David Letterman Takes on Fracking

“If a dumb guy like me understands that things are not the way they were 30 years ago, you would think that dumb guys all over the country would understand that.”
David Letterman putting climate change into perspective

Last week, the King of Late Night signed off for the last time. Don’t get me wrong: I loved Johnny Carson. I even tolerated Jay Leno. But for me, nobody was better than Dave.

I started watching his ill-fated morning show as a teenager back in 1980. Awesome TV show, but wrong target audience. Two years later, he was exactly where he belonged: “Late Night with David Letterman” was on right after “The Tonight Show.” A much grittier and edgier talk show, it appealed to a younger demographic who wanted to see people and pets do stupid tricks, and find out what happens when you drive a steam roller over cans of soda or microwave ovens. It’s now thirty three years later and late night television television has never been the same.

I actually got to see a taping of his show once back in 1994 after he’d already made the move to CBS. I even had a ticket to see another taping this past December, what would have been the last time for me to see him in his element. But alas, Old Man Winter decided to make sure my flight was cancelled due to bad weather. (Darn you global warming and the way you worsen snow storms on the eastern seaboard!)

So please indulge me as I show you a clip of my television hero and his take on fracking. Dave starts out by saying he doesn’t know much about it—and then proceeds to contradict himself completely by describing much more than what the average citizen understands. And in his inimitable style, he still manages to make you laugh while describing something truly awful. Enjoy.

Vancouver Proves Big Cities Can Go Green Too

“To see this dramatic shift is phenomenal. It speaks to how people are making those choices in their lives—that people are embracing the goal to be the greenest city but also to get around in healthier ways without being in cars.”
—Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

In the effort to go green, many people consider alternatives to driving a car for their mode of transportation. Mass transit such as buses and subways are one way, walking is another, and of course biking is another. In North America, however, people haven’t embraced these measures as much as Europeans have for a variety of reasons.

But Vancouver is proving to be the exception. In a report made last week in their city council (and reported in the Vancouver Courier), Vancouver has demonstrated it truly is going green. For the first time ever, half of its citizens are choosing alternatives to the family car, dropping from 60 per cent back in 2008. Increased use of bicycles are the main reason, up 11 percent from 2013 to 2014. Interestingly, during that same time period injuries to cyclists have actually decreased.

Burrard Bridge and the path that runs by Science World and Union and Hawks streets—part of the Union-Adanac bike route—make up the bulk of the bike traffic, what amounts to an average of 100,000 bike trips per day in 2014. This has doubled from 2008. Upgrades to cycling routes that include protected bike lanes in the downtown core have helped explain the increased bike use.

If big cities like Vancouver can have half their citizens using methods of transportation other than the family car, surely we can all do better.

Do the Richest Companies in the World Deserve Government Money Too?

“While there may be more efficient instruments than environmental taxes for addressing some of the externalities, energy taxes remain the most effective and practical tool until such other instruments become widely available and implemented.”
—The IMF in a recent reoprt

Do you know what one of the richest corporations in the world is? Exxon Mobil, with a current value of $357.1 billion. Do you know what Exxon Mobil’s Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson is paid? In 2012 his salary was increased by 15 percent to $2.57 million, along with a $4.59 million bonus and stock awards valued at $19.63 million, this all according to a public filing. In fact, other than banking and investment companies—many of them Chinese—the energy industry makes up many of the richest corporations in the world. (By the way, Exxon Mobil doesn’t even make the top ten, so you get some idea of what these companies are worth.)

So with such incredible value, are you surprised to learn that globally the fossil fuel industry receives $5.3 trillion a year to cover additional costs? This is from a recent report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). We’re not talking subsidies here. This is actually in addition to the $492 billion in direct subsidies governments give the fossil fuel industry around the world.

$5.3 trillion a year is difficult to comprehend, but it works out to about one third of the U.S. gross domestic product. This report gets its total from both direct assistance as well as the amount spent to cover pollution damage by fossil fuels, an “externality” ignored by the industry. Continue reading

Simon Donner's Elevator Pitch on Climate Change

Simon Donner is a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is also currently an associate in UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability as well as the Biodiversity Research Centre. On top of that, he is also an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow and a Google Science Communication Fellow.

Simon leads a broad program of teaching and research that investigates how climate variability and climate change influence society and ecosystems such as coral reefs. His research group examines a wide range of problems including climate change and its effects on coral bleaching, nutrient pollution in rivers, and adaptation requirements in the Pacific Islands, as well as some of the obstacles to public education about the issue.

Here is his his unique take on the Elevator Pitch for climate change.

Our Planet Keeps on Warming

Last week NASA reported yet another record-breaker for global temperatures. It turns out this past January-to-April was the hottest first four months globally of any year we’ve ever recorded, thanks to repeated monthly records being broken including our planet experiencing the second-hottest April ever.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that we have a 90 percent likelihood that the El Niño will last all summer long, with a more than 80 percent likelihood it will last all year long. If that happens, there’s no doubt 2015 will surpass 2014 as the hottest year we’ve ever recorded.

In fact, for the last four months in a row, our planet has consistently broken the record for the hottest 12 consecutive months ever: the record set by Feb. 2014—Jan. 2015 was beaten by Mar. 2014—Feb. 2015, which was surpassed by Apr. 2014—Mar. 2015, which has just been beaten yet again by May 2014 – April 2015.

Sadly, these records are going to continue to be broken. Don’t be surprised when May 2015 breaks records, and that January to May 2015 is the hottest first five months of a year, and June 2014—May 2015 is the hottest consecutive twelve months ever.

These broken records are really starting to sound like broken records.