Happy Birthday, America! (Now Smarten Up!)

Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on Earth.”
~George Bernard Shaw

Every time I have a birthday, I reflect on where I’m at in life, what I’ve accomplished since my last birthday, and what goals I need to set for myself for the years to come. I think it’s a useful exercise. As the US celebrates its 240th birthday today, it should serve as an opportunity for the government to reflect in much the same way. What is it doing to tackle the problems facing Americans? And as global citizens, what is it doing to tackle the problems facing the planet?

To help guide the government in what it should be doing along those lines, 31scientific societies have written to Congress clearly stating that climate change is real, that we are the primary culprit for its current effects and that we can stop it if we choose to make the necessary changes. Overstating the obvious (but for Congress that’s sadly required), they write “To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced.” It’s not the first such letter but it has had the most put forms he most organizations to date. (Sadly, it’s unlikely to be the last such letter too. A large group that included 18 of the 31 societies in this letter submitted something similar to Congress back in 2009 although it wasn’t as intense in its warnings as this one is. We can only anticipate each letter to be more dire in its messaging.)

Clarifying some key points, the letter states the following:

Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science. There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.

Will Congress listen? Probably not. Most politicians would rather listen to the lobbyists who fund their campaigns than the people who elected them. The youth of the world are largely getting fed up with what the older generation are doing and in time they will be the world leaders. I truly believe in the decades to come, rational thought will win out over ideologies. But it would be nice if we could make the changes we need right now so that our children and grandchildren don’t keep looking back at us and ask “What were you thinking?”



Greenland Finally Lives Up to its Name

Last Thursday, the capital of Greenland reached a record 75° Fahrenheit. To put that in context, that was hotter than it was in New York City that same day. It was also the highest temperature ever recorded in Greenland during the month of June.

What’s extra scary about this? Keep in mind that Greenland is covered in enough ice that if it all melts it will raise global sea level by more than 20 feet.

May was the hottest May globally on record. At the poles the temperature deviation was as much as 17°F (9.4°C) above the 1951-1980 average for the month. This might just be an anomalous month if it wasn’t for the outstanding fact that the hottest May followed the hottest April, March, February and January. Despite the fact that 2015 was the hottest year we ever recorded, NASA predicts that we have a 99 percent chance that 2016 will break that record.

Some parts of Greenland are feeling the extremes quite dramatically. NASA has stated that some parts of Greenland were 36°F (20°C) hotter than “normal.” And to be fair, NASA now defines normal based on the 2001–2010 average, and not the usual 1951-1980 normal it used to compare to. That means this deviation was already on top of a century of warming thanks to our fossil-fuel-burning behaviours.

The record temperatures this month have led to an unusually high ice melt covering almost half of Greenland’s ice sheet. Greenland contains the second-largest amount of land-locked ice in the world, after Antarctica. If it all melts, it will raise sea levels by 20 feet. (Sell your Manhattan apartment and your Miami condo while you still have time.)

So let’s start preparing for the circumstances we’ve created for our planet. We have no one to blame but ourselves. For a long time we didn’t know any better. But we can’t use that excuse any longer.


The People’s Climate Plan

Democracy is supposed to be of the people, by the people, and for the poeple.

That’s what I’m proud that Canadians are starting to take climate change seriously. Members of Parliament across our great country are hosting climate town halls for the National Climate Strategy, the Canadian government’s plan to tackle our planet’s biggest problem. The People’s Climate Plan is bringing people across the country to town halls to ensure we get a climate strategy that’s based on science, builds a 100% renewable energy economy and ensures a just transition for people and planet.

Here’s more about it.


Canary Islands: Embracing Renewable Energy

For the last few years as I’ve given talks for Climate Reality Canada, I’ve referred to the efforts made by Vatican City to become completely self-sufficient in generating its own energy. Starting with solar panels installed on the roof of the Paul VI Audience Hall, I like to point out that they have two things going for them to help achieve their goal of being the first European nation to be carbon-neutral: they have a population of only about 800 inhabitants to generate energy for, and of course God is on their side.

But another part of Europe is doing one better: El Hierro, the smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands has already made an impressive achievement. A couple of years ago the island opened a new wind farm and with this step, its population of more than 10,000 people have been living on the first island in the world that is totally self-sufficient in generating its own electricity, through both wind and water power. The five new wind turbines generate 11.5 megawatts of energy which is more than enough to supply the population’s energy needs. It’s also enough to power the desalination plants which provide the island’s fresh water needs.

The two renewable sources of energy compliment each other, because when the wind isn’t blowing, hydropower can do the job. Here’s how it works:  Continue reading


“An Inconvenient Truth:” Happy 10th Anniversary!

“There is the natural tendency that all of us are vulnerable to, to deny unpleasant realities and to look for any excuse to push them away and resolve to think about them another day long in the future.”
—Al Gore

Today marks an important anniversary for the climate movement. Ten years ago today the Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth was released. It was seeing this film that started me on my journey of environmentalism in general, and trying to combat global warming and climate change in particular. And in my travels I’ve learned that I wasn’t the only one so inspired.

It’s especially an important anniversary for Climate Reality Leaders who have been trained by Al Gore to provide talks on his behalf to interested folks. That’s a group I feel very fortunate to be part of. In addition, I’m also a Climate Reality Mentor, having helped to train some of these Leaders myself, including my son Jamie.

Many of us Climate Reality Leaders are honouring this important anniversary by doing any number of leadership acts including hosting a party and watching the movie, giving a presentation, or sharing our story on how we became a climate activist.

Have we come a long way since the movie was first released? You bet we have. Is it far enough? Definitely not. But the momentum is there, and we’re continually moving in the right direction. And as Mr. Gore so aptly puts it, political will is our best renewable resource.