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Sierra Daily: November 2013


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3 posts from November 2013

Nov 13, 2013

Australia and Canada, Climate Thugs

MountieIt wasn't very long ago that Canada and Australia were benign figures on the world stage. Canada had a sterling environmental reputation and a leading role in providing aid for the developing world. “I believe the world needs more Canada,” said U2 rocker Bono back in 2003. And only two years ago, Australia passed a historic carbon tax.

That was then. Now, Australia’s new prime minister, Tony Abbott, is pushing for a repeal of the carbon tax, and a host of new coal mines in the Galilee Basin may become the seventh larger carbon emitter in the world, right behind Germany. And Canada, reports The Guardian, now “discourages other industrialised nations from following through on their own climate change commitments.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper “withdrew from the Kyoto protocol on climate change in 2011and Canada has failed to meet its own international [target] to cut greenhouse gas emissions--almost entirely because of its mining of the carbon-heavy Alberta tar sands."  

In a kind of retrograde Anglophone solidarity, Harper also praised Abbot for his efforts to repeal Australia’s carbon tax: “The Australian prime minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.”

And while the Philippine delegate to the United Nations climate change conference in Warsaw was making a dramatic appeal to the nations of the world to “prevent a future where super typhoons become a way of life,” Australia backed out of its previous pledge to help developing nations cope with climate change, calling it “socialism masquerading as environmentalism.” This earned it a “big smile” from Fox News host Stuart Varney: 

 

The scenes of devastation in the Philippines scrolling by in the background are a particularly nice touch. 

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdatedStrategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress.Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

Nov 11, 2013

"The Climate Crisis Is Madness"

Haiyan_amo_2013312_lrgAs super-typhoon Haiyan punishes the Philippines--leaving 10,000 dead and more than 600,000 homeless--the nations of the world are meeting in Warsaw, Poland, for"COP 19," the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 
"It is the 19th COP, but we might as well stop counting, because my country refuses to accept that a COP30 or a COP40 will be needed to solve climate change," Philippine representative Naderev “Yeb” Saño told the body today. 

What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness....

We can take drastic action now to ensure that we prevent a future where super typhoons become a way of life. Because we refuse, as a nation, to accept a future where super typhoons like Haiyan become a way of life. We refuse to accept that running away from storms, evacuating our families, suffering the devastation and misery, counting our dead, become a way of life. We simply refuse to.

Saño called on the world's nations to, at the least, help finance the Philippines' effort to double its renewable energy capacity by 2020 and triple it by 2030. He also called on the developed nations to raise their emissions reduction targets immediately. (You can read his speech in full here, and the Sierra Club's statement of solidarity here.)

The era of do-nothing international conferences may be reaching its end. Our failure to act in the past is catching up to us now, and with a fury. (With sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph, Haiyan may be the strongest storm in modern recorded history.) The only alternative to a future of counting our dead is, as Saño called for, "an emergency climate pathway."

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdatedStrategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress.Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

Nov 06, 2013

Coal Train to Nowhere

IStock_000001004476XSmall (1)Big Coal lost big yesterday when Whatcom County, Washington, elected a slate of four county councilors strongly backed by conservationists (including guess who) opposed to the construction of a $600 million coal terminal at Cherry Point. (As Joel Connelly explains in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the coal issue was not explicitly debated by the candidates because of their quasi-judicial role in ruling on whether to permit the facility.) Both sides, however, were intensely focused on the central issue, with conservationists and the coal industry spending heavily to support their competing slates. Returns are not yet final (a new round of votes will be released at 4:30 PST), but last night's preliminary figures showed members of the presumed anti-coal slate leading by 9 to 10 percentage points. "The coal industry is in a death spiral," Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute said to Connelly. "They cannot even buy an election right now."

Should this election mean the end of Cherry Point as a terminal for shipping Powder River Basin coal to Asian power plants and smelters, the coal industry's export options would dramatically narrow. As I write in the current issue of Sierra: 

The coal industry hoped to increase its export capacity by building six new terminals in Oregon and Washington. Fierce opposition from Beyond Coal and other environmental groups, together with the dicey economics of the situation, meant a quick end to three. Left standing are proposed facilities at the Port of Morrow in Oregon and Cherry Point and Longview in Washington.

With the tide apparently turning against Cherry Point, that leaves only two ports left standing. That's what a death spiral looks like. 

Image by kurmis/iStock

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdatedStrategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress.Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber





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