A Lesson for Paris Climate Talks: Follow the Activists

 Paris is seen as French Police officers stand on guard near the church of Sacre Coeur, on top of the Montmartre hill, in Paris, Wednesday, November 18, 2015. (AP Photo / Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

Paris is seen as French Police officers stand on guard near the church of Sacre Coeur, on top of the Montmartre hill, in Paris, Wednesday, November 18, 2015. (AP Photo / Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

The United States’ military strategy has long been predicated on being able to fight two wars at once. Now the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, just weeks before the French capital hosts a landmark international climate-change summit, will test whether the world as a whole can address two crises at once. Massacring innocent civilians is never justified and calls for a range of responses: grief for the victims and their loved ones; solidarity with all who condemn such heinous acts; bringing to justice the immediate perpetrators; and unraveling the deeper causes of such violence. These necessities, however, must not be allowed to distract the world’s governments, media, or citizens from the equally urgent task of reversing our collective march toward climate chaos.

Dooming young people and future generations (not to mention other species) to an unlivable planet is no more justified than killing innocent civilians is, and it too demands a range of responses, starting with compassion for the victims. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is correct to link the Syrian refugee crisis to climate change (as US national security officials and scientists have long done). ExxonMobil and other perpetrators of climate denial should be brought to justice. World leaders should agree in Paris to leave most of earth’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground, as the latest science dictates. Such a goal requires launching the most rapid possible transition to “100 percent clean energy for all,” as activists have urged. Humanity has the tools needed to exit the Carbon Age and build a sustainable future; what’s required are dramatically different political and economic choices.

Continue reading here.


How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain

Getty Images

Getty Images

A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health, according to an interesting new study of the physical effects on the brain of visiting nature.

Most of us today live in cities and spend far less time outside in green, natural spaces than people did several generations ago.

City dwellers also have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers, studies show.

These developments seem to be linked to some extent, according to a growing body of research. Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health?

Continue reading here.



Alberta’s Bold New Climate Change Policy







On the weekend, Alberta revealed its new climate change policy.

From CTV News:

The plan, the result of months of study and public input, will introduce a broad-based carbon tax that would apply across the economy. The government will move to phase out the province’s coal-fired power generation by 2030. And it will introduce a hard cap on greenhouse gas emissions for the oilsands.

This is the day we step up, at long last, to one of the world’s biggest problems — the pollution that is causing climate change,” Premier Rachel Notley said as she announced her government’s new policy in Edmonton on Sunday.

Continue reading the article here. 



‘Our melting, shifting, liquid world’: celebrities read poems on climate change

James Franco

James Franco

Actors including James Franco, Ruth Wilson, Gabriel Byrne, Maxine Peake, Jeremy Irons, Kelly Macdonald and Michael Sheen read a series of 21 poems on the theme of climate change, curated by UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. Includes two bonus poems from Byrne and Franco.

James Franco reads Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide by Maura Dooley

Thrift grows tenacious at the tide’s reach.

What is that reach when the water

is rising, rising?

Our melting, shifting, liquid world won’t wait

for manifesto or mandate, each

warning a reckoning.

Ice in our gin or vodka chirrups and squeaks

dissolving in the hot, still air

of talking, talking.

Continue reading the series here.


Sea Level Rise: Who Should Take Responsibility in Silicon Valley?

Projected sea level rise and the impacted companies in the San Francisco Bay Area

Projected sea level rise and the impacted companies in the San Francisco Bay Area

Sea level rise is becoming a dominant theme as communities plan for climate change. On the East Coast of the United States, the eroding shorelines of Miami and the projected loss of billions of dollars of upscale homes has come to symbolize personal loss that is now at risk from global warming. For many of us, it is the storms and the catastrophic destruction that places like New Jersey (Hurricane Sandy, 2012) and South Florida have experienced that we think of when it comes to the implications of rising seas.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, however, sea level change presents a more insidious threat – one that isn’t limited to the loss of select homes with million dollar views. Rising seas threaten the very land mass that houses the Bay Area’s famed tech industry and the infrastructure that supports it. Dozens of companies like Yahoo, Google, Intuit, Dell, Cisco and Oracle sit either inside, or on the edge of the South Bay’s most vulnerable, predominately flat coastline. Other companies, like Facebook, NASA, Citrix and Intel sit outside the immediate flood zones or have thoughtfully placed their facilities above the shoreline, but would still be affected by flooded streets, accessways and airport facilities. Sea level change is a risk that affects not just the South Bay, but larger metropolises north of the region like San Francisco and Oakland, also home to California’s tech titans.

Continue reading here.

In Canada, over 7 million Canadians live in coastal communities. ACT’s work on sea level rise has primarily been with the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project, a 5-year multinational research project to document these increased risks facing coastal cities. Learn more about our work with CCaR here.




Population and Climate: Consumption is the Bigger Problem

Illustration by Nate Kitch. Source: The Guardian

Illustration by Nate Kitch. Source: The Guardian

A new article in The Guardian points out that while any argue population growth is an issue for climate change, the bigger problem is how we consume resources.

“If we want to reduce our impacts this century…it is consumption we must address. Population growth is outpaced by the growth in our consumption of almost all resources. There is enough to meet everyone’s need, even in a world of 10 billion people. There is not enough to meet everyone’s greed, even in a world of 2 billion people.”

Instead, the article asks us to focus on livestock populations. Requiring so much chicken, pork, and especially beef uses up massive environmental resources and creates its own set of environmental problems.

“Livestock farming creates around 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions: slightly more than the output of the world’s cars, lorries, buses, trains, ships and planes. If you eat soya, your emissions per unit of protein are 20 times lower than eating pork or chicken, and 150 times lower than eating beef.”

Read more from the article here.

Be sure to also keep an eye our for ACT’s next book, out very soon, about the nexus between food, water, energy and biodiversity in a changing climate.


Tyee article: Preparing for the next big flood

The Centre Street Bridge during the 2013 floods. Photo by Ryan L. C. Quan, Creative Commons licensed. Source: The Tyee.

The Centre Street Bridge during the 2013 floods. Photo by Ryan L. C. Quan, Creative Commons licensed. Source: The Tyee.

An article posted today in The Tyee points out that while politicians often make promises about adaptation after extreme weather events occur, they are less likely to follow through on those promises long-term. This lack of adaptation planning makes communities more vulnerable to future climate events.

“The flood of 2013 [in Alberta] may have been the largest in 60 years, but it was not extraordinary, and it was likely neither the flood of the century, nor the flood of a lifetime for those in the region,” says Pomeroy. “We need to prepare downstream communities for similar floods as well as floods that will be a lot larger.”

Mentioned in this article are meteorologists Paul Whitfield and Ron Stewart, members of the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project of which ACT is a partner.

CCaR is an international, $12.5-million study that focuses on four cities worldwide -Vancouver, Manila, Lagos, and Bangkok- as well as the countries of each project city to assess managing climate change in coastal megacities. This project addresses an important gap in Canada’s climate change knowledge and will teach the participating cities to anticipate, manage, and reduce climate risk vulnerability through adaptation.

Read more from the article here. 

To learn more about the CCaR project, click here. 



Webinar: Building Partnerships and Investing in Community Flood Resilience

Building Partnerships_In sessionRegister now for this upcoming webinar, hosted by ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability:

Building Partnerships and Investing in Community Flood Resilience

December 3rd

1:00-2:30 ET (10:00-11:30  PT) 

Learn about ways to invest in community resilience and use critical partnerships to advance climate change adaptation within communities. This webinar is based on three themes: understanding community-level flood resilience, the power of partnerships, and investing in personal resilience. Speakers will showcase programs and tools they used to forge valuable stakeholder partnerships and engage communities at an individual level, making strides toward climate change resilience across Canadian cities. Hear case studies from Thunder Bay and the Town of Oakville, as well as an important lesson on partnerships from insurance agency The Co-operators.

These presentations were notable highlights from September’s Livable Cities Forum on building flood resiliency, which took place in Calgary, AB. If you missed the Livable Cities Forum, you won’t want to miss this webinar!

Click here to register now. 


Paris 2015: Climate Change and Peace

Source: 350.org

Source: 350.org

After the devastating attacks last Friday in Paris, here is a beautiful piece from 350.org about the need to work for climate justice in order to work for peace.

“The upcoming Paris Climate Summit is, in a sense, a peace summit — perhaps the most important peace summit that has ever been held.

“We need global solidarity more than ever right now, and that is, really, what this movement is all about. Even as climate change fans the flames of conflict in many parts of the world — through drought, displacement, and other compounding factors — a global movement that transcends borders and cultural differences is rising up to confront this common existential threat.”

The COP21 meetings in December will go ahead as planned. As will demonstrations worldwide to show world leaders we demand serious action on climate change. (Though today the French government said that climate marches will no longer be allowed in Paris, activists have said they will find another way to have their voices heard there.)

Now, it’s more important than ever to band together and work collectively for a just, safe, and healthy world for everyone.

Read more from the article here. 


Webinar: Climate Change Health Risks in Rural and Small Canadian Communities

health_canada_logoSee below for information on an upcoming webinar offered by Health Canada: 

Health Canada has been collaborating with researchers and decision-makers across the country to increase and share knowledge about how a changing climate can affect human health. The Department has organised a series of Community Sharing Network Webinars, providing a forum for communities to exchange information about health risks from extreme heat and effective measures to protect health.

Please join us for a webinar on the topic of “Climate Change Health Risks in Rural and Small Canadian Communities“ on:

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 from 2:00 PM-3:00 PM EST

The first presentation will discuss risks to health in urban and rural communities from climate change including extreme heat events and opportunities to mitigate extreme heat-related health impacts.

“Rural-Urban Heat Alert and Response Systems in Canada”
Peter Berry, Climate Change and Health Office, Health Canada

The second presentation will provide an overview of drought-related human health impacts in the context of climate change in Canada.

“Climate Change, Drought and Human Health Impacts in Canada”
Anna Yusa, Environmental Health Program, Health Canada

The third presentation will describe recent and current activities underway in collaboration with Health Canada around wildfire smoke and human health impacts

“Wildfire Smoke and Human Health – Learnings from Manitoba”
Darlene Oshanski & Jennifer Chiarotto, Office of Disaster Management, Manitoba Health
Jeff Eyamie, Environmental Health Program, Health Canada

To register for this webinar, please contact Anna Yusa by email anna.yusa@hc-sc.gc.ca, or by telephone (416) 973-5718. After your registration has been confirmed, you will receive an email with step-by-step directions on how to link to the webinar so that you can watch it on your computer and listen via your telephone.


We’ve set a new global monthly temperature record


Source: AccuWeather

According to NASA, October 2015 set a world record for global temperature increases.

“October 2015 averaged 1.04 degrees Celsius above the 1951-1980 mean, making October 2015 the warmest October on record by a large margin globally. The previous record for October was +0.86 C. set in October 2014. The highest anomaly during the strongest El Nino of 1997-98 was +0.88 C. El Nino’s typically have a warming influence on the overall global temperature.

“Even more impressive is the fact that the global land/ocean temperature anomaly for October 2014 (+1.04 C.) was the highest anomaly for any month of the year going all the way back to 1880 when records began. The previous highest anomaly was +0.97 C. set in January 2007.”

2015 is on track to be the hottest year on record.

Read more from the article here. 


Let’s Put Two and Two Together on Refugees and Climate Change


Syrian boys, whose family fled their home in Idlib, walk to their tent, at a camp for displaced Syrians, in the village of Atmeh, Syria, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Source: Flickr

Fifth in a series of blogs on climate change and population displacement.

By Claire Havens, ACT population displacement researcher.

There is a new Liberal government in Canada, and, for many citizens concerned about climate change and the Syrian refugee crisis, the election results mean a chance for real action.

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to restore Canada’s reputation as a leader on climate policy and science on the global stage. He plans to take the provincial premiers and opposition leaders to Paris for the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties to establish a strong presence, pledge to improve upon the previous government’s dismal record, and inspire commitments from other countries on reducing emissions. Similarly, he has committed to bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. Mayors, community leaders, and churches across the country are asking Canadians to open their homes to the expected flood of families arriving over the next seven weeks.

A lot of political hay has been made over the past few months about the causes of the refugee crisis, and our collective responsibility as a developed country to either have a military presence in the region or take in those fleeing conflict. The Liberal party has decided to emphasize action on the latter, with some Conservative supporters accusing them of ignoring the root causes of the crisis: the spread of ISIS in Syria and Iraq and civil war.

This past spring the New York Times reported that the extreme three year drought in Syria from 2006 to 2009 was most likely due to climate change, and that the drought had a ‘catalytic effect’ on the violent uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011. The drought was the worst recorded in modern times; scientists dismiss natural climate variability and point to a century-long trend towards warmer and drier conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Fertile Crescent region experienced a weakening of winds that usually bring moisture-laden air from the Mediterranean, and higher temperatures resulted in more evaporation. Crops failed and as many as 1.5 million impoverished farmers migrated to urban areas – a massive social shift sparking unrest, and eventually civil war.

Researchers are careful to point out that other factors were major contributors to the conflict, including poor agricultural practices, an influx of 1.5 million refugees from Iraq, and Assad’s dictatorial regime. However, the effect of climate change on the mass displacement of people in the region is significant and should not be overlooked.

Despite clear evidence that the conflict in Syria is tied to climate change, the preceding Canadian government failed to publicly acknowledge the relationship between unprecedented drought and violent unrest in the region.

If we are to prevent further conflict, and be able to recognize the warning signs of an unraveling society in the future, we must start to look strategically at climate change as a major cause of political and economic strife. Investigating climate change impacts in developing countries, and the flow of migrants within a region as well as across borders, will help Canada respond more proactively and effectively in the future. If we can plan years ahead of time through modeling expected effects, and respond when we see droughts worsening, persistent flooding, and sea level rise threatening vulnerable populations, we could save millions of lives.

We used to be a leader in development research and conflict resolution. It was often Canada that alerted the world to the moral imperative of intervening to protect vulnerable populations when trouble started brewing, such as in the Rwandan genocide.

For those who see Canada as a compassionate country with open doors for those seeking asylum, Prime Minister Trudeau’s generous response to the refugee crisis is welcome. What we need now from this new government is a preventative strategy to help us understand the root causes of civil unrest and the subsequent creation of refugees.

We now have an opportunity to take that place on the world stage again, and make a meaningful contribution to the global south and developing countries around the world where the effects of climate change are being felt on a daily basis.


The planet’s future is in the balance. But a transformation is already under way

Participants in the social media selfie campaign entitled This Is My #EarthStatement. Photograph: The Earth Statement

Participants in the social media selfie campaign entitled This Is My #EarthStatement. Photograph: The Earth Statement

We Homo sapiens got lucky. Very lucky. Back in the 1920s, when looking for a “safe” gas to use in refrigerators, chlorine was the element of choice in a new family of manmade chemical compounds – chlorofluorocarbons. In the 1970s, Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland discovered that while it was safe in our fridges, it was destroying the ozone layer, which is essential to protect all life on land.

Luck struck twice. Nasa scientists measuring ozone above Antarctica in the 1980s never saw the ozone hole in their data. Their computers were programmed to ignore any figures deemed “impossible”. Luckily, the British Antarctic Survey had no such technology and sounded the alarm. In 1987, nations signed the Montreal Protocol outlawing CFCs.

But here luck comes in threes. Bromine is as good as chlorine for fridges and air conditioners, but about 40 times more corrosive to ozone. And by mere chance, the industry chose chlorine as the global standard. If this had not happened, the ozone layer could have been ripped apart before we even knew it. In 1995, Crutzen, Molina and Rowland were awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry, obviously.

Remarkably, 2015 is the make-or-break year and all the signs are there that we are changing course – a great transformation is not only within sight, it is under way. Here’s why. First, world leaders met in New York recently to agree the sustainable development goals – applying equally to all nations. This is a paradigm shift in thinking; it acknowledges for the first time that our wellbeing, the global economy and human development all rely on a stable biosphere and that this very stability is at risk. Second, we have reached “peak child”; the number of children in the world is no longer increasing. Population will eventually stabilise at 10-12 billion. And third, world leaders meet again next month to seek a workable solution to the climate challenge.

Continue reading here.



In too deep: Gideon Mendel’s photographs of global flooding – in pictures

For eight years, Gideon Mendel has travelled the globe, photographing people whose lives have been devastated by floods. Click here to see his images of a drowning world.



International Climate Conferences: Upcoming


Many exciting conferences on climate change adaptation and planning will occur in the next few months around the world. Check out the events and dates below, and register if you can!

9th Graduate Climate Conference

6th – 8th November 2015, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA

Climate Change Adaptation in Africa

21st – 23rd February 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Adaptation Futures 2016

Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 10-13 May 2016

Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific Region

Lautoka, Fiji, 26th-28th July 2016

The North American Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation

New York, NY, USA, August 16-18 2016

For more information and to register for these conferences, see the International Climate Change Information Programme website here


Download: New Research on BC’s Water Laws

New research on the future of B.C.’s most important resource from POLIS Project on Ecological Governance

With the replacement of its over a century-old Water Act with the new Water Sustainability Act in 2014, British Columbia has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to modernize its freshwater legislation and usher in a new era of water stewardship. TheWater Sustainability Acthas many promising features that can better protect the province’s freshwater resources. Yet full implementation of the new Act hinges on passing critical supporting regulations that will provide the necessary details to make the Act fully functional.

Released today, a new research report from the University of Victoria’s POLIS Project on Ecological Governance outlines what is needed to put the “sustainable” in the Water Sustainability Act. This report provides a timely analysis of the core regulations required for the Water Sustainability Act to reach its full potential as a comprehensive and modern water law. Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia’s New Water Law offers clear recommendations to develop the necessary regulations based on leading international practices in five key areas: groundwater, environmental flows, monitoring and reporting, water objectives, and planning and governance.

“Mounting water concerns in the province underscore the urgent need to reform water management and the supporting legal structures,” says Deborah Curran, Hakai Professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability, and report co-author. British Columbia’s fresh water is under pressure from an array of threats, including climate change, population growth, and escalating and competing demands for water. Watersheds across the province are showing signs of stress, with recent mounting water issues ­– from unprecedented droughts to water quality degradation and conflicts over water use – only increasing the urgency to act.

If British Columbia does not change its approach to freshwater management to respond to these realities, the consequences may be significant, as demonstrated by the recent water crises experienced in California and Washington, and indeed globally.

“A comprehensive water law regime that includes a fully implemented Water Sustainability Act and a full suite of supporting regulations is a necessary condition to ensure that future water challenges do not become debilitating water crises,” says Oliver M. Brandes, Co-Director of POLIS, who authored the report together with Deborah Curran and colleagues at POLIS.

The report offers the Provincial government the specific advice and insights needed to move beyond crisis response toward a fresh partnership approach with shared roles and responsibilities to protect B.C.’s water resources now and into the future.

Download a copy of Awash with Opportunity: Ensuring the Sustainability of British Columbia’s New Water Law.

For more on water governance, check out ACT’s work on the topic here.

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