ACT ED on CBC Early Edition

Warmer weather may mean lack of snow in Whistler.

Warmer weather may mean lack of snow in Whistler.

ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford was on CBC’s Early Edition on October 26th to discuss the coming warm winter for BC.

Deb was interviewed by Rick Cluff, and spoke about how this winter’s warm weather represents climate change predictions for our province. By 2050, we can expect similarly warm winters. What does this mean for water supplies, agriculture, and our growing population?

Click here to listen to this segment of the show. Click on “October 26 2015”, and our segment starts at 1:21:30. It is about 8 minutes total.

You can also learn more about predicted weather changes for BC, including more extreme weather, by checking out ACT’s work on the topic here. 


The Twisted Fate of Northern Communities: Home of the First North American Climate Refugees

Source: Jan Van Der Woning/TCS/Zuma Press

Sandbags lining the Kivalina coastline. Source: Jan Van Der Woning/TCS/Zuma Press

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

By Claire Havens, ACT population displacement researcher.

We’ve all heard about polar bears starving, stranded on ice flows and unable to hunt effectively due to global warming. Photos flash around the world of emaciated bears struggling to survive in a rapidly changing environment, a symbol of our collective failure to halt climate change.

But there are people in the polar regions of Canada and the US too. And how they are experiencing climate change, the implications of this stark reality, and what our various levels of governments should be doing about it, is a less well-explored topic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the risk for remote Inuit communities of coastal erosion, a phenomenon that is already occurring due to the combined effects of melting permafrost and sea ice, storm surges and stronger waves.

In Alaska, the rate of erosion is already astonishing. The coastline has been disappearing exponentially over the last 50 years, reaching an average loss of 25 metres per year by 2008[1]. Communities such as Kivalina, located at sea level on a small spit of sand on the unforgiving Bering Sea, are expected to disappear over the next decade. Coastal erosion, melting of the protective ice that used to line the community’s shores, and strong winter storms have made it a risky home.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, which built a defensive wall for the community seven years ago, now predicts the 400 inhabitants of Kivalina will be America’s first climate change refugees. They project that there are another 26 Alaskan villages in immediate danger of significant erosion.

The response of the State government has been baffling. Estimated costs of relocating Kivalina’s inhabitants to higher ground and rebuilding houses, and a school, could be as high as $400 million. Alaska Governor Bill Walker recognizes that coping with the effects of climate change on remote communities is expensive. A state with no income or sales tax, Alaska has been hit hard by the dramatic fall in oil price and related revenues.

His response? In order to fund the relocation programs, Walker wants to drill for more oil in the protected lands of the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge.

Understandably, there is anger from the Inuit community. Kivalina council leader, Colleen Swan, says, “If we’re still here in 10 years time we either wait for the flood and die, or just walk away and go someplace else. The US government imposed this Western lifestyle on us, gave us their burdens and now they expect us to pick everything up and move it ourselves. What kind of government does that?”

In Canada, things are not much different. We are already seeing the effects of permafrost thaw on remote northern Canadian communities such as Pangnirtung or sea level rise in Tuktoyaktuk.

Despite mitigation efforts to protect the shorelines of these small communities, it is anticipated that they will have to eventually be evacuated.

How will our government respond? Internal population displacement is already occurring, and while the world laments the loss of an iconic Arctic species, we are also losing unique cultures and ways of life.

[1] Source: Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change, Second Edition


The Future of Meat

It’s no secret that meat production is a problem for the climate.

Though some small-scale and more sustainable meat production does exist, the majority of meat produced in North America comes from huge feedlots of cows, chickens, or pigs. These feedlots use immense amounts of environmental resources and contribute greatly to exacerbating climate change.

In response to this, many entrepreneurs are exploring new types of protein that could replace animal protein to feed the masses. In this engaging and funny video from The Atlantic, journalist James Hamblin learns more about the alternative protein industry, all the various options now available, and how this industry is planning to overtake animal meat as the “meat” of choice for North Americans.

Watch the video below, or click here. 

Be sure to also check out ACT’s work on how crops and food supplies will be affected by climate change here in Canada. With the combined pressures of climate change and a growing population, finding ways to feed ourselves sustainably is a hot topic in climate change work right now.


California Faces a Future of Droughts Alternating with Floods

Climate change is expected to increase drought and floods in California. Credit: Ray Bouknight via Flickr

Climate change is expected to increase drought and floods in California. Credit: Ray Bouknight via Flickr

A warming climate coupled with more intense El Niño and La Niña events could cause twice as many droughts and three times as many floods in California by 2080, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.

The findings come while California suffers its most severe drought in recorded history, a four-year disaster that has caused an estimated $2.2 billion in economic loss from 2013-14 alone.  At the same time, heavy rainfall––which triggered mudslides last week in Southern California––is anticipated through the winter from a strong El Niño event predicted by many climate forecasters.

The findings provide a more detailed understanding of how the region’s climate will respond to global warming in the coming decades. Prior studies predicted a slight increase in rainfall for California over the 21st century. These studies, however, looked at mean rainfall over periods of a decade or more. They failed to take into account increasing variability from extreme El Niño and La Niña events, changes in surface water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that affect rainfall patterns across the globe.

“Mean is one thing, but the changes, the extremes are really another thing that we need to pay attention to,” said Jin-Ho Yoon, an earth systems scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the study’s lead author.

Continue reading here.


Morocco poised to become a solar superpower with launch of desert mega-project

Ouarzazate solar plant will create enough electricity to power a million homes once it is finished. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is used to big productions. On the edge of the Sahara desert and the centre of the north African country’s “Ouallywood” film industry it has played host to big-budget location shots in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, The Living Daylights and even Game of Thrones.

Now the trading city, nicknamed the “door of the desert”, is the centre for another blockbuster – a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020 with, it is hoped, some spare to export to Europe. The project is a key plank in Morocco’s ambitions to use its untapped deserts to become a global solar superpower.

When the full complex is complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world , and the first phase, called Noor 1, will go live next month. The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.

Continue reading here.


Sønderborg: the little-known Danish town with a zero carbon master plan

The coastal town of Sønderborg has developed a strategy to go zero carbon by 2029. Photograph: Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd/Alamy

The coastal town of Sønderborg has developed a strategy to go zero carbon by 2029. Photograph: Robert Harding Picture Library Ltd/Alamy

Almost completely surrounded by water, the little-known Danish town of Sønderborg is no stranger to flooding from both seawater rising along its coastline and heavy rainfall. With climate change ensuring more of both, Sønderborg is learning to tackle the immediate problems of adapting to a warming world while becoming part of the broader solution.

Its ProjectZero plan, launched in 2007 as a joint venture between the people, politicians and businesses of Sønderborg, aims to enable the town of approximately 77,000 to become zero carbon by 2029.

In practice, this means an aggressive shift (pdf) to renewable energy and energy efficiency measures through initiatives including the establishment of new on- and off-shore wind turbines and the introduction of biogas in transport and manufacturing processes to replace oil and natural gas. However, in keeping with the norms of setting carbon targets in the international climate negotiations, it has not yet included the emissions “embedded” in goods imported to the area.

More than 50 companies have become part of ProjectZero to date, which requires them to produce provable plans to reduce their emissions by at least 10% in the first year of operation. Some have already exceeded this target, reaching reductions of more than 45%. In return, the companies are insulated from energy price volatility and make savings through associated efficiency measures.

Continue reading here.



Disintegrating Rockies glacier sends ‘strong message’ on climate

bc-glacierOne of the world’s longest-studied glaciers is melting so fast in the heart of the Canadian Rockies that scientists say it is “disintegrating” before their eyes, causing monitoring stations to collapse.

The Peyto Glacier in Banff National Park has long been regarded as a key global reference site for climate change studies. But the ice has started to crumble so quickly, says John Pomeroy, that clusters of scientific instruments mounted on poles drilled deep into the ice are toppling over and other data collection sites are flooding.

“Canada’s glaciers are sending us a very strong message that we are in unprecedented climate change,” said Dr. Pomeroy, director of the Centre for Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan. “The glaciers are not coping. We are losing them within our lifetimes in Canada.”

He said Peyto Glacier, located along the Icefields Parkway, a spectacular scenic highway between Lake Louise and Jasper, is one of hundreds of glaciers in the Rockies that are melting away.

“The Rockies are literally coming out of the Ice Age and we are seeing this [happen now],” said Dr. Pomeroy. “Future generations driving down the Icefields Parkway will wonder why they named it that.”

Continue reading here.




COP 21 and Free Trade: Good News From Europe

Source: Council of Canadians, Flickr

Source: Council of Canadians, Flickr

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution to protect government action on climate change, to be agreed upon at COP21, from being subject to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) challenges.

ISDS mechanisms, which exist in some free trade agreements between countries, allow corporations to sue governments if the laws under which that corporation operates change. Free trade deals like NAFTA, the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and other free trade negotiations include ISDS mechanisms, and many are concerned that such mechanisms would allow corporations to sue governments for taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or take other action on climate change. To date, corporations have used ISDS to challenge governments over 600 times, many of which were related to health or environmental initiatives undertaken by the government.

This move from the European Parliament is therefore very exciting. It would enable governments to continue tackling climate change without putting themselves at risk legally.

Read more about this story here. 



What will the new Canadian government do for climate change?

Source: NRDC

Source: NRDC

With an historic election now behind us, what future does the new Canadian government hold for climate change?

Many people voted for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party as a reaction against almost a decade of Harper rule. It’s no secret that Harper’s record on climate was less than ideal. But will Trudeau implement more science-based climate policies? How will his support of the Keystone XL pipeline, his lack of commitment to a specific greenhouse gas reduction for Canada, and his support for the tar sands affect his climate policies?

And to what extent can civil society pressure him on these issues?

Here is an excellent overview of Trudeau’s policies and the challenges he now faces, especially as COP21 in Paris is only a few weeks away:

” At a minimum, pressure is already mounting for Canada to set truly ambitious emission reduction targets and outline currently-missing policies that will be necessary to ensure these reductions are actually made. In doing so, there is huge potential for Canada to embrace a truly 21st-Century, low-carbon economy that will allow the country to move away from its current reliance on the tar sands industry and free itself from the pernicious boom and bust economic cycles that the Harper government and its industry supporters have pressed on the Canadian people for the last decade.”

Read more of the article here. 


Tim Flannery: A Phenomenal Event!

1440086636245.rendition-largeOn October 20th, internationally-renowned climate scientist and author Tim Flannery received the SFU Centre for Dialogue’s Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue.

This award honours Tim Flannery’s relentless contributions to not only the science of climate change, but also shaping public opinion on the matter in a respectful and engaging way. The Blaney Award  is presented by SFU every second year to an individual who has demonstrated, internationally, excellence in the use of dialogue to further the understanding of complex and profound public issues.

As Tim points out in this tribute video made for the occasion, maintaining respectful and meaningful relationships with climate skeptics is vital as it moves the conversation forward. ACT Executive Director Deb Harford is a Climate Solutions Fellow with the Centre for Dialogue and ACT was very pleased to be a part of this event.

Click here to check out this tribute video made to honour Tim Flannery and his work.



ACT Article in Watermark Magazine

downloadACT Executive Director Deborah Harford has an article published in this season’s issue of Watermark magazine, the publication of the BC Water and Waste Association.

Deb’s article, titled “Climate Change and the Adaptation Imperative for BC Municipalities”, focuses on the costs of climate change, especially as the frequency of extreme weather events increases and poses risks for municipal infrastructure. The article then explores a common issue holding municipalities back from planning for adaptation: how to fund and finance such projects. Deb explains that there are many instruments and policies available to local governments to help pay for adaptation.

Be sure to read the article here, starting on page 48.

This article points to ACT’s recent publication, “Paying for Urban Infrastructure Adaptation in Canada: An Analysis of Existing and Potential Economic Instruments for Local Government”. This report is a highly useful tool as it comprehensively discusses the multiple instruments available for local governments to fund adaptation. This is required reading for anyone interested in municipal climate change planning, so check it out here if you haven’t yet! 


Obama: Clean energy is good for business, not just ‘tree-huggers’

(Photo: Pool, Getty Images)

(Photo: Pool, Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The White House is enlisting Fortune 500 CEOs in its attempts to reach a breakthrough agreement on climate change, announcing agreements with 68 more companies committed to reducing their greenhouse gasses ahead of international talks in Paris.

The CEOs are among the 81 major companies that have now made specific commitments on climate. But just as important for President Obama, they’re also putting a business-friendly face on his clean energy initiatives.

President Obama met Monday with the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson, Intel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Hershey’s and Pacific Gas & Electric — and with some of the smaller companies that supply them. The White House expects that the commitments made by the 81 big companies will trickle down through their supply chains, encouraging energy efficient practices throughout the economy.

Continue reading here.


Oslo becomes first capital city to divest from fossil fuels

Creative Commons: George Rex, 2014

Creative Commons: George Rex, 2014

The City of Oslo has, today, become the first Capital City in the world to ban investments in fossil fuels, as it announced it will divest its $9 billion pension fund from coal, oil and gas companies.

Today’s announcement follows a previous pledge in March to ban investment in coal.

Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, of the Green Party in Oslo said:

We are very happy to announce that Oslo will take responsibility for the climate, both through our own policies and our investments. The time for climate action is now, and the new city government will address climate change both locally and globally. The reduction in pollution will make the city even better to live in, and ensure that we take our global responsibility.

In June this year, the Norwegian Parliament also announced the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund – worth $900 billion – would sell off over $8 billion in coal investments.

Oslo’s “brave decision” just weeks away from the UN climate talks in Paris has been welcomed by but national and international environmental groups.

Oslo joins a growing movement of 45 cities around the world that have committed to ban investments in coal, oil and gas companies.

Last month, a study showed that to date over 400 institutions and 2000 individuals from across 43 countries, and managing more than $2.6 trillion have pledged to ditch their holdings in fossil fuels.

Continue reading here.




Obama Cancels Arctic Drilling Leases

Kayaktivists protest Arctic drilling in Seattle, Washington. Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

Kayaktivists protest Arctic drilling in Seattle, Washington. Photo credit: Natural Resources Defense Council

It just keeps getting better and better for the Arctic. First, Shell Oil pulled the plug on its horrific current drilling effort there two weeks ago.

Now the Obama administration has taken its first concrete steps to reduce future threats. Yesterday, it cancelled new lease sales scheduled for next year and 2017 in our Polar Bear Seas—the Chukchi and Beaufort—off the north Alaskan coast. And just said “No” to extension requests from Shell and others holding existing leases in the region.

This is big. Up to now, the federal government has treated Arctic Ocean drilling as a done deal. As recently as last May, the President tweeted: “we can’t prevent oil exploration completely in region.”

Kayaktivists spotlighted Arctic drilling as a climate issue—rightly, because huge new investments in dirty fuels can’t be harmonized with accelerating the shift to a clean energy future.

Continue reading here.






2015 Livable Cities Forum: Presentations Now Online

LCF2015_sessionpromoER 2Presentations from this year’s Livable Cities Forum, held September 28-30 in Calgary, are now online.

This forum focused on building flood resiliency and included such topics as public perception of flood risk, what data is needed to reach resiliency, building community trust, and financing resilience. ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford spoke about this last topic as her talk focused on how local government can pay for adaptation and flood mitigation infrastructure and planning. Check out Deborah’s presentation on this topic, as well as the many other excellent presentations, by clicking this link. (Presentations are available under each session title in the program.)

Deborah’s presentation centred on ACT’s recent report “Paying for Urban Infrastructure in Canada: An Analysis of Existing and Potential Economic Instruments for Local Governments.” This report outlines many more tools for local governments to pay for adaptation planning. If you haven’t yet, read our report here to learn more.


Canadian Climate Forum Symposium 2015: Food Security in a Changing Climate

The Canadian Climate Forum is holding their 2015 Symposium November 12th and 13th in Ottawa.

This event is a one and a half day gathering to raise awareness, share knowledge, and drive action to address food security in the face of a changing climate. The event’s main objectives are to:

  • Enhance levels of understanding about the impact climate change has on food (and seed) production, distribution, value, and life cycle management.
  • Engage stakeholders from multi-sectors and jurisdictions to share evidence, strategies and solutions.
  • Develop priorities and recommendations for action to help guide decisions and best practices that lead to more sustainable, safe, and nutritious food.

ACT is one of the sponsors of this event, and ACT Executive Director Deborah Harford will be moderating one of the sessions. Additionally, ACT’s water policy adviser, Bob Sandford, will be one of the distinguished speakers at this symposium. Bob is also the co-author of ACT’s new book, “The Climate Nexus”, which looks at the nexus between water, food, energy and biodiversity in a changing climate and will be released shortly.

If you are in the area November 12-13, check out more information and registration here! 



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