Alberta's Athabasca Glacier: Going, Going…..

“Even though this year we will have had a fairly substantial snow year, what we’re finding is that, even with substantial snow years, the summers are warm enough and the fall is prolonged enough that all of that snow goes and we’re still losing five meters.”
Bob Sandford of the UN Water for Life Decade

Many people are split on how they feel about Alberta, one of our Canadian provinces. On the one hand, it is home to the Athabasca tar sands which help to generate the dirtiest oil on the planet—dirtiest as in most greenhouse gas emissions per barrel. But Alberta also generates a lot of revenue and a lot of jobs for Canadians, many of whom travel across the country to work there. (Typically for jobs related somehow to the tar sands industry.) So Alberta is bad for the environment but good for the economy. It’s the same old political dilemma our planet is facing.

Alberta is also home to the Athabasca glacier. This glacier is visited by more people in North America than any other. But the bad news is a warming planet isn’t good for glaciers as most people already appreciate. Parks Canada recently announced that the Athabasca glacier is melting at what it called an “astonishing” rate, and that it could well be completely gone within one generation. It’s currently losing ice at a rate of 16 feet each year.

Supporting the evidence, John Wilmshurst, Parks Canada Resource Conservation Manager, told the Canadian Press: Continue reading

Commencement Means a New Beginning

At this time of year when college and university students are graduating all over the world, it’s interesting to realize that the average age of the Class of ’14 means these graduates have never lived in a month that was colder than the 20th century average globally. The time-honoured tradition of the commencement address offers a great opportunity for various invited speakers such as political leaders, scientists, and journalists to address these graduates and discuss the climate change our planet is experiencing.

Thanks to Climate Progress, here is a compilation of five speakers who tackled the subject head-on:

1. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (University of Maryland) criticized those who deny climate change: “To those who say climate change is not caused by human activity or that addressing it will harm the economy, let’s encourage them to go to college, too, and to study physics and to study economics, but for the rest of us, let’s get to work.” Continue reading

Even The Pope Argues We Need to Fight Climate Change

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
Genesis 2:15

Who would have thought that the Vatican would be more progressive than the Republican Party? And yet, they’re already embraced renewable energy by putting solar panels on the roof of the Paul VI Audience Hall, and are committed to becoming Europe’s first completely carbon neutral country. Of course, they have two things going for them in the regard: Number one, they have a population of only about 800 people, and number two, they have God on their side.

But now even Pope Francis has made a case for fighting climate change. The Vatican convened a five-day summit on sustainability earlier this month entitled “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility.” The summit included microbiologists, legal scholars, economists, philosophers, astronomers, as well as other experts and addressed ways for the Catholic church to address various aspects of climate change.

Not surprisingly, the pope’s argument is one based on religion, but it flies in the face of some fundamentalists who feel exactly the opposite, that God will take care of our planet so we don’t have to. (I’m looking at you, James Inhofe.) The pontiff has called on all Christians to be “Custodians of Creation.” Even he agrees that climate change is real, and warned about the possible catastrophes we’ll face if we ignore it. Continue reading

U.S. House of Representatives Ignores Every Expert On Climate Change

“You can’t change facts by ignoring them. This is like trying to lose 20 pounds by smashing your bathroom scale.”
—Mike Breen, Executive Director of the Truman National Security Project and leader of the clean energy campaign Operation Free

Climate change has so many ways of changing our planet. Farmers, health care providers and insurance companies have certainly noticed these changes, but it turns out the military has too. Rising sea levels rise affect naval bases, climate change leads to greater needs for responding to natural disasters, and droughts in the Middle East and Africa create instability as a result of conflicts over food and water.

So if the military—a branch of the federal government—understands this, why can’t the government itself? Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment 325-98 that was added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and was sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) that will prevent the Department of Defense from using any government funding to address climate change and its impacts on national security. Not surprisingly, the vote mostly followed party lines with only three Republicans voting against it, although four Democrats voted for it too.

Here is the full text of the amendment:

None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order

This effectively means the House is ensuring that climate denial is incorporated right into the Defense Department’s budget. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) wrote a letter to their colleagues in response stating the following: Continue reading