In Canada Being Green Brings Police Surveillance

Man wanting a safe climate for his grandchild arrested in Ottawa
Man wanting a safe climate for his grandchild arrested in Ottawa

Harper government calls environmentalists “extremists” and “radicals”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 20 2013 (IPS)

Canada’s police and security agencies think citizens concerned about the environment are threats to national security, and some are under surveillance, documents reveal.

The RCMP, the national police force, and Canada’s spy agency CSIS are increasingly conflating terrorism and extremism with peaceful citizens exercising their democratic rights to organise petitions, protest and question government policies, said Jeffrey Monaghan, a researcher with the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

Protests and opposition to Canada’s resource-based economy, especially oil and gas production, are now viewed as threats to national security, Monaghan said. This conclusion is based on official security documents obtained under freedom of information laws over the last five years.

It is governments and the fossil fuel industry who are the extremists, threatening the prosperity of future generations.
For the past two years, officials in Canada’s Stephen Harper government have been calling environmentalists “radicals” and accusing environmental organisations of money laundering.

“The Harper government has a strong interest in suppressing environmental activism,” Monaghan told IPS.

By branding activists as extremists or radicals, many people will not want to be involved. Surveillance and other security activities will have a similar “chilling effect”, he fears.

“There could be an incredibly profound impact on public participation,” Monaghan noted.

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Bringing clean energy to billions costs far less than fossil fuel subsidies – Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

WED kidjo smlBy Stephen Leahy

VIENNA, Jun 26 (IPS)

While industrialised countries struggle to switch from climate-damaging, carbon-based energy to greener energy sources, much of the world is desperately energy poor, with 1.6 billion people having no access to electricity and 2.4 billion relying on wood and dung for heat and cooking.

“Over 1.6 million deaths a year are attributed to indoor use of biomass for cooking and heating,” Kandeh Yumkella, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), told more than 600 participants from 80 countries at the Vienna Energy Conference this week in Austria’s capital city.

The conference concluded with a recommendation to create a 20-year plan to end energy poverty by 2030.

Women and children in many parts of the world have little choice but to spend hours each day in search of firewood, trapped in a vicious cycle of deforestation that increases erosion and reduces the…

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New article on permafrost at the Guardian today but this covers some of the same melting ground http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/21/temperature-rise-permafrost-melt – Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

2 degrees C of warming could spark runaway global warming

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 20, 2010 (IPS)

The carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have melted the Arctic sea ice to its lowest volume since before the rise of human civilisation, dangerously upsetting the energy balance of the entire planet, climate scientists are reporting.

“The Arctic sea ice has reached its four lowest summer extents (area covered) in the last four years,” said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in the U.S. city of Boulder, Colorado.

The volume – extent and thickness – of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month, Serreze told IPS.

“I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover,” he said.

Is this article of interest? It exists…

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The plastic trash problem fouling the oceans is getting worse. Avoid single-use plastic and recycle everything. Stephen

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

“Degradable or compostable plastic should be banned….bio-plastics simply break down into microplastic particles”– scientist

By Stephen Leahy

HONOLULU, Hawaii, U.S., Mar 24, 2011 (IPS)

That plastic bottle or plastic take-away coffee lid that has 20 minutes of use can spend decades killing countless seabirds, marine animals and fish, experts reported here this week.

On remote Pacific island atolls, diligent albatross parents unknowingly fill their chicks’ bellies with bits of plastic that resemble food. The chicks die of malnutrition, and when their bodies decay all those plastic bottle tops, disposable lighters, and the ubiquitous bits of plastic detritus get back into the environment in a cruel perversion of ‘recycling’.

There is now so much plastic in the oceans it is likely that virtually every seabird has plastic in its belly if its feeding habits mean it mistakes plastic bits for food. The same is true for sea turtles, marine animals or…

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Jail Before Climate-Wrecking Tar Sands, Canadians Say

Tar sands protest Sept 2011, Ottawa Pic by R Leahy
Tar sands protest Sept 2011, Ottawa Pic by R Leahy

[Repost: After the rally against Keystone XL in Washington last Sunday, a reminder that Canadians are willing to be arrested to stop growth of climate-destroying tar sands. — Stephen ]

By Stephen Leahy

OTTAWA, Sep 27, 2011 (IPS)

More than 200 Canadians engaged in civil disobedience, with 117 arrested in Canada’s quiet capital city on Monday. The reason? To protest the Stephen Harper right-wing government’s open support for the oil industry and expanding production in the climate-disrupting tar sands.

The normally placid and polite Canadians shouted, waved banners and demanded the closure of the multi-billion-dollar tar sands oil extraction projects in northern Alberta to protect the global climate and the health of local people and environment.

“People are here because they know that if we don’t turn away from the tar sands and fossil fuels soon it will be too late,” Peter McHugh, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Canada, told IPS.

“The tar sands are unsustainable. Canadians are willing to shift away from fossil fuels but our government isn’t,” Gabby Ackett a university student and protester, told IPS as she stood in front of a long line of police.

In what was proudly touted as “civil” civil disobedience, protesters aged 19 to 84 were arrested for using a step-stool to climb a low barrier separating them from the House of Commons, the seat of Canadian government. The police were friendly and accommodating because the organisers had promised there would be no violence.

“We live downstream and see the affects of tar sands pollution on the fish and the birds,” said George Poitras, a former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in northern Alberta.

“Some our young people have rare forms of cancer,” Poitras told more than 500 protesters.

“Expanding the tar sands is not the way to go in a world struggling with climate change,” he said. Continue reading

80 percent of Arctic Ice Lost Compared to 30 Years Ago

arctic-sea-ice-min-volume-comparison-1979-2012-small

[This is my first exclusive blog post – virtually everything else on this site are my published articles. Not sure if I’ll have time to do more. Let me know what you think – Stephen ]

A new study released Feb 13 revealed that the volume of Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly. Ice volume in September 2012 had fallen 80 percent compared with the volume of ice in September 1980 according to the latest data from European Space Agency satellite, CryoSat-2. As the Arctic heats up Most of the ice loss has been in recent years. Between 2003 and 2012 the volume declined a whopping 36 percent. Summers with a sea ice-free Arctic are only a few years away, scientists now agree. This will have significant and permanent impacts on weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

My previous article  Ice-Free Arctic Is “Uncharted Territory” documented last September’s one year record area decline of 18 percent. Here’s what this means:

The impacts are already being felt across the entire northern hemisphere. The loss of sea ice in recent years has been affecting weather patterns, recent research has shown. The all-important jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.

When continent-sized areas of the Arctic Ocean flip from the all-white ice to dark blue, tremendous amounts of heat are absorbed from the 24-hour summer sun. When the bitter cold Arctic winter sets in over the next few weeks, all the heat in the ocean must be released into the atmosphere before ice can form again.

The Arctic will be ice-covered in winter for decades to come but what’s fundamentally changed is that every fall, unprecedented amounts of heat and water vapour will be released into the atmosphere.

“The polar meltdown shows we’re teetering on the brink of climate change catastrophe,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute.

As the sea ice declines, Arctic temperatures increase, thawing more and more permafrost, which will release more climate-heating carbon and methane. Permafrost is frozen soil, sediment and rock spanning 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. It has twice the carbon that the atmosphere currently holds.

A Swedish study released Feb 17 has found a link between sea ice declines and increases in methane emissions. Methane has 40x the warming of carbon. This is may lead to an even faster meltdown of the Arctic risking the release of huge amounts of permafrost carbon and methane.

US Climate Rally Draws “Line in the Sand” on Keystone Pipeline

The tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Credit: howlmonteal/cc by 2.0The tar sands in Alberta, Canada. Credit: howlmonteal/cc by 2.0

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 16 2013 (IPS)

The largest climate rally in U.S. history is expected Sunday in Washington DC with the aim of pressuring President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Activists are calling Keystone “the line in the sand” regarding dangerous climate change, prompting the Sierra Club to suspend its 120-year ban on civil disobedience. The group’s executive director, Michael Brune, was arrested in front of the White House during a small protest against Keystone on Wednesday.

“The Keystone XL pipeline is part of the carbon infrastructure that will take us to dangerous levels of climate change,” said Simon Donner, a climate scientist at the University of British Columbia.

To permit the pipeline would represent a heartbreaking acquiescence to climate change on the part of President Obama and our national leaders.

“By itself, Keystone won’t have much of an impact on the climate, but it is not happening on its own,” Donner told IPS.

Carbon emissions are increasing elsewhere, and the International Energy Agency recently warned humanity is on a dangerous path to four degrees C of warming before the end of this century. Children born today will experience this. Preventing that dire future is inconsistent with expanding tar sands production, Donner said.

arctic-sea-ice-min-volume-comparison-1979-2012-smallA new study released this week revealed that the volume of Arctic sea ice is declining rapidly. Ice volume has fallen 80 percent since 1980, according to the latest data from European Space Agency satellite, CryoSat-2. Summers with a sea ice-free Arctic are only a few years away, scientists now agree. This will have significant and permanent impacts on weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Keystone XL is the key to opening up the expansion of the tar sands industry,” said Jim Murphy, senior counsel with the National Wildlife Federation.

“By rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we can keep this toxic oil in the ground,” Murphy said in a statement.

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