Secretary of State John Kerry: Will He Provide the Climate Leadership We've Been Waiting For?

“I will be a passionate advocate about [energy policy and climate change] not based on ideology but based on facts and science.”
—soon-to-be Secretary of State John Kerry at his Senate confirmation

On January 29, 2013 the US Senate voted to confirm John Kerry as the next Secretary of State by a vote of 94 to 3. He’ll replace Hillary Clinton and will be sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State tomorrow, Friday February 1, 2013.

This should be a good move for the environment. Continue reading

China's Emissions: First the Bad News

“What do we want, breathtaking growth or taking a breath amid choking air?”
Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency

Have you ever been to Beijing? Seeing it on television during the 2008 Olympics didn’t do it justice because the country had cut back its industry substantially in the weeks leading up to the event in order to clean up the air. I was there one year after the Olympics and I didn’t see clear sky once the entire time. The level of air pollution is extremely high in Beijing, 44 times what the World Health Organization recommends as an acceptable upper level. The city has justifiably earned its nickname: Greyjing.

Here’s the bad news:

  • China’s growth in recent years has led to its distinction as the number one emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet
  • almost 70 percent of China’s energy comes from coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels
  • China is the world’s largest importer of coal; the global demand for coal increased by 4.3 percent in 2011, almost all due to China’s needs
But there’s also some good news. Continue reading

Sea Level Rise: More Than Inconvenient for Some Nations

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”
—Isaac Asimov

It makes me sad to think that a number of my favourite cities around the globe are threatened with sea level rise. Places like Venice, Amsterdam, Miami, New York City and New Orleans are all in trouble in the coming centuries if the predictions of climate scientists are correct. I hate to think that future generations will have to read about how great these cities once were in books without getting to experience them first-hand, each one a modern-day Atlantis.

But as awful as the threats to these cities are, there are some entire nations that are at risk of being wiped off the map completely. Many sovereign nations situated in our planet’s oceans aren’t just going to lose some of their coastal cities; they’re going to lose their entire existence. Continue reading

It Takes a Village…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
—Margaret Mead

Can one small village in my province of Ontario become the first carbon-neutral village in all of North America? That’s what Eden Mills has set as a goal for itself.

Eden Mills has a lot in its favour: it’s a small village of only about 350 people, it’s located near Guelph which has a university with a strong commitment to water, food, nature, animal and human health, and biology, and they have a group of committed champions.

The grass-roots project of “Going Carbon Neutral” began in 2007. It is completely voluntary and non-confrontational, taking care to avoid pointing fingers and laying blame. An interesting perspective they’ve taken is to avoid focussing on the threats of climate change, instead choosing to see the merits of taking action. Continue reading

Climate Change Threats: Now It's Personal!

So maybe concerns about coastal flooding don’t bother you because you don’t live near the ocean. And maybe droughts and fires don’t scare you because you’re not a farmer and your insurance premiums are all paid up. And maybe you couldn’t care less about melting glaciers because you’re not a big fan of ice. (I guess you prefer your scotch neat.)

But if you’re like most human beings, you drink coffee in the morning. And you absolutely love chocolate. So let’s get serious about the real threats from global warming and climate change. All those other things listed above are probably too far from where you live and too distant in the future to hit home. But if you’re going to lose some of your staple food groups—like java and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk—then maybe you’ll sit up and pay attention.

The folks at the Discovery News Channel have put together a video that explains all the important things in life that will be affected by climate change. Like maple syrup. Or wine and beer. Or wi-fi!

All I can say is now it’s getting personal!