I’m an independent journalist who covers international environmental issues in the public interest.
My work has been published in publications around the world including National Geographic, The Guardian (UK), Vice Magazine, New Scientist, Al Jazeera, Earth Island Journal, The Toronto Star, AlterNet, Common Dreams, DeSmog Canada, and Rabble.ca.
I’m also the senior science and environment correspondent at IPS, Inter Press Service News Agency the world’s largest not-for-profit news agency.
In 2012 I was co-winner of the Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for Climate Change. You can read much of that coverage on this site.
Despite the importance of environmental issues, media have slashed their coverage of environmental issues. It is impossible to make a living as a freelance environmental journalist.
Swiss journalist Daniel Wermus in 2010 article: “Stephen Leahy, a Canadian, and one of the world’s best-known investigative reporters on environmental issues, has launched a challenge:
if corporations won’t pay for the news, then it is up to communities and the public to fill the gap.“
Since for-profit corporate media won’t pay for environmental journalism in the public interest then I am hoping people will.
In 2009 I launched Community Supported Environmental Journalism. In exchange for producing articles about important issues that millions will read*, I am asking people to provide some support. Just $10 a month helps guarantee informative and useful articles like the ones on this site will continue to be written. All supporters receive a personal, one-page weekly newsletter. Without your support I can’t work for all of us — Stephen
*Yes, millions of readers. When I write an article for IPS it is used in hundreds of newspapers and magazines in different languages around the world. That’s great but unfortunately I only get paid $175 even if it took a week to research and write the article. Many of my articles are also reprinted by news websites such as Reuters AlertNet, the Guardian, Al Jazeera, AlterNet, Common Dreams, Truthout, InfoSud, Straightgoods.com and others. None of these pay me for this reuse.
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Multiple environmental crisis represent “the greatest challenge in the history of our species”
– Thomas Lovejoy, professor, George Mason University, former chief scientist of the World Bank
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– E. Ann Clark, Associate Professor, University of Guelph
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WARSAW, Nov 24 2013 (IPS)
The U.N. climate talks in Warsaw ended in dramatic fashion Saturday evening in what looked like a schoolyard fight with a mob of dark-suited supporters packed around the weary combatants, Todd Stern of the United States and Sai Navoti of Fiji representing G77 nations.
It took two weeks and 36 straight hours of negotiations to get to this point.
At issue in this classic North versus South battle was the creation of a third pillar of a new climate treaty to be finalised in 2015. Countries of the South, with 80 percent of the world’s people, finally won, creating a loss and damage pillar to go with the mitigation (emissions reduction) and adaptation pillars.
Super-typhoon Haiyan’s impact on the Philippines just days before the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) amply illustrated the reality of loss and damages arising from climate change. Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Saño made an emotional speech announcing “fast for the climate” at the COP19 opening that garnered worldwide attention, including nearly a million YouTube views
WARSAW, Nov 15 2013 (IPS) Japan announced Friday that it will renege on its carbon emissions pledge, likely ending any hope global warming can be kept to 2.0 degrees C.
The shocking announcement comes on the fifth day of the U.N. climate talks in Warsaw known as COP19, where more than 190 nations have agreed to a 2.0 C target and are trying to close the carbon emission gap to get there.
“It’s like a slap in the face of those suffering from the impacts of climate change such as the Philippines.” — Wael Hmaidan
Japan will increase that gap three to four percent with its new 2020 reduction target, according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT). It amounts to a three-percent increase compared to a 1990 baseline. Japan’s 2009 Copenhagen Accord pledge was a 25 percent reduction by 2020.
“Japan is taking us in the opposite direction,” Marion Vieweg of Climate Analytics, a German climate research organisation, told IPS here in Warsaw.
“Their revision shows the bottom up approach is not working if countries can simply drop their pledges at any time,” Vieweg said.
Climate scientists have long maintained that the 2020 target for industrialised countries should be to reduce emissions 25-40 percent compared to a 1990 baseline. However, even if nations meet their current climate pledges under the Copenhagen Accord, CO2 emissions in 2020 are likely to be eight to 12 billion tonnes higher than what’s needed, according to the U.N. Environment Programme’sEmissions Gap Report 2013.
Japan, the fifth largest emitter of CO2, is just the latest to abandon its international commitments.
By Stephen Leahy
Thu, 2013-03-21 05:00 DeSmog Canada
Few are aware Canada’s GDP shot up from an average of $600 billion per year in the 1990s to more than $1.7 trillion in 2012. This near tripling of the GDP is largely due to fossil fuel investments and exports.
However not many Canadians are three times wealthier. For one thing GDP is only a measure economic activity. The other reason is that little of this new wealth stayed in Canada. And what did stay went to a small percentage of the population, worsening the gap between rich and poor.
One of the hallmarks of a “petro-state” is that while a country’s energy industry generates fantastic amounts of money, the bulk of its citizens remain poor. Nigeria is a good example. Canada’s poverty rates have skyrocketed in step with the growth of the energy sector. One Canadian child in seven now lives in poverty, according to the Conference Board of Canada, the country’s foremost independent research organization.
Income inequality increased faster than the US, with the rich getting richer and poor and middle class losing grounds over the past 15 to 20 years, the Conference Board also reported January 2013.
“Most of Canada’s increase in wealth went to the big shareholders in the resource industries,” says Daniel Drache, a political scientist at Toronto’s York University. “It mainly went to the elites.”
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 22 2013 (IPS)
How much water does it take to turn on a light? It took 10,000 litres to make your jeans. Another three big bathtubs of water was needed for your two-eggs-toast-coffee breakfast this morning.
We are surrounded by an unseen world of water: furniture, houses, cars, roads, buildings – practically everything we use and make needs water.
“There is no way to generate energy without water,” said Zafar Adeel, co-chair of the UN-Water Task Force on Water Security and director of the Institute for Water, Environment and Health in Canada.
Even solar panels need regular washing to perform well. Wind energy might be an exception, Adeel told IPS from a water conference in Beijing being held during World Water Week.
There is growing recognition that peak oil is nowhere near as important as peak water because there is no substitute for water. The growing shortage of water — 1.2 to 1.7 billion people face scarcity — has alarmed many. Water has been identified as an “urgent security issue”, by a group that last year included both former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the InterAction Council, an association of 37 former heads of state and government.
It’s important that “water security” be recognised by the U.N. Security Council as either as a trigger, a potential target, or a contributing factor to insecurity and potential conflict in many parts of the world, said Adeel.
Full story: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/117379/
The absorption of Canada’s aid agency into the foreign affairs and international trade ministry has been widely condemned
By Stephen Leahy
Monday 25 March 2013 17.37 GMT theguardian.com
Following the unexpected announcement that the Canadian International Development Agency (Cida) will be folded into the ministry of foreign affairs and international trade, the Canadian government has made it clear there must be a direct return on its aid ”investment”, primarily access to resources in other countries.
“It is a fundamental change. Canada is tying aid to its commercial interests. This is going to leave a bitter taste out there,” says Samantha Nutt, executive director of War Child Canada, which has received CIDA funding for more than a decade.
As Nutt acknowledges, all aid is politicised to some extent. But Canada has taken this to a new level. Civil society aid organisations working with CIDA are no longer aid delivery partners but sub-contractors, bidding on aid programmes and increasingly forced to work with the private sector, says Nutt.
“This puts Canadian aid organisations in ethical conflict. How can they criticise the actions of the mining companies they have to work with to get funding to help the poor?”
Cida’s fate has startled not only Canada’s foreign aid community but, by all accounts, Cida staff, who learned of the agency’s fate through the media.
The new department of foreign affairs, trade and development will continue to tackle poverty in developing countries with its $4.8 billion aid budget intact, the government said.
“This is Canadian money … Canadians are entitled to derive a benefit,” said international co-operation minister Julian Fantino last December, adding that Cida is working with the private sector to help Canada “maintain a global advantage”.
By Stephen Leahy
Blame Canada is a four part series revealing how Canada has become a wealthy, fossil-fuelled energy superpower and an international climate pariah. For Part 1, click here.
Like every other country in the world, Canada has promised to help keep global warming to less than 2 degrees C. However Canada’s political and corporate leadership are committed to turning the country into a fossil-fuelled “energy superpower.”
With a drug lord’s just-providing-a-service hypocrisy Canada has openly declared it’s future is tied to the profits from dumping hundreds of millions of tonnes of climate-heating carbon into the atmosphere every year.
Most of this climate-wrecking carbon energy will come from Canada’s tar sands located just underneath the pristine boreal forest and wetlands of northern Alberta. The oil industry likes to call them “oil sands,” although there is no liquid oil only a tarry bitumen mixed deep in the sandy soil.
With an estimated 170 billion barrels, the tar sands are the third largest crude oil reserves. Extraordinary efforts involving colossal amounts of water, heat, chemicals and machinery are needed to get the bitumen out of the ground and into pipelines. This the world’s largest industrial project with more than $300 billion invested since 2001 by the oil industry.
Nowhere has fossil energy expansion or investment been faster or larger. Environmental activists call it “Canada’s Mordor.”
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 19 2013 (IPS)
As usual, midtown Manhattan is packed with whisper-quiet cars and trams while thousands walk the streets listening to the birds of spring sing amongst the gleaming, grime-free skyscrapers in the crystal-clear morning air.
Welcome to New York City in April 2030.
This is not a fantasy. It is a perfectly doable goal, said Stanford University energy expert Mark Jacobson. In fact, the entire state of New York could be powered by wind, water and sunlight based on a detailed plan Jacobson co-authored.
It’s not only doable, powering New York on green energy is “sustainable and inexpensive” and would save lives and health costs, Jacobson told IPS.
Each year, air pollution kills 4,000 people in New York State and costs the public 33 billion dollars in health costs, according to the study Jacobson co-authored with experts from all over the U.S. It will be published in the journal Energy Policy.