral reefs.  In fact, such activities, if inaccurately portrayed as real solutions to the reef dilemma, could damage the overall effort to do something for reefs, because they divert activity and interest away from more difficult, but more effective, choices.  The research done by van Oppen and colleagues is very different to the broad sweep of reef restoration activities, few of which even have much of a scientific underpinning.  Meanwhile, the most effective way to do something to aid the world’s coral reefs?  Cut our emissions of CO2 as drastically and rapidly as possible and seek additional solutions to suck CO2 from the atmosphere.  One irony, not mentioned in Cornwall’s article, is that all the time van Oppen works to build stronger corals, the Australian government continues to promote coal mining and export, while failing, year by year, to reduce its own unconscionably high emissions of CO2.  Not the attitude one might expect from a government that carries the responsibility of caring for the largest coral reef system on the planet.

The final article I want to mention, by Guillaume Chapron, Yaffa Epstein, and José Vicente López-Bao, of the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala University (both in Sweden), and Oviedo University, Spain, respectively, appeared in the 29th March issue of Science.  It was labeled an Insight or a Perspective, and titled A rights revolution for Nature.  This one is on open access, so accessible to all.

Chapron and colleagues have written a short 2-page article reporting the status of efforts to grant rights to Nature.  I was surprised to see it in Science; but pleased also.  Maybe there really is movement in that direction.

I’ve discovered in recent months that when I suggest that, perhaps, the Biosphere has a right to exist, and humans have a duty to sustain it, you get a mixture of puzzled and outright incredulous looks.  At least in North America.  What on earth is Sale talking about now?  And yet, I’ve also discovered that the more I suggest that the Biosphere has rights, the more sensible a proposal that sounds to me.

Perhaps I should give some background.  Climate change and the broader environmental crisis have brought home to me that humanity cannot go on treating the planet as a larder full of things to use and discard.  We currently use the goods and services we extract from Nature at rates that cannot be sustainable in any real universe, and certainly not in ours.  But getting that fact across to other people is extremely difficult.  We of a western, market-based, Judeo-Christian-influenced society simply don’t get the fact that the planet is finite, and capable of generating, or regenerating resources at rates that are also finite and limited.  And the human enterprise has far outstripped those rates.  We are literally using up the planet.  And yet, we, cocooned in our comfortable, middle-class social system, do not see the damage we are doing first-hand.  That almost all the fish in the local supermarket come from far away, and usually from fish farms, is not noticed by most shoppers, and yet it is a radical change from the situation in our supermarkets just a decade or so ago.  The same is true of produce.  Because I live in a wealthy western nation, I can be assured my supermarket will have fresh fruit and vegetables, plus plenty of meat and seafood, in copious quantities and endless variety, every day of the year despite what is happening out there beyond in the places where this food is grown or acquired.  The same is also true for all the other things I might require.  I will be one of the last people to discover there is no longer enough to go round.  And this is surely unfortunate, because I have grown up believing (or at least, I live in a society in which the great majority of people have grown up believing) that I am entitled to use as much as I want, because that is why this wonderful planet-larder is here.

Members of my society do not believe it is possible for the larder to become emptied out, and our eyes tell us all is well, whenever we go shopping.  Given these facts, how do we become convinced we need to change our ways?  Telling us of the damage we are doing to the planet has relatively little effect, because the state of the planet is of no concern.  A little bit of environmental damage here and there?  Oh dear, that is a pity.  But the economy has to continue to grow.

What we need is to become convinced that we have a duty to nurture the planet, and there are a few ways in which this might be done.  One of these is to use the legal system.  Most humans live in societies with laws.  In some of these societies the laws are obeyed more often than not.  We understand the concept of law, the idea that the government can enforce certain behavior by penalizing misbehavior, because there are laws stipulating same.  But mostly our legal systems do not suggest that we have a duty to sustain the natural world.  In fact, for the most part, our legal systems have grown up in a whimsical fantasyland in which there are people and property.  People own property.  They can buy and sell it.  Carve it up and even eat it.  But property itself has nothing.  And other than people, there is only property.

Now I’m exaggerating of course.  But only to make an important point.  Our legal systems have been very good and producing order in the interactions among people.  We’ve also been very creative in expanding the concept of personhood to include inanimate human constructs such as corporations.  Sometimes these non-human persons are immortal (as are corporations unless they declare bankruptcy.  But we have also been very good at leaving the natural world out of the equation.  Humans, corporations and their property exist in some kind of space, an environment, and that space can be used to dump things we don’t want, with no penalties for doing so.  Or we can take from that space things which it needs to sustain itself (to our ultimate detriment) also with no penalties.  But if we were to suggest that that space in which we all live, that environment, that Biosphere, was also some form of person, who had rights and duties, that would change things dramatically.  And that is what the global effort to grant rights to Nature is all about.

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There are many representations of the Andean Earth-Mother goddess, Pachamama.  The Ecudorean constitution of 2008 was the first to establish the right of Nature, as Pachamama, to exist, to be sustained, and to continue its natural functions.  Revealing the universality of the concept, this version is by Australian contemporary artist Jassy Watson, of Bundaberg, Queensland.

In their brief two pages, Chapron and colleagues do a good job of summarizing progress on the effort to establish rights in law for Nature, or components of nature.  They have a (rather incomplete) table listing notable examples of successful efforts to grant rights to nature, and they contrast efforts, such as that of Ecuador which granted rights to Nature writ large and that of New Zealand, which granted rights to a single river system to be a legal person.  They also point out that granting rights in law does not ensure people will embrace the duty to respect those rights – a wide range of ethnic, religious, racial, and gender groups will recognize the truth of that statement with respect to human persons.  It’s not surprising if it also applies to non-human persons.  Nevertheless, implementing law which grants rights to Nature could help us make the required transition from treating the planet as our larder of things to use to treating our planet as the complex system it is, a complex system which includes ourselves, and which sustains our lives.  I’m glad these ideas found an outlet in Science!

Categories: Changing Oceans, Climate change, coral reef science, In the News, Tar Sands | Comments Off on Environmental News – Lots of Confirmation of Expectations, Some Signs of Progress