Renewable Energy is Here to Stay

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw

Trends can be pretty reliable. When you look at some simple facts, the writing is really on the wall: fossil fuels are getting more expensive as we deplete easy sources of oil and look to offshore drilling and tar sands; and renewables are getting cheaper as technology and efficiency improve.

And the way to prove those facts mean something is to look at new sources of electricity generation. This year in the U.S., renewables have accounted for one-third of all new sources of electricity generation. Solar energy more than doubled its capacity compared to 2012, a total of 21 percent of new capacity. This beats out coal which, sadly, still contributed to some of the new electricity generated, but at only 13 percent.

But if you really want to be impressed and get an idea of where the trend is going, just look to October. Continue reading

Ontario is Banning Coal For Good!

“Becoming a coal-free province is the equivalent of taking up to seven million cars off the road, which means we’ll have cleaner air to breathe, while saving Ontario $4.4 billion in health, financial and environmental costs.”
—Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

I witnessed history last week. Thanks to my involvement with Climate Reality Canada, I was invited to Toronto on November 21, 2013 to be present for the announcement that my home province is planning to ban coal for good. The “Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act” will ensure that all Ontario coal facilities will stop operating by the end of 2014.

This means the Nanticoke Generating Station—the largest coal-burning power station in North America—will stop using coal completely next year. Instead the facility will be converted to use advanced biomass, a fuel that can still be used to generate electricity. This is the final step necessary to make Ontario coal-free and is the largest carbon-reduction project on our continent.

And in case this all sounds like no big deal—after all, Ontario has lots of hydro and nuclear, right?—before coal began to be phased out in 2005, coal was used to generate 25 percent of Ontario’s electricity.

The formal announcement was made by Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne. Following her comments, former Vice President Al Gore was on hand to add his comments and congratulations, stating: Continue reading

COP19 is Over: So What Was Accomplished?

“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.”

—Bertrand Russell

With the goal of having a binding agreement for all nations to adhere to by 2015 (to take effect in 2020), you can expect that Earth-changing achievements were unlikely to have taken place in Warsaw earlier this month. The decisions made and the accomplishments attained can only be described as modest at best, but that was to be expected. Earth-changing will be coming, however, unless we choose to accept an unfortunate fate.

After two weeks of discussions among delegates from almost 200 countries with a goal of identifying a path that will allow us to forge ahead in the war against climate change, a few things did get done: Continue reading

What the Heck is Happening in Warsaw?

“Doing all we can to combat climate change comes with numerous benefits, from reducing pollution and associated health care costs to strengthening and diversifying the economy by shifting to renewable energy, among other measures.”
David Suzuki

To understand everything about what’s currently happening in Warsaw, it makes sense to first look back to the history of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN FCCC).

It all started back in 1992 when the first FCCC meeting took place in Rio de Janeiro when the UN decided to start tackling the problem of greenhouse gas emissions which cause global warming, and the climate change that results. There have generally been annual meetings held by the UN ever since. Each one is referred to as a Conference of Parties (COP). The current one being held in Warsaw, Poland is referred to as COP19.

The main goal of these meetings is to produce a comprehensive and legally binding agreement among the nations of the world. We came close in 1997 with the Kyoto Protocol: the developed nations of the world committed to reducing emissions, sparing developing nations in the process. However, the U.S. never ended up ratifying its commitment back home, and without one of the two largest emitters on the planet taking part, Kyoto never really took off.

Then 2009 had the Copenhagen summit. Despite much arguing among nations unwilling to stick their neck outs more than any others, it did manage to accomplish a first in history: all nations—both developed and developing—agreed that emissions need to be reduced by 2020. (Unfortunately, scientists say the emissions agreed to aren’t enough.)

And of course the latest IPCC statement on climate change came out this past September and made the following point Continue reading

What Message Should We Be Giving Our Kids?

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
—Nelson Mandela

This particular post doesn’t directly address global warming and climate change, but it speaks to an important component of whether or not we’re going to get ourselves out of this mess in the future.

The holiday season is already in full force based on the number of commercials and advertisements we’re already being bombarded with. So seeing an ad from Toys ‘R Us encouraging our kids to desire toys should come as no surprise.

What is a surprise, however, is the message this particular ad delivers: that science and education are boring and useless endeavours, while toys are nothing but fun. On the surface of it, no big deal, right? But given a bit more thought, what does this ad say about our society and its future? That understanding the science surrounding the problems we face isn’t worth pursuing, but consumerism is.

Take a look and see what you think:

Perhaps Stephen Colbert put it best:

“This commercial shows kids the ‘great outdoors’ is nothing compared to the majesty of a strip mall. And they still get some nature because, remember, that confetti used to be a tree!”